Island light

AIRE MV artists see the Vineyard in a whole new light.


Nine painters gathered from AIRE MV and set their easels down by the Edgartown wharf last Wednesday. The artists have been painting in different locations on the Island since mid-June. This was the last session. On August 29, the group’s art will be displayed at the Old Sculpin Gallery.

Valentine Estabrook, painter and organizer of AIRE MV, set her canvas facing Chappaquiddick. She explained how great it was to have guest artists come participate and paint. “It’s a great circle which allows us to close the gap, reaching out to artists on the Island,” Estabrook said. “They come and bring their goodwill with them, so it’s a good win on both sides.”

It was a very foggy morning last Wednesday. “Painting en plein aire [outdoors] is all about the light; this is why today is a challenge, because we don’t have any sunshine here. It’s really about capturing the light within a 90-minute period.” said Estabrook as she was focusing on the small details of the sailboats passing through the harbor.

Not far from her, artist June Schoppe was talking to a curious tourist who enjoyed her painting. This was her seventh year participating in AIRE MV. “It is great to paint outside. It is intimidating because people talk to you, but at the same time it’s good. I sold paintings off the easel, which is a bonus,” said Schoppe before adding, “I love meeting the person that is going to buy your painting because then you can complete the circle. You are trying to tell a story here and they get it, they get what you are trying to tell when they buy it.”

Compared to other artists on the scene, Schoppe did not seem bothered by the weather. On the contrary, “This is great,” she said, “because there is no sun so you can paint for four hours and the lighting won’t change.” If Schoppe can give anyone good advice, it is to avoid painting during the middle of the day. “You want to avoid it at all costs because it’s just white light. End of the day is great, the light starts to warm up. Today we are lucky because nothing is changing that much.” For Schoppe, “It takes you about two hours to get 80 percent of your painting done,” because “plein aire is so fleeting.”

For Thaw Malin, who’s been painting for more than 50 years, “It really depends on the subject matter … If I’m painting alone, it will take me two or three hours to completely finish. Sometimes when you are painting, depending on the conditions, you can do it in half an hour,” added Malin.

It was Malin and his wife Cynthia Bloomquist’s first time participating in AIRE MV. “The shutdown has had some benefits in getting us to start painting again,” said Bloomquist. “We all have a different learning curve. I’m just starting, and my husband has been painting for more than 50 years … In my case, I’m just trying to get the framework and the proportions right. It’s my first time painting a structure … Usually, I’d rather paint landscapes because they are more forgiving. You can be a lot more abstract. You can use your imagination very nicely. But when it’s a building, you’re usually stuck with a frame of work.

“When I started, I was doing photography, and saving the photographs that I liked and painting them. My husband Thaw, who has always been a painter, told me I should try painting in plein aire, and it’s a whole new experience, but it’s fun and very inspiring in different ways,” Bloomquist said. “Anything we do that challenges our brain and our perception is always good.” But what Bloomquist really enjoyed about AIRE MV were the different locations they gathered to paint.

“We’ve done some paintings over on State Beach. We got together and painted the sunset in early July. More than that, we’ve been trying to paint themes or subjects such as garden paths or flowers,” Bloomquist said. “When you start to paint something, you look at things differently and you think, ‘How do I get that color, and how would I try to represent that?’ It’s a whole different way of seeing things.”

To learn more about the upcoming exhibit, visit