The Workshop in Vineyard Haven will celebrate outdoor paintings by ten Island artists on the evening of Friday, Sept. 12. Titled Plein Air Summer Breeze, the seven-day show and its reception are the culmination of a three-week project that took artists Lowely Finnerty, Judith Howells, Kanta Lipsky, Peter Mallen, Marjorie Mason, Brandon Newton, Jim Shigley, Liz Taft, Kate Taylor, and Valentine Estabrook to Katama, Menemsha, and Turtle Brook Farm in Chilmark to capture landscapes. Once favored by artistic giants like Claude Monet and Winslow Homer, the plein air or “open air” method of painting lets practitioners tap the beauty of an environment while contending with dynamic elements such as ever-shifting light and weather.
“For me, working outside gives me an opportunity to immerse myself in nature,” artist Peter Mallen said. “You open yourself to unexpected influence and inspiration that you would not experience in your studio: light, atmosphere, interactions within nature … how trees and grasses interact with dunes, tree lines versus the spits of sand that are such an integral part of Island vistas. These are the things you miss.”
For Kanta Lipsky, the merits of the method are as spiritual as they are aesthetic. “Painting outdoors, looking at the very landscape you are attempting to render, brings your awareness into the present moment, and the rest of the world falls away,” Ms. Lipsky said. “On a good day, you dive into the consciousness of the devas of the area you are working in, and begin to understand an ancient story told about that little wooded neighborhood.”
Kate Taylor’s introduction to the plein air method was also her introduction to oil painting, now her preferred medium.
“A few years ago, I was invited to join a plein air artist friend of mine on an outing,” Ms. Taylor said. “I had never put a paintbrush to canvas before, and was given a prepared painting surface and a palette of oil paints to use. Oils are what I’ve used ever since.”
The curing of those oils has been a minor concern for the artists participating in the Plein Air Summer Breeze project, because they will be showing paintings so swiftly after their execution. The likelihood that many canvases might be hung wet has been lessened due to the dry conditions Martha’s Vineyard has been experiencing.
“The weather has worked to my advantage with the heat and sunshine drying
the paint faster than usual,” said Mr. Mallen. “My paintings should be relatively dry by the time they travel to the gallery, even areas of heavy paint.”
The Plein Air Summer Breeze reception will be from 5 to 8 pm, Friday, Sept. 12. The exhibition will run until Sept. 19. For more information on the Plein Air Summer Breeze show and reception visit vineyardartist.blogspot.com or The Workshop’s Facebook page.