On a country road on the outskirts of Missoula, five painters arranged their canvases and palettes in the back of trucks and on fold-out tables to paint in the open air.
Looking over a field dotted with hay bales, trees and Butler Creek snaking through the middle, each painter interpreted the scene differently. Despite the heat and the occasional fly that stuck to their wet paint, the painters remained outside all day.
For a week, about 16 painters worked outside in different places around Montana — Lindbergh Lake, the base of the Mission mountains, North Crow Canyon — creating between one and three paintings a day. They traveled from Idaho, Florida and around Montana to participate in the Dana Gallery’s 15th annual Paint Out event.
At the end of the week, the artists’ work will be displayed at the Dana Gallery for a month, beginning July 20. Participating artists range from young beginners to career painters who make a living as artists. Many were mentored at one point by Robert Moore, whose paintings are displayed in galleries all over the western United States.
Moore finished his first painting of the day — a large and brightly colored piece with delicate, visible palette knife strokes — around 3 p.m. Moore’s style is unique, he said, because it's evolved from his struggle as a colorblind painter. When he looks at a rainbow, he sees yellow and blue, yet his paintings use every color in the color wheel.
“In the past it's been very frustrating, but now I’ve learned that I can put any color down as long as it’s in order, and it will feel natural,” Moore said. “So it’s exciting for me to paint what I perceive, knowing that it’s not what other people perceive.”
Moore’s paintings occasionally feature a red leaf, or violet in an unlikely place. But viewers often appreciate his different color relationships, and tell him not to change it, he said. His color blindness also pushed him to study color theory for years, giving him an in-depth understanding of color harmonies and relationships.
Working outside around other painters helps make the creative process more collaborative. Moore can walk down the road to give advice to some of the painters he mentors, including his own daughter, Anna Moore, who also participated in the Paint Out and recently graduated from art school.
Anna’s job at the Paint Out was originally to tend to her dad’s palette, but he relieved her of that duty so she could paint as well. Anna became interested in painting through her dad, and while she found it really frustrating growing up, she pursued it in college nonetheless. This is her second year participating in the Paint Out.
“I like the people,” Anna said. “It’s like a little reunion every year. And hanging out with each other during down time is super fun. Or even when we’re painting near each other there’s joking and laughing and singing, and it’s pretty fun.”
Dudley Dana, who owns the Dana Gallery along with his wife, said the Paint Out event is a great way to get painters, who often work alone, working together. Throughout the week, 20 sponsors can commit to buying a painting at a special showing held just for them. That revenue has kept the gallery on its feet, Dana said.
“I don’t know if we would still be here if it wasn’t for that,” he said. “We sold 37 paintings at the first Paint Out.”
Dancers and writers also were set to attend the official exhibit opening on Thursday as a way of blending different art styles.
Garth Williams, who lives in Burley, Idaho, started painting later in life, after years spent playing rock and roll in a band called “The Undertakers,” and racing motorcycles across the country. Moore mentored him for about 20 years, and he said painting is 1 percent talent and 99 percent hard work.
“My favorite thing to paint are aspen, because Dad used to take me fishing, and we’d get up on these streams in Montana,” Williams said. “So that’s I guess why I paint landscapes, because it reminds me of being a kid growing up and the fun things we used to do together.”
Williams now supports himself with his painting, which has been a kind of second career for him. Painting in the open air is more difficult than in the studio, he said. As the sun moves, shadows change, and when a fly landed on his painting, he just painted it into the canvas.
“All these things are affecting the moment when you’re trying to really put something together,” Williams said.
Paintings from the Paint Out will be on display in the Dana Gallery through Tuesday, Aug. 15.