Presentation is Everything


The other day I saw an online post of a group of paintings that raised several questions. The first was why was this gallery posting this picture of this group of paintings on Facebook? The paintings were all plein air paintings of the Fox Valley where I live. The paintings were dull, lifeless scenes of places I know well. Places full of life. Places locals are proud of, places where locals have put work into showing their love for their hometown. 

The gallery said, "they're all plein air paintings and are all of local scenes." That brings me to my second question - Is " en Plein Air " enough of a reason to qualify an artist worthy of being in a gallery? These works lack any sort of design or composition. The drawing was off and they look like they were done from poor photos. So why had this gallery taken this artist on? Because he wasn't local. Seems the gallery had been stung several times by local artists using them for showing their art, then pulling pieces out to sell direct to a client, cutting out the gallery's commission. So they took this artist on from across the country who was passing through on a plein air painting trip. Just passing through - he has no real sense of our valley or of us. So his paintings are simple paintings with no real feelings. 

Not all plein air artists miss the real sense of place. Most good ones take the time to get to know a place, to know the people, to see the pride in what they are painting. Artists travel to paint and learn, and those that do produce some amazing paintings.  


Beautiful Means Care

Hay Season.JPG

Winds picking up, birds flying low with purpose as the sky darkens. There is something about a summer storm here in the Midwest. Clean fresh air is one of the rewards rain brings, richer greens with the washing of the trees. Knowing when evening storms clear spectacular sunsets will reward the artist willing to head out to observe them. Homeland, to an artist, is an advantage over those just passing through. 

A full moon above a church steeple can inspire a local artist beyond the scene before them. There are places and things each artist has for energizing the creative spirit. A full moon energizes the batteries at just the right place and time, charging the creative engine.  A drive through a neighborhood can do the same. Gardens, tended hourly by proud homeowners, are gifts to anyone passing by. Garden walks that open backyards to the curious, and open fellow artists to new ideas for their stacks of blank canvases. 

Over the years the different cities and towns in  the Midwest have raised their image with community projects. Different clubs and organization have taken to caring for stretches of highways by picking up trash and planting trees.  Award wining sculptures line a bridge in one small town while another has a sculpture park. 

Giant white peonies are trapped in my imagination as I pass one house. A proud lady invited me into her yard to enjoy them up close, and invites me to take a few with me. I prefer to capture the effort put into a garden rather than scenes of the forgotten and let go. Beautiful means care to me, someone is interested in saving the earth. A group in Geneva waded through the river pulling out what others discarded one Sunday as I painted the houses on the opposite shore. Seeing this group added to the colors I placed on my canvas.