The Plein Air show – Part 1

Open Sky, Red Barn, Pat Barker, Watercolour, 22 x 30

At our artists’ collective, we planned this Plein Air show with the thought of connecting with our rural and heritage community, Fort Langley, in British Columbia. It is where the first fort was built on the  Fraser River and it was considered the first settlement and the first centre of pioneer administration. In the late 1800s and early 1900’s a lovely little village grew up around the fort and that is where we have our gallery, in lovely turn-of-the century community, in a turn-of-the century building.

 The Fort Gallery and ‘Growcery’, Kristin Krimmel ,11×14 Acrylic on canvas

Plein Air is a practice of painting that was made popular by the Impressionists. Quite literally, it means “open air”  or  “out in the open” . The artists would pack up all their materials they needed for painting and hike out into the surrounding area to paint directly from the scenery before them. This method of painting (as compared to making drawings and then coming back to the studio to paint) called for some quick responses from the artist. First of all, the light changes constantly  depending on the weather –  whether it’s sunny or overcast, rainy or dry. Then one’s eyes are constricted or dilated. It makes one perceive colours differently.

We advertised in the community that we would be out on the two weekends preceding the show, in the village, painting. In our group, we set out some expectations – that we would be visible to passers-by who could see us painting; and that we would paint some of the businesses so that we would connect with the  community of merchants. We imposed an 11 x 14 inch canvas size so that we could get some unity in the hanging of the show later on.

One of the mandates of our gallery is to work in a contemporary manner; so we choose our members on merit of their vision. A few paint pure abstracts – non representational things where you are not expected to connected to any objects that you might know in this mundane sphere. Several of us are representational – you can tell what the objects are in an image – but they are painted with modern methods – much more modern than the Impressionists. There are surrealists, constructivists and conceptualists amongst us. And then there are some more traditional in their approach. Modern realists.

Another goal of our association is to have the artists stretch beyond their personal comfort level to explore in a fashion that they don’t usually express themselves. For we contemporarians, reverting to a picturesque illustrative style can be quite daunting. We’ve cast it off in “artistic principle” and now are expected to bring it back on.

We realized that not everyone would have time to come to paint, as some of us are restrained by work schedules and family commitments. So in the end, we feared we would not have enough to show and we augmented where possible with previously done plein air paintings. As long as it had been painted outdoors, it would be considered for the show.

 

Pat Barker – 1) Victorian House 12 x  12 inches,; 2) CN Train Station. Acrylic on canvas, 11 x 14 inches,

So it is that Pat Barker, a painter used to working  large canvases with strongly textural surfaces and no literal content,  found herself painting the local CN train station, a relic of the era of train travel (a freight train still goes through the town, daily) ;  the painted Victorian  marvel across from our gallery with all sorts of moldings and spindles in its decoration; and the red barn, above.

“When I first came to Fort Langley,” she says, “I was awed by this red barn and I thought, if I ever lived here, I’d paint that barn. It’s what made me want to find a home in Fort Langley.”  I asked what drew her to the barn, thinking that it might be something special about it’s design but she said “It wasn’t really the barn but this incredible big field and the surrounding hills cradling it.  Everything was so lush and green.” At the opening reception, she explained that she had studied animation at Emily Carr University and that her training had influenced the style in this watercolor. When she said it, I could immediately relate it to her image. Especially, there seems to be a fish-eye lens view of her open sky and the red barn dwarfed by its rural surroundings. She has captured the sweeping cloud formation that make the skies in this area especially interesting.

Olga Khodyreva is primarily a surrealist and non-representational artist. In her recent solo exhibition at the gallery, she was  showing two groups of paintings that show her commitment to her chosen style of painting. So it was a bit of surprise to see her classic realist drawing in this show.

 

Olga Khodyreva, 1) Gasoline Alley,  8×8 inches and 2) Glover Road, 6×9  inches Both are ink and gouache on paper.

See how different it is from her usual surrealist style?

Olga Khodyreva, Dream of the Penguin, Acrylic

It becomes evident that Khodyreva has a classic, draftsman-like talent in drawing and a refined sensitivity to colour. Her drawings are even more remarkable when one considers that the weekend on which she was doing her paintings treated her to rainstorms and misty grey conditions. It’s a wonder she stayed to draw; and the work is nevertheless atmospheric. and engaging.

 

Shari Pratt,  1) Museum of Anthropology in Fort Langley, 11 x 1 4. 2) Community Hall, 11 x 14. both are painted in acrylic on canvas.

In these two paintings and the two  flower garden paintings below, her mastery of colour is obvious. Her colours are beautifully fresh and clean. Her manner of drawing with paint is direct and bold. The sun shines by shifting a single hue through  tonal changes (take a really good look at the irises in the paintings below).

Shari normally paints large canvases with abstracted imagery of figures using acrylics and mixed media. These paintings done Plein Air are not as far from her  usual style as some of the other painters in the group.

 

Shari Pratt, 1) Mrs. Simpson’s Garden in yellow 2) Mrs. Simpson’s garden in purple. Acrylic on canvas 11 x 14 inches.

Lucy Adams has a far greater disparity in her plein air paintings from her usual work than the other artists.

 

Lucy Adams, 1) Windswept trees, 2) Ever restless. Both are 20x 24, acrylic on canvas

“You should have seen me,” says Adams. “We were on the Oregon Coast and the wind was coming at us. It was so cold and I had the canvas on my knees and sometimes propped on my shoes while I painted this.By the time I came back indoors, my fingers were frozen.”  In the past, Adams has demonstrated several styles, preferring to work with unusual materials – like painting on glass or on mirrors. Her last exhibition featured long strips of sheer cloth painted abstractly with impressions of the seasons.

These two paintings above exhibit a freedom in her brushstrokes, a liberty of paint handling that make these paintings especially joyous representations of the forms she is recording.  No mean feat when it’s the restless sea, ever moving, ever changing on the rocks beneath her perch.

 

Susan Falk, Telegraph Trail #1 and #2, 8×10, oil on canvas

Susan Falk was up with Bob Wakefield at Telegraph Trail where Pat Barker, too, found the red barn. The images of Falk and Wakefield are cropped from the landscape to the barn itself. Falk is well-known for her expressionist paintings full of movement. Falk captures the late afternoon sun in a rich harmony of colours.

Wakefield was caught by a downpour on the second day of his Plein Air experience for this show and took refuge under the overhang at the back of the Fort Gallery. There is a lovely wild, lush garden in front of Suzanne Northcott’s art studio. From this view, he painted this charming, painterly oil sketch of the garden and the red door.

Bob Wakefield, Suzanne’s Garden, 8×10, oil on canvas

There  are several other artists to share with you, but duty calls. I’ll post them in a follow up.

There are still one week to go for this exhibition (ends July 8, 2012).  It’s at the Fort Gallery in Fort Langley, B.C.  at 9048 Glover Road. Hours are noon to 5, Wednesday to Sunday.

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4 Responses to “The Plein Air show – Part 1”

  1. fencer Says:

    Thanks for bringing those paintings to your blog…. so many interesting styles.

    Regards

  2. lookingforbeauty Says:

    Thanks Fencer. I’m hoping to get the remainder done sometime this lovely weekend.

    Isn’t creativity wonderful? There are so many ways to paint that it can be endlessly entertaining for the painter.

  3. MDW Says:

    Love the Windswept Trees and of course the Growcery!

    MDW

  4. lookingforbeauty Says:

    Hi MDW, I liked it so much I bought it! It’s up by my front door as I write.
    Thanks for checking in and commenting.

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