I never tire of plein air painting! A couple of weeks ago we completed the very successful 7th Adirondack Plein Air Festival in the Saranac Lake area. Fifty-five artists from all over the east coast and Canada came to paint our Adirondack views.
Several thousand dollars in prizes were awarded and 86 people brought new paintings home with them. Now we are having an informal, local “Paint-Out” at the Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC).
Six or seven Adirondack artists, myself included, plan to be out on the trails at the VIC over Labor Day weekend. Janet Marie Yeates is coming up from Northville, Jacqueline Altman from Lake Placid, Edith Urban from Onchiota, Nancy Brossard from Lake Clear, Ann Haskell, who has a second home in Paul Smiths, and Charlie King, from Malone, make up our group. There’s no entry fee, no competition and no schedule – it will just be artists hanging out and painting together – catching a bit of the early fall colors. We really encourage people to come out and find us as we don’t mind spectators!
The VIC has miles of trails, but some of the most scenic views are within one mile of the building and parking area. Artists will be out on the Heron Marsh trail, the Barnum Brook trail, and the boardwalk area of the Boreal Life trail. Some may also head over to the Black Pond trails. The VIC is a perfect location for painting because it offers such a great variety of habitats: old growth forest, marsh, bogs, beaver ponds, brooks and waterfalls, mixed hardwood forest, and mountain views. Plus the butterfly house and wildflowers!
It’s always interesting to see how artists interpret the various views. Some will do wide panoramas and others may do close-ups. I’ve got a 12×48 canvas I may try to work on. Details in things like rocks and trees might be important to one artist, but the colors or textures of the landscape in a broader view might attract another artist.
One thing most plein air painters have learned is how to limit the focus of their view – how to select just part of the landscape to paint, as well as what details to include and which ones can be left out. Lighting conditions and weather will all play a role too.
Paintings take hours to do (and sometimes even then are not complete) – how do we choose what clouds or what patches of sunlight get included in our paintings? Well, for most of us, we get a painting started and then have to make a decision: this is the particular moment I want to immortalize, and then quickly try to capture the colors, and light and shadows as they are seen at that moment. Of course, I’ve made that decision many a time, only to see the light change 30 minutes later and realize things now look better, and so I change the painting to reflect the new view.
Want to try plein air painting? Bring some paints and a surface to paint on and come out and join us. Or at the least bring a pencil and sketchbook! Sitting outside, studying nature by sketching or painting can be a very meditative and relaxing experience. You may even find you “see” more when you are trying to draw or paint what’s out in front of you. It’s free to hike around on the trails at the VIC – just be sure and sign in first.
The artists participating in the “Paint-Out” will sign in and try to indicate where they are painting, so check at the desk if you want to come watch or paint with us. Check the VIC’s website for a list of all the other events going on. Be sure and visit the VIC gallery space if you come out this weekend, a very fine exhibit of oil and watercolor paintings by Saranac Lake artist Tim Fortune, along with photos by Burdette Parks, are currently on display.
After spending the long weekend painting, the artists will frame up their pieces and they will become the next New Moon Art Exhibit in the VIC gallery space, with a reception on Sunday, September 13, from 3 to 5 pm. All are welcome to come see the results of out “Paint-Out’ weekend.
Photos: Above, morning painting and view at the VIC; below, artists during the “Paint the VIC’ day at the Adirondack Plein Air Festival.