Plein Air Art… all but plain
by Rochelle Riservato
The Hudson Valley is a plein air artist’s paradise—and the title of this type of artistry is from the French phrase “en plein air,” meaning in the open air.
It’s easy to imagine why this art form is popular among artists. Besides being a year-round method of capturing nature, an artist becomes enriched and inspired when working on-site—as they are engulfed within beautiful surroundings that they immortalize through various media (pastels, watercolors, oils, acrylics), some on boards, paper, or canvas.
Although plein air provides four-season scenic opulence, autumn in the Valley is the season most sated with luxuriant colors. Foliage becomes a rainbow of magnificent hues atop trees and meadows, and fields abound with wheat, straw, and end-of-season wild flowers swaying in autumn breezes.
ARTIST-INSPIRED PLEIN AIR LOCATIONS:
Wallkill River from the Rail Trail Bridge, Rosendale
Huguenot Street stone houses
Blue Mountain Road, Saugerties. Beautiful vistas.
Sam’s Point vistas
Catskill Native Nursery, Kerhonkson
Shawangunk fire tower view from New Paltz
Hay bales (in season), Route 299 south of New Paltz
Kelder’s Farm flower beds, Route 209, Kerhonkson
Slabsides, West Park. 170-acre John Burroughs Sanctuary. Black Creek, Esopus. Wildlife; suspended bridge for water views.
Esopus Meadows Preserve, Esopus. Highland Landing Park, Highland. Riverfront views.
Falling Waters Preserve, Glasco, Saugerties. All Scenic Hudson areas at scenichudson.org.
Poet’s Walk, Barrytown
Bannerman Island, BeaconHudson River shores at the Vanderbilt Estate, Hyde Park
Bridge on the Vanderbilt, Hyde Park
Vanderbilt Overlook, Hyde Park
Burger Hill, Rhinebeck
Valkill Estate, Hyde Park
Wilderstein Estate, Rhinecliff. Hudson River views
Fishkill Ridge, Beacon. Views of the Hudson HighlandsMills Estate, Staatsburg
Wethersfield Estate, Amenia/MillbrookCary Arboretum—Amenia/Millbrook Ten Mile River, Dover Plains
North-South Lake, Palenville.
Platte Clove, Tannersville
The Oblong Valley, Hillsdale. Along Route 22, Copake.
Roadsides all throughout the county.
Favorite SUBJECT MATTER for on-site inspiration:
Barns in sunlight and shadow
Forests with light filtering through
Sunsets facing west
Livestock, produce, scenes at local farms
Livestock, produce, scenes at local farms
Hudson River views
According to many artists contacted it is advised that permission be requested when painting on private properties—however public places (like those in the lists above) are available to artists to set up their easel, paints, and other equipment without any prior permission.
Why do local artists love plein air art?
Lynne Friedman, Rosendale:
“You’re on site—in and around nature; the color and light changes; you feel the wind. You get inspiration from looking at what’s right there, and that provides a challenge for me to interpret what I am seeing. I don’t work from photographs as, to me, it’s not a direct experience. If I were to paint from a photograph the inspiration is not in front of me to make it something interesting and poetic. I prefer the west side of the Hudson because it’s less developed, although I’ve done many paintings on the east side. When on-site I sometimes do smaller “studies” or sketches and the larger finished pieces are done in my studio.”
Friedman’s solo show “Northeast/Southwest” will be at the Prince Street Gallery in New York’s Chelsea district, 530 W25th Street. Opening reception Thursday, October 6, 5-8pm. The exhibit will feature plein air paintings from the Hudson Valley and Ghost Ranch, New Mexico. Friedman will be returning to Ghost Ranch, where Georgia O’Keefe lived and painted, when the cottonwoods turn a dazzling yellow in October. lynnefriedmanart.com
Marlene Wiedenbaum, Highland
“I do plein air when the weather is cooperative, but also work in my studio. I used to work in other media, but at the present time I work exclusively in pastels. I love the spontaneity and immediate response I get with my media when I’m part of the scenery. And I like being able to choose the lighting; I go out in the morning and afternoon. I work right onto my finished pieces and the larger the piece the more sittings the piece requires. You’re connected to nature in a way you can’t be in a studio. And, I have a Honda Element and sometimes I set up a studio in the back of the vehicle—even in the rain.”
