Along the Coast: En plein air

12344560256?profile=RESIZE_400xArtists group finds inspiration, enjoyment in ever-changing hues of South Florida outdoors

12344560494?profile=RESIZE_710xTOP: Resting on the grass at Mizner Park, the palette of plein air painter June Knopf awaits another brushstroke.
MIDDLE: Susan McKenna List, another member of the Palm Beach Plein Air group, paints a table umbrella from Max’s Grille.
BELOW: Delray Beach Public Library visitors walk through the Plein Air Palm Beach show in the second-floor gallery.

Photos by Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

True nature shines through in exhibit at Delray Beach library

12344562659?profile=RESIZE_584xBy Tao Woolfe

It seems counterintuitive to go indoors to see an exhibit of light-filled outdoor art, but given the soggy start to winter, it may be a blessing.

Another blessing: The plein air exhibit is on the second floor of Delray Beach’s cool public library at 100 W. Atlantic Ave., which boasts a forest in its children’s department and is a treat in itself.

The formal name of the exhibit is Plein Air Palm Beach Fine Art Show and Sale. It runs until Jan. 31.

This year the exhibit has more than 65 pieces of plein air — or impressionistic studies of outdoor scenes — painted by members of the Palm Beach Plein Air group, which formed about 13 years ago.

This is the second year the group has exhibited in the Delray Beach library’s gallery.

“Everything is done on location around South Florida,” said Donna Walsh, one of the group’s founders. “It’s a lot of fun. Our members get to paint outdoors with their friends.”

The en plein air movement originated in France’s famed Barbizon School in the 1830s, when students — including Theodore Rousseau — strove to capture the rapidly changing outdoor light in their work, according to published histories.

At the time, artists often mixed their own paints from natural substances. It wasn’t until 1841 that the collapsible paint tube was invented by American painter

John G. Rand, who freed himself and his colleagues from studio confinement.

By the 1860s renowned artists such Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir had joined the movement. They enjoyed painting in the countryside with colleagues.

The movement expanded to Italy, England and eventually to the United States, where the Hudson River school of artists used the technique to paint scenes depicting the Hudson River Valley, and the Catskill, Adirondack and White mountains.

12344564263?profile=RESIZE_710x Marcia Riopel and Harolyn Larsen enjoy the camaraderie of the Palm Beach Plein Air group.

In South Florida, plein air artists have the ocean and flat land as endless outdoor backdrops, said artist June Knopf, of Delray Beach.

12344564690?profile=RESIZE_180x180“Painting outside is a huge challenge because everything changes. … Cars, boats and, of course, people come and go. Lighting conditions and shadows change continually. You learn how to paint very quickly when you’re painting outside,” Knopf said.

“Plein air paintings have a vibrancy and spontaneity that makes you feel that you are there.”

Members of Palm Beach Plein Air say they prefer to make quick, impressionistic sketches of an outdoor scene and then bring their paintings back to their respective studios to add finishing touches.

Several members of the group were in Mizner Park on a recent Sunday, sketching people and cafés in the rapidly changing afternoon light.

12344564296?profile=RESIZE_710xThe palette of Susan McKenna List, from Boca Raton, who says plein air painting ’gives you a heightened sensitivity, like meditation.’

Among them was Susan McKenna List, of Boca Raton, who was dabbing a red table umbrella onto a small canvas.

“Plein air painting is fast and intuitive,” List said. She described herself as an English major who discovered plein air art while in California and never looked back.

Painting in nature, she said, has given her a new way of looking at the world.

“It gives you a heightened sensitivity, like meditation,” List said. “It’s a great gift.”

Walsh and co-founder Ralph Papa had been organizing outings for separate entities — the Palm Beach Watercolor Society and a Delray Beach plein air group. They decided to merge and call the group Palm Beach Plein Air, according to the group’s website.

Its members say the group is very friendly and welcomes all artists, no matter what stage of expertise they have reached.

“We welcome resident artists and visiting artists at all levels to come out with us to paint and document today’s landscapes that contribute to tomorrow’s history,” the Palm Beach Plein Air website says.

If You Go
What: Plein Air Palm Beach Fine Art Show and Sale
Where: Delray Beach Public Library second-floor gallery, 100 W. Atlantic Ave.
When: The show runs until Jan. 31. Library hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday‑Wednesday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; and 1-5 p.m. Sunday.
Cost: Free

 

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