Emily Vance photo Dan Gray started TOSH’s Grand Prix d’Art in the mid-90s after being inspired by ‘plein air’ painters in Europe.

TOSH’s Grand Prix d’Art draws a crowd in Qualicum Beach

Annual ‘plein air’ painting competition has inspired similar events across BC

If you were out and about in Qualicum Beach on Saturday July 27, you may have spotted some art in action.

A total of 29 artists were scattered throughout downtown, participating in The Old School House’s annual Grand Prix d’Art, a live painting competition that draws on the tradition of plein air painting,

Plein air refers to the act of painting outdoors, and originated in France.

Contestants drew locations at random, and then had from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to paint their surroundings.

This year, John Hofman took home the first-place prize for his painting of the Qualicum Beach town hall and library.

READ MORE: PHOTOS: TOSH’s Grand Prix d’Art in Qualicum Beach

Second place went to Tom Taylor for his painting of Lefty’s in Qualicum Beach.

And third place was Sheena McCorquodale, who painted beside Olive This & More.

Honourable mentions went to Heather Friedel, Carla Flegel and Margaret Shorter.

The Grand Prix d’Art has been going on for 27 years. It was started by Dan Gray, a volunteer at TOSH.

Gray was first inspired to start the competition in Qualicum Beach after seeing plein air painters during a visit to Annonay, France in 1992.

“My original idea when we came here was to make Vancouver Island the place where you could come to see art being made,” said Gray.

“And this is exactly what I was thinking of. You could come, see a group of artists all working from the same meat and potatoes, see it in condensed time, talk to them, look at what they’re doing, and see the finished results,” said Gray.

READ MORE: Gray Cup in Errington

Gray says that being able to watch artists at work is inspiring to the next generation of creators.

“The kids that all see us work today all have something extra in their quiver. They’ve all seen an artist out there struggling, trying to paint something they’re looking at,” said Gray.

It’s also helpful for those artists that feel isolated in their studios, or have a fear of outside observation of their work.

“It’s a real easy way for people to make a first step into plein air painting, and get over the stage fright or whatever you call it that goes on,” said Gray.

The event has inspired similar competitions across B.C., including one in Steveston which has named its top prize the ‘Gray Cup’ after Dan Gray himself.

Gray competes in the Steveston event, and has even had the priviledge of winning his own namesake.

“I want to win that trophy back! I won it once,” said Gray.

Paintings will be on display at TOSH until the second weekend in August.

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