Originally Published: May 26, 2013 10 p.m.
PRESCOTT - How easy is it to produce a piece of fine art?
Master painters can make it look quite easy, even with hundreds of eyes staring on as they work. Crowds flooded the courthouse plaza area to watch the artists during two quick-draw sessions Saturday and Sunday - part of the Phippen Museum's annual Western Art Show, Sale & Auction. The show ends Monday.
Show winners included Prescott painter Bill Cramer, who took first place in the oil category for his painting "Painting the Way." Other winners included Stu Breaks for his acrylic "Pueblo Girl," Alvin Marshall for his sculpture, "Her Grand Entry, and Wei Tai for the watercolor painting, "Mountain Man." Cramer's winning oil painting was also named best in show.
Cramer also competed in both quick-draw sessions over the long Memorial Day weekend. He's lived in Prescott for more than 20 years and competed in the Phippen art show for six years. Last year he won second place in the oil painting category. The year before he took third in the same category.
"I'm working my way up through the ranks. It was a nice honor. There are a lot of great artists here," Cramer said.
Quick-draw paintings, he said, have to be turned over at the end of an hour, whether it's completed or not. Following the hour mark, those paintings are auctioned off, with some of the proceeds benefiting the museum. Cramer produced an 18-by-24-inch painting of the Grand Canyon during Sunday's quick draw. Often, quick-draw paintings can go for hundreds of dollars less than an original piece created by one of the artists, many of whom sell their paintings for $500 to $3,000.
"Quick draws are kind of exciting. You have an audience watching you work. It doesn't bother me so much because I paint fast anyway. As a Plein Air artist you kind of have to paint fast anyway because of the changing light conditions. Doing a small painting within an hour is pretty reasonable for me," Cramer said.
Artist Sarah Phippen, granddaughter of museum namesake George Phippen, won the Joe Beeler Scholarship Award during the art show. Phippen, who lives in Colorado, also participated in the quick-draw event Saturday and Sunday.
"This year they gave us an hour. In previous years they gave us 45 minutes," Phippen said. "In that hour we start with a blank canvas or a canvas that's primed a solid color, no drawing, no pre-done anything. At the end of the hour, no matter what it looks like, it's put in a frame and auctioned off on the courthouse steps. It's definitely a challenge to work that quickly, under pressure, with an audience. In the studio you have all your reference materials and as much time as you need."
Phippen painted a "nocturne" for her quick-draw entry, which depicted a nighttime image of a cowboy atop a horse. Phippen has been painting for approximately 16 years. She's been painting professionally for the last six years. While George Phippen's paintings focused on cowboys and telling a story, Sarah Phippen's work focuses on horses.
George Phippen passed away in 1966.
"My grandmother, and the community, really rallied to preserve his history. A rancher donated land and they started holding art shows. They started at the courthouse, around the library, and ended up here on the plaza. They raised money, built the first part of the museum and recently expanded," Phippen said. "The museum has its own board and is separate, but as a family, we still come and definitely want to support that heritage. It's really important to us and the community."
As a young girl, Sarah Phippen would often accompany her mother to help out at the shows.
"I'd bring coffee and donuts for the artists, running things around, and I was the little girl who ran around to all the booths and picked up cards and pamphlets. I spent many years watching painters before I attempted it. And now I have a booth," Phippen said.