Ann Dorbin-Frock - July 2013

Easton Artist's 9-Year Streak

by

Ann Dorbin-Frock

Plein Air–Easton! artist Stephen J. Griffin is one cool cat ~ with nine lives. Having won more awards than any other artist, Griffin is the only artist to compete every year in the Plein Air–Easton! National Competition, making him the last man standing in the fiercest plein air rivalry in the world. Well established as America’s premier plein air festival, Plein Air–Easton! is defining the modern plein air movement, and Stephen Griffin has been in the ring every time.
Griffin has many Plein Air–Easton! awards:
• 2005 Second Place for “Morning Work”
• 2005 People’s Choice for “Morning Work”
• 2005 Quick Draw Third Place for “View Up Glenwood Avenue”
• 2006 Honorable Mention for “Dudrow Farm”
• 2006 Academy Art Museum Purchase Award for “Hemmersley Farm”
• 2007 Best Marine for “Crabbers”
• 2007 Quick Draw Second Place for “Academy”
• 2011 Best Marine for “Eastern Shore Heritage”
Consistently one of the best-selling artists, Griffin quickly sold out his entire inventory of paintings during the 2012 Plein Air–Easton! festival.
What’s the key to his success? “There is no secret,” he admits. “It’s about the willingness to go out there year after year, work up a sweat, and put in a hard week’s work. I always try to do my personal best.”
Griffin also cites his educational background and training. He started his career as a trained portrait artist. “I had the good fortune to study with some of the best portrait artists before I expanded to boats and marine scenes,” he says.
This subject matter was not exactly new, however. Griffin began drawing boats as a kid and knew by second grade that he wanted to be an artist when he grew up. He says this early realization came in response to his artistic aptitude combined with academic struggles because of a learning disability. “This disability became my advantage,” he reveals. Griffin found that he had a good eye for following a line and creating strong compositions in his pictures, traits that continue to be reflected in his art.
Originally from Pennsylvania, Griffin studied at the prestigious Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. His studies have included classical painting and architecture with Alvin Holm AIA, Impressionism at the Cape Cod School of Art founded by Henry Hensche in 1931, and classical drawing and design at Barnstone Studios in Coplay, PA. In 1993, he moved to Maryland to study with renowned portrait artists Cedric and Joanette Egeli. He says studying with the Egelis, in particular, shaped his Impressionist style.
Griffin is a member of Classical America, the Maryland Society of Portrait Artists and the Mid-Atlantic Plein Air Painters Association (MAPAPA). He was selected as an Artist of Recognition in 2001 by the Portrait Society of America. He exhibited his work in the 63rd Annual Juried Exhibition in 2003 at the Woodmere Art Museum in Philadelphia. Griffin was honored to be juried into the 2004 “Sunlight and Shadow” exhibition at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausaw, WI. His portrait commissions include “Mural of Justice” for the Hatboro, PA, District Court, and a portrait of Edward F. Burns, Mayor of Bensalem and member of the State of Pennsylvania Legislature.
Griffin is best known for portraits and landscapes, especially of Chesapeake Bay and New England boats. “My paintings manipulate reality to create a new reality,” he says. “I love to capture the beauty and spirit of the Eastern Shore ~ dialects of people, the way the wind runs up the water, the shapes of boats that are designed for specific purposes. There is no other place like it.”
Griffin’s landscapes capture the distinctive light caused by the high humidity of Maryland summers. He says, “The light has to go through the haze and it sets up beautiful screens of atmosphere. I paint what I see in nature, capturing the emotion of the moment in a way that will move the viewer.”
Creating beautiful art is Griffin’s profession and his passion. “Art is a vital part of humanity,” he says. “In every civilization there has always been art. People and cultures have a critical need to express themselves through their art.”
Griffin has expressed himself in this way at Plein Air–Easton! since 2005. When asked about returning to the event after winning two awards in the first year, Griffin replied, “Return? I want to move here!” Soon after, attracted by a vibrant arts scene, rich culture, and profound brain trust, Griffin moved his home and studio to Easton. At that time, when he asked Plein Air–Easton! organizer Al Bond for thoughts on another artist coming to Easton, Bond replied simply, “More is more.” Griffin made the move and never looked back. He now exhibits his work at Grafton Galleries on Dover Street in downtown Easton.
Griffin says one of the best aspects of Plein Air–Easton! is the opportunity to meet artists from across the United States and around the world. “As I travel to various events, I find myself bumping into the same painters. I’ve had people from as far away as Hawaii say they envy my hometown. Everywhere I go, people talk about their admiration for Plein Air–Easton! and the community and organizers who make it so successful.
“It is very exciting to be part of the biggest plein air competition in the world, an event that is at the forefront of the modern plein air movement. I want to stress how proud and fortunate I am to be involved for all nine years. The event is extremely well organized, and the community really comes together. It is an A+ event ~ it’s the best!”

9th Annual Plein Air–Easton! Competition & Arts Festival
July 15-21

This weeklong event produces some of the best representational art in America today, created by the nation’s top plein air painters. Artists, collectors, and art enthusiasts alike come together for the Mid-Atlantic region’s hottest art sale of the year.
The festival features a national competition, museum exhibit featuring sales of freshly made paintings, and an exclusive Collectors’ Preview Party. As paintings sell, replacements will be added, so be sure to stop by several times throughout the weekend to see this evolving wealth of plein air artwork. The popular Quick Draw event features more than 150 artists in a fast and furious race to complete an entire painting in just two hours. The “Local Color” Exhibit & Sale at the Tidewater Inn highlights the work of some of the best artists from the Delmarva Peninsula.
Plein Air–Easton! The Next Generation and the Children’s Quick Draw offer expanded, hands-on art activities for children. The Out of the Box Exhibition & Sale features artists and mediums that vary from traditional plein air artwork. Take in performing arts with live music and three performances of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. A full complement of local gallery exhibits, Sunday Gallery Walk, art talks, and demonstrations will run throughout the festival. Most events are free and open to the public.
Plein Air–Easton! is the work of the Avalon Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide diversified arts and educational programs that improve the quality of life in the Mid-Shore region. The competition exhibit is held at the Academy Art Museum, an accredited museum. Plein Air–Easton! is supported by various corporate, media, and community sponsors, including the Friends of Plein Air–Easton! and the Talbot County Arts Council. Strong community support and sponsorships have been key components in the great success of this event.
For more information during the festival week, stop by the Plein Air–Easton! Information Center located at Red Hen Café, 5 Goldsborough Street in downtown Easton. For full itineraries, artists’ bios, registration for ticketed events, and festival scheduling, visit www.pleinaireaston.com, email info@pleinaireaston.com or call the Plein Air–Easton! Hotline at 410-822-7297.