There is a group of enthusiastic visual artists from the St. Albert Painters Guild who left the confines of the studio during the past two summers and embarked on a spontaneous and fresh adventure painting outdoors.
With summer’s end, they’ve tucked away their paint pots and combined their efforts to mount an exciting new art show titled Brushes & Breezes: Plein Air Landscapes. The dynamic and diverse exhibition opens at VASA on Thursday, Oct. 5 and is on display until Saturday, Oct. 28.
Dubbed The St. Albert Plein Air Painters, the eight visual artists painted and sketched outdoor scenery under the changing, fleeting qualities of natural light. “En plein air” is a French expression that suggests freedom and is literally translated as “in the open air.”
This unique octet includes Alexandra Mitchell, Carol Brown, Diane Stone, Julie Daly, Laurena Beirnes, Luise Mendler-Johnson, Sue Waring and Tracy Lyn Propp.
In their outdoor foray, the painters attempt to capture the essence of the city’s local landscapes from serene ponds and flower gardens to hidden parks and back alleys. In doing so, they shine a painterly spotlight on some of the hidden treasures that makes St. Albert special.
The Plein Air Painters completed the season with about 60 paintings varying from oils and watercolours to slower-drying acrylics.
“Painting outside is a whole other challenge,” said Mendler-Johnson. “Being outside teaches us about changing colour and light conditions. And then there’s the wind that can dry your paint too quickly. It’s a challenge, but you have something to show for it in the end.”
Some artists are a bit shy about painting outdoors on their own. However, Mendler-Johnson and Daly, the primary organizers, would pick a plein air painting day and text everyone the location.
“It might be a challenge to go by yourself, but in a group, it makes you more confident. And it’s a good way to exchange tips and tricks,” she said.
One of Mendler-Johnson's tips for outdoor painting arrived through trial and error.
“Don’t take a fancy easel with you the way I did the first time. Bring a light, cheap aluminum one since you have to carry it and all your other stuff.”
She hopes residents who stopped to chat with artists while painting drop by the gallery to see the finished versions.
“And if you’re looking for art by local artist, it’s a natural exhibit to see. And you may discover some areas in St. Albert you’ve never seen before.”