Wiedenbaum’s next exhibit opens on The Pastel Society of America’s 39th Annual Exhibit opening September 6 at the National Arts Club, Gramercy Park, New York City; September 10 at the Mark Gruber Gallery, New Paltz; Opening reception October 6 at the James Palmer Gallery at Vassar College. wiedenbaum.com
Carolyn H. Edland, Poughkeepsie
“I love being out–of-doors, and working on location affords a closer connection to the landscape. Working en plein air permits me to see, precisely, what I wish to paint. The resulting paintings allow viewers of my landscapes to walk into the scene, stand in the grass at the edge, and breathe the fresh air—just as I do when painting on-site. The last few years, I’ve been spending more time in my studio to fulfill gallery demands for more and more paintings in larger sizes. Because of this, I sometimes work with photographs that give an image with a few details and fixed lighting. My longtime experience with painting on location allows me to combine observations of landscapes past and atmospheric effects with the specifics of the scene to be depicted, resulting in a painting that retains that plein-air connection with nature. I strive to portray the ephemeral beauty of our world in a lasting manner.”
Three of Edlund’s paintings will be among art from 160 artists from almost 50 countries being exhibited at Italy’s Biennale Chianciano at the Chianciano Art Museum in September. The exhibition catalogue states: “The incredible skill and ability of the artists has set them apart from thousands of applicants in the eyes of the selection committee, composed of art critics, curators, and experts.” carolynedlund.com
Robert J. Stump, Poughquag
“Somehow the pursuit of the painting and location calls to me and I treat it almost like a sport—with my achievement being that I’ve captured the essence of that scene in that particular light from that particular moment in time. My emotion is that, sometimes, I feel very rewarded with the painting as I walk away with my finished painting—as if Mother Nature has given me a gift that I don’t deserve; I actually feel like I’m stealing the scene. I don’t spend any time with the camera at all; but I mostly capture the light with just what is necessary—such as reflected lights, shadows, and highlights. I only spend a couple of hours on each painting, sometimes for studies for my other endeavors and for larger paintings.”
Stump has just finished a residency at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, New York in late August. He will be exhibiting his finished artwork at the Museum on September 10-11, 10am-5pm at the Rustic Furniture Fair. robertstumpstudios.com
William Noonan, Poughkeepsie
“The thing I like about plein air painting is that it compels me to deal with what I call the big truths. Working on site with a narrow window of opportunity in terms of shifting light means you have to work fast. This forces you to concentrate on the things that make the site feel the way it does in that moment on that particular day. I don’t really care how many limbs any particular tree has—what interests me is whether or not it’s the kind of tree that invites me to take refuge in its shade on a hot summer day or whether it entices me to trip over its roots as I’m heading toward the destination I see below its boughs. I always feel like if I can evoke a sense of smell in a landscape painting I’ve succeeded. Color is everything. If I can get that right the rest seems to fall into place.”
Noonan is a teacher at Barrett House Art Center in Poughkeepsie and he’s looking forward to also teaching at the Mill Street Loft Riverside Gallery in Beacon. A plein air weekend workshop titled “Autumn in the Berkshires” will be taught by Noonan on September 22-26. His 2012 solo show will run from April 26-June 10, 2012 at Locust Grove Samuel Morse Historic Site in Poughkeepsie. williamnoonan.com
Plein Air Art Organizations:
NEW YORK PLEIN AIR PAINTERS (NYPAP) is an organization of painters with chapters all over the state. To view incredible galleries of “paint from life” artwork by members visit nypap.com.
ARTS SOCIETY OF KINGSTON (ASK) was founded in 1995 by local Kingston artists and has grown to become a 501(c)3 nonprofit membership organization with over 600 members. Among ASK members you will find many talented, highly respected professional artists, as well as emerging artists and supporters of the arts. askforarts.org.
THE BARRETT ART CENTER was created 75 years ago when a group of local artists met at the home of regional artist Thomas Weeks Barrett Jr. in Poughkeepsie. The artists formed the Dutchess County Art Association to foster and perpetuate an appreciation of the visual arts in the county. The arts organization remains devoted to their original mission—bringing an unparalleled cultural experience to the whole of Dutchess County, young and old alike. barrettartcenter.org.the Dutchess County Art Association to foster and perpetuate an appreciation of the visual arts in the County. The arts organization remains devoted to their original mission—bringing an unparalleled cultural experience to the whole of Dutchess County, young and old alike. barrettartcenter.org.