The Gray Cup has returned to the home of its original owner and winner after eight years.
Dan Gray of Errington has reclaimed his namesake trophy after winning first place in Steveston’s Grand Prix of Art. It’s an annual plein air painting competition. He first won the prize in 2010, the year the competition started, but hasn’t been able to grasp it back since.
“I’ve tried and tried to win that Dan Gray Cup back. I’ve tried really hard, and no luck, until this year. I got a great location, really fun to work with,” said Gray.
This year, Gray drew a location near the Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site, and that became the subject of his work. He says the work took him about three hours, with included at least an hour of talking to people about plein air and pastels, his chosen medium.
“It’s a very nice place for me to visit, and to paint, because people have a bit of respect for me, and they like to see me work, and they like to talk,” said Gray.
Plein air painting originated in France, and refers to the act of painting outdoors in a public location. Artists draw names from a hat to determine their location, and then they head off to paint their surroundings while people gather to watch.
Steveston’s Grand Prix of Art was inspired by the Grand Prix d’Art in Qualicum Beach that The Old School House Arts Centre puts in July every year.
Gray’s connection to plein air painting runs deeper than just this trophy — he founded the Qualicum Beach competition back in 1992 after being inspired by a trip to France.
Going to the Steveston competition is something Gray does every year. The cup was dubbed the ‘Gray Cup’ after he won the first year of the Steveston competition back in 2010. It seems only fitting for the man who started it all.
The cup has the names of the former winners engraved on it, many of whom are friends of Gray’s, and reminders of the depth of talent in the B.C. art community.
“I like the cup now that it’s back, because it has these friends of mine on it, and people I’ve met working. As they get added to it, there will be more and more snapshots of some artists that work from life in this time and this place,” said Gray.
Gray works with pastels, a bit unusual for plein air competitions in B.C.
“I can only remember in all the years one [person] from the adult artist group working with pastel,” said Gray.
“You have to plan ahead a little bit for it… it’s difficult to frame, and the market’s not as happy about it as they are about oils and watercolours. But I’m a stubborn guy — all of those things added to my journey down this road with pastel, because there weren’t many people working in it,” said Gray.
Next year will mark the 10th annual Grand Prix d’Art in Steveston.
Gray says he’ll definitely be there — but he might give his competitive side a break, and focus on working behind the scenes a bit more.
Throughout his time in Steveston, he manages to chat to people about Qualicum Beach and promote the local arts scene.
“I’m always able to beat the drum for Qualicum, because we were here first. We’re always able to push some of that ‘come to Qualicum, where it began,’” said Gray.