Painting in public

Christina Skultety of Hermiston works on a painting Thursday while competing in the Blank Canvas Competition in Price Hall at the Umatilla County Fair in Hermiston.<BR><I>Staff photo by E.J. Harris</I>

Fairgoers are used to seeing art on display at the fair, but being able to watch it created in front of their eyes is a new sight at the Umatilla County Fair this year.

Fine Arts Superintendent Jason Hogge said he came up with the idea to hold the blank canvas competition throughout the week of fair.

"I thought it would be a fun way to draw people in," he said.

Hogge said the rules are simple: Artists must start with a completely blank canvas, and they can use any medium, style or subject matter they wish.

Artists also have just five hours to complete their paintings, and while they can break their time up in one-hour segments, their work must stay at the fair. So far there are four entrants in the contest.

Painter Debbie Wilson has been painting for just over a year, yet in three hours she has created a partial mountain valley scene on her canvas. Wilson said she became a fan or painting after taking a Bob Ross-style class, and decided to enter the contest just to have some fun.

Christina Skultety finished her piece with an hour to spare. She said she painted her Oregon-country scene from one portrayed on a post card.

Skultety, 89, said she didn't pick up a paint brush until she was 60.

Hogge said he likes that passersby are able to watch the artists creative process.

The paintings will be judged tonight at 9 p.m. The winner will receive $50 in art supplies from the store of their choice.

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