Greg Stone of Tulsa won Best of Show and took home $500 at Plein Air Red Fern last weekend with “Bridge at City Park.” Stone was one of 14 artists who painted Tahlequah during the three-day event. First place was Karen St. Clair, of Owasso, with a watercolor of Franklin Castle, winning $500. Kelly Pennington of Ada placed second with “Pat Synars Studio,” with a $300 prize, and Kindra Swafford of Tahlequah took third place for a watercolor,”Tiki.”

Judges Sylvia Nitti and Mikel Yantz took time to share some of the points they considered in deciding the winners with the artists, who greatly appreciated the feed back.

“The Best of Show painting had good stacking of color and blending, nice repetition of the color and the artist understood color,” said Nitti.

The washes are really good hues, said Yantz.

“It’s extremely balanced, the brushwork is tight and compositionally, it’s really good.”

Surprised he won Best of Show, Stone said it was his first plein air competition.

“I’m happy just to be able to complete a couple of pieces, let alone that one,” said Stone. “It’s really lovely painting here. I got to meet some really nice people and speak to people here in town.”

A graduate of Northeastern State University with a bachelor’s and master’s in English, Stone said it was very enjoyable to be back in Tahlequah.

Sponsored by the Arts Council of Tahlequah the art event showcases places and faces of Tahlequah. ACT Gallery in Cort Mall features the Plein Air Red Fern Exhibit through the month.

Landmarks that artists painted this year include the Thompson House, Franklin Castle, Meigs Jewelry, scenes from the Red Fern Car Show and Lake Tenkiller.

Artists were given maps and suggested locations to paint. Last year’s Best of Show winner, Temple Moore, taught an upbeat, acrylic class at the gallery and led a group of painters who painted at the Classic Car Show. On Friday morning, a surprise location was offered to artists to paint, and those who chose to go were charmed by the artist retreat and studio home of Pat Synar, including John Dillingham, of Prairie Grove, Arkansas.

“I have a great time, every time I come here to paint,” said Dillingham, who enjoyed lively conversation with the host. “I like the area, meet good people and it’s close to home.”

As for painting outdoors, he said, “I love the light, the air. I love being outside and paint every evening and early in the morning.”

“I look forward to exploring more places here, going back to paint Diligwa at the Cherokee Heritage Center, the creek and I liked the peace and quiet of the surprise location,” Dillingham said.

New to plein air painting, Beth Parker, from Eufaula found her muse during the weekend. Having lost her husband 20 months ago she hadn’t felt very creative, but when she left on Sunday she had painted three paintings and taken a jewelry class with Wolf Walker at the Cherokee Art Center.

“John told me if I was scared of the canvas to make a long slash across it then another one, then just take off,” said Parker, laughing. “He was right.”

What has really appealed to Parker is “the generosity of spirit, the people here are kind and welcoming,” said Parker. “The town is charming, and I want to explore it more.”

Of the surprise location to paint, Parker described it as artsy and full of magical surprises. “I love the wind chimes, the serenity, and the host brought us tea and offered us salmon.”

“I joined the arts council to come back more and know more about the arts here,” she said. “My lazy muse is back, and she’s feisty!”

Kelly Pennington also chose the surprise location to paint, and the back of a studio turned out to be a good subject for her, winning second place.

“The connection with the locals” is her favorite part of the weekend event. She requested a home stay in exchange for a painting for her host, and both were pleased. “I’ve been here before to visit and explore, but this was really great. I don’t know how many people stopped to talk to me [while I was painting.]”

Interaction with people who don’t see plein air painting was interesting.

“I met a little girl who told me about hound dog show. She educated me on coon hunting,” said Pennington.

First-place winner Karen St. Clair also painted Meig’s Jewelry for the contest.

“I enjoyed looking around and seeing some of the beautiful and historical sites,” said St. Clair. “People are so friendly, they came up and talked to me. I hope people will come here to the gallery and see this place [Tahlequah] on the wall.”

It’s her first time to paint at Plein Air Red Fern.

“It’s fun to be part of this show, and all the beauty and history,” said St. Clair. She also has a drawing of Coach Jack Dobbins in the gallery, he was her husband’s coach.

Kindra Swafford won first last year but was happy with third place.

“I like being outside. I work 40 hours a week and like being able to be outside and taking time to reconnect with nature,” said Swafford. “I love doing this.”

Jerry Sutton, of Tahlequah, painted a truck from the car show, a red swing on a porch and a landscape.

“I like plein air painting. Everything changes second to second so whenever I paint plein air, I know the result is going to be my interpretation, what my eye sees, not what the camera sees,” said Sutton.

It’s challenging as heck because of the changing light, Sutton said. “You have to take something 3D and interpret it on a 2D plane.”

“This plein air event highlights the city and area that I love. It’s beautiful and worth of painting.”