Culture Club – Going with the Flow is Key to Dockside Quick Paint Success

The Door County Plein Air Festival Featured Artists complete their vigorous week with the Quick Paint.

One artist’s leisurely Dockside Quick Paint is another artist’s pressure cooker. As part of the annual Door County Plein Air Festival, hosted by the Peninsula School of Art in Fish Creek, this open painting event has been known to draw up to 75 artists to paint alongside the festival’s 40 masters. Yet, how each artist experiences the Quick Paint depends upon the goal.

The winner of the two-hour competition claims a spot as a featured artist in the following year’s festival. But that wasn’t the point for Lauren Lotter, of Shorewood, who participated in the 2008 Dockside Quick Paint.

“I didn’t make anything fantastic – I’m not good enough to do anything in that period of time,” Lauren says. “It was a nice excuse to get out and paint for a couple of hours and be with professionals to see what they do.”

Lotter describes the atmosphere around Fish Creek’s Clark Park, the event’s venue, as being, “lively, but relaxed.”

Lauren Lotter paints behind Malibu Moo’s at the 2008 Quick-Paint.

Mark Zelten of Green Bay felt “the artists’ excitement and an electricity in the air” during last year’s event. Zelten, who has painted en plein air in oil for 10 years, had his eye on first prize.

“My motivation is winning; I’d like to paint as a featured artist in the festival,” he says.

Although Zelten is used to the tight timeframe that changing light presents when painting outdoors, he found some participants daunted by the task – especially in front of the onlookers in the park.

“It can be a lot of pressure to complete a painting in a couple of hours,” Zelten says. “If you’re not used to people looking over your shoulder, it can be highly intimidating.”

Due to his determination to win and because he believes in the benefit of measuring his work against fellow artists, Zelten will be competing in the Quick Paint again this year, from 9 – 11 am on Saturday, July 25.

Kathie Wheeler of Viroqua won last year’s Dockside Quick Paint competition. Selected as a featured artist in other nationally-recognized plein air festivals, Wheeler only experiences painting jitters prior to the start.

Kathie Wheeler’s winning 2008 painting.

“Once the gun goes off, my focus is on the painting and that’s fun,” she says. “Painting during a limited timeframe forces you to make note of what’s most important and to simplify your subject matter.”

According to event coordinator, Cinnamon Rossman, Director of Community Relations at Peninsula School of Art, the Dockside Quick Paint underscores the festival’s spirit of public inclusion.

“It’s a way of casting a wider net to engage local artists and visitors in the festival,” Rossman says. “It gives anyone and everyone a chance to paint alongside the featured artists.”

Behind the scenes, the staff of Peninsula School of Art – and over 100 volunteers – must not only juggle the varying interests of those participating in the Dockside Quick Paint, but a variety of Festival events occurring in the park on that Saturday, including a live auction of the festival painters’ works. The fact that the Door County Plein Air Festival is the main annual fundraising event for the non-profit art school, adds another layer of “electric” anticipation for staff members.

“We have a dual focus,” says the school’s executive director, Cathy Hoke-Gonzales. “We want the festival to celebrate the talents of our featured artists with a fun atmosphere, while getting down to business to secure funds for our programs.”

At 11 am on the day of the Quick Paint, Gonzales blows an air horn to signal the end of painting for both the featured artists and the Dockside painters. Dockside painters then must have their canvases stamped to be eligible for awards. While festival artists set up their wet paintings on easels for the auction, Dockside artists must take their work to the nearby Peninsula School of Art on Highway F in Fish Creek.

A crowd gathers to see the Featured Artists paintings about to go on auction.

The Dockside artist’s paintings will be on display for sale – and for the judging and announcement of awards – on Saturday evening only during the public reception for the Door County Plein Air Festival.

Although Wheeler is a seasoned professional plein air artist, the announcement of her first-place award last year seemed especially exciting.

“I was thrilled, especially because it was a people’s choice award,” Wheeler says. “I feel it’s really an honor to have people who were coming through the gallery select my piece.”

For those who would like to register for the Dockside Quick Paint, registration will occur between 7:30 – 8:30 am in Clark Park on the day of the event, Saturday, July 25. Contact the Peninsula School of Art, 3900 County Road F, for a prospectus at 920.868.3455, or visit