The Greenwood Artist Guild is not afraid to try something new or to use its talents to give back.
Members of this nonprofit organization have recently begun exploring the style of open air painting known as plein-air. They recently hosted a day of recreational outdoor painting and sketching at Greenwood’s Grace Street Park and plans are in the works for ventures with Ninety Six National Historic Site.
Grace Street Park artworks created will be eligible for submission in a plein-air show at Howard’s on Main in Greenwood in October, plus works from the Ninety Six National Historic Site are to be displayed that same month in the special exhibit gallery at the Arts Center of Greenwood.
Adrian Stewart, who has been a park guide at Ninety Six National Historic Site for four and a half years, said she does “a little painting,” but the idea behind partnering with artists is to “help the park get some usable material and maybe start a yearly thing.”
“Later, we will have something for the general public to participate in,” Stewart said. “We are considering a Paint at the Park thing.”
Additionally, a percentage of works sold from the October Howard’s on Main show will go to Grace Street Park.
For several of the artists, plein-air painting is a new experience.
For example, Rick Goohs often paints fish illustrations on wooden planks.
“I take photographs of the fish I catch and I will do illustrations with watercolors or acrylics,” Goohs said. “Or, I can use a digital picture frame and do a drawing from there.
“When you are working directly outside, you’ve got constantly changing light,” Goohs added. “It’s going to change on your during the day, even in the matter of an hour...You have to keep that in mind as you do your painting. But, the beauty of it is that you are going to see colors and shadows you will not in a photograph. You have to compensate mentally for the changes and commit to a certain light. Typically, with plein-air painting, you are working a lot faster than you would in a studio.”
Goohs is no stranger to Grace Street Park though. He has helped parks commission members establish bamboo there. As a side note, Goohs also makes bamboo pickles from young bamboo shoots.
“I’m using watercolor pencils,” Goohs said. “These are great for plein-air because you don’t have to carry a lot of paint thinners and you can spray with water and use a fan brush. This has been a good excuse to get out of the house.”
Fellow artist Lydia Baca said plein-air is something at which she would like to improve.
“I need this experience and this is pushing me,” Baca said, working on a sketch of a shrub. “This is hard. You want to get all that nice light and shadow.”
Artist and educator Brandi Tupper was working on a pen-and-ink drawing.
“I mostly do dog portraits, so this is a big departure for me,” Tupper said. “This is my first time doing plein-air. I’m trying to do a landscape. I’ve never been in the park before today. It’s nice here. Just sitting here, you can see how the light impacts things. It’s really peaceful. You hear birdsong and insects and I’m not an outside person.”
Tupper focused her attention on logs and a path while she drew.
“I like how these logs are in various states of decay,” Tupper said. “Then, there’s bright green leaves and bright red leaves. I’m working on expressive lines. I just got a new fountain pen.”
Artist Ginny Pulver said the first plein-air day was full of “good weather, good people and good cookies.”
The idea started with guild member Dana Gonzalez, who has done plein-air painting for a number of years, particularly in travel journals she keeps while taking trips.
Open air painting offers a great way to “capture the moment,” Gonzalez said. “You capture the colors of that day and the light. People compliment me more on something that’s plein-air than something copied from a photograph...I’m happy to see other artists are interested in trying it. You really notice things, like the shape of a leaf.”
Monday, Gonzalez and Pulver made a trip to Star Fort National Historic Site in Ninety Six and worked on plein-air there.
“I love Grace Street Park,” Gonzalez said. “I thought, ‘How can I help with that park?’ I was doing sketching one day and ran into Abby Cleland who helps put out duck food, for the ducks at the pond. I later asked Abby if we could do some plein-air in the park gazebo. She started sending out emails to people. She was crucial in jump-starting it. I wanted it open to any artist to participate.”
From there, it was discussed for the Greenwood Artist Guild to have an exhibit of plein-air paintings of Grace Street Park at Howard’s on Main in Greenwood.
“If a plein-air painting of the park from that show sells, the artist will donate a portion of that back to the park,” Gonzalez said. “That park is taken care of by volunteers. As artists, we should be giving back to the community, too. It’s all a big circle.”
A plein-air session open to the public, complete with instruction from guild member Alice Lewis, is panned for the Arts Center courtyard at 6 p.m. June 20, the night of the guild’s next regular meeting.
Lewis said she has had more experience with still life painting versus plein-air, but she said the two have in common “painting what you see.”
“Outside, you need to have a limited palette of colors and I’m going to get them to just use a palette knife,” Lewis said. “You have to do your composition a lot quicker...There are a lot of ideas and tips if you research instruction on YouTube.”
An additional plein-air session has also been scheduled for 13 artists, by invitation only, to the Ninety Six National Historic Site from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 22. Painting is not open to the public this day, but the park will be open for visitors, Stewart said.
“We’re going to start off painting near the cabin,” Stewart said.