MY EXPERIENCE WITH LANDSCAPE PAINTING
(especially involved in direct observational painting)
En plein air (French pronunciation) is a French expression which means "in the open air", and is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors, which is also called peinture sur le motif ("painting on the ground") in French
As a kid in Brooklyn, New York, I was always fascinated with the “visual”. I knelt on the trolley seat looking out the window fascinated by the passing panarama. I remember Farragut Woods in Brooklyn was ”country”, a landscape in Brooklyn you could explore. Places like this were eventually developed into the usual asphalt city but Prospect Park and the Botanical Gardens remained our green space.
I went into the Navy during the Korean War. After my discharge in 1956 I began Cooper Union Art School in NY at the age of 25. At the end of the sophomore year, the class went to Green Camp in New Jersey for a week of painting. It was a wonderful revelation, being outside and painting from nature – a unique and thrilling experience.
I went to graduate school at Yale University. In my second year, Bernard Chaet invited me and Michael Economos to represent Yale at the Yale Norfolk Summer School for Music and Art. Six weeks of painting and drawing, even doing printmaking en plein air. It was a remarkable experience with a remarkable group of students including Vija Celmins, Brice Marden and Chuck Close.
My teaching career began in 1964 and during better weather the students looked forward to the field trips to such places as Druid Park, Roland Lake, Robert E. Lee Park, and the Baltimore Zoo. Cylburn Arboretum was right at the top of the list as an excellent site for painting and drawing classes. During all these years of teaching, my landscape painting seemed to be limited to summers painting at Indian River Inlet and Henlopen State Park on the Deleware shore. On a semester’s sabbatical in 1984 I returned to a studio in the Brooklyn Bridge area to concentrated on paintings of the Williamsburg Bank Building done from polaroids. I also managed to revisit Prospect Park with Churchill Davenport for meaningful plein air sessions by the Park’s “Big Lake”. I feel these works were energized by my childhood memories of living in Brooklyn
I retired from MICA in 2000. In 2005 and 2007 I was selected for the Trafford and Isabel Klotz Artist Residency in Rochefort-en-Terre in Brittany France. Each time this was one month of intense en plein air painting – an amazing experience. Soon after this I started an en plein air landscape class. In 2011 and 2012 the CylburnArboretum became one of the main venues with the extra incentive that there would be a Cylburn planned event “The Celebration of the Arts”. The Cylburn Arboretum is a landscape painter’s dream come true supplying an ever expanding set of possibilities.
In 2014 I have been the Artist in Residence of the Cylburn Arboretum in Baltimore, Maryland. To spend these months as Artist in Residence was a wonderful opportunity. Included on this page are some of the visual results. I will have an exhibition of these paintings and past plein air paintings at the Vollmer Center, Cylburn Arboretum opening February 28, 2015.