En Plein Air Painting Festival

Vive La France! En Plein Air Painting Festival Falls on Bastille Day! Friday, July 14 at Pulaski Park. 4-8 pm
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Susan Barocas: photo by Ellen Augarten

“En plein air” is a French term referring to the act of painting outdoors with natural subjects and light. During July's Arts Night Out, eleven notable local artists will showcase their skills al fresco throughout the late afternoon and evening as part of what has become an annual festival for downtown Northampton--Arts Night Out En Plein Air. Please join Susan Barocas, Valerie Bassett, David Brewster, Jeffrey Gatrall, Paula Gottlieb, Elizabeth Lehman, Robert Markey, Robert Masla, Scott Prior, Deborah Rubin, and Jan Ruby-Crystal in the open air “studio of Pulaski Park. (Please see Artist Statements below.)

By happy coincidence, July's Arts Night Out falls on Bastille Day, a national day of celebration in France and a great opportunity to add a little French flare to the occasion. Everything is free and interactive as artists welcome onlookers to watch them work on original pieces and engage in conversation about the technique. Robert Masla will be doing two exciting hands-on demonstrations using special canvases and paints. (See below for detail.) The public is also invited to create their own en plein air paintings by borrowing one of 20 water color kits provided by Chartpak.

Adding to the excitement is a special appearance by the tinydance project. They begin with a community music and movement class for all ages and abilities on the park lawn at 4:30 pm. This is followed by two tiny tour preview performances on the tiny stage at 5:30 and 6:30 pm.

The festival also hosts Prone to Mischief, a group of street musicians known for their colorful costumes and high energy. The band will keep the atmosphere lively by channeling its inner French Quarter.

This community event is funded in part by the Festivals Program of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Northampton Arts Council and Florence Bank.

Robert Masla Painting Demonstrations:

From 4 - 6pm Masla will demonstrate watercolor on Fredrix Watercolor canvas, (some samples of the canvas will be available to those that wish to “paint along”). The use and advantage of this unique substrata for the watercolor artist will be discussed and demonstrated along with a variety of painting techniques that will enhance the painting experience.

From 6 - 8pm Masla will switch mediums and demonstrate the use of Cobra Water Mixable Oil Paint on Fredrix All Media Paint Board. Masla will talk about the advantages of using this non-toxic, solvent free oil paint. Sharing with the audience and participants a variety of methods and techniques that take advantage of this revolutionary painting medium. The best of watercolor painting and the best of oil painting – combined!

Through the course of both demos Masla will talk briefly about some of the history of materials and techniques from the origins of painting in the west, both in oil and watercolor as well as the development of landscape painting and painting in plein air. Masla will reveal methods and techniques that give the painter unparalleled access to freedom, speed and spontaneity to rapidly nail down a paintings composition and values, arguably two of the most important factors in the success of a painting. Painters and non-painters can join artist Robert Masla for these free demos as he helps to enhance your understanding of the painting process and shares techniques that offer the painter powerful advantages.

Artist Statements

Susan Barocas: The more I study light and color, the more I am amazed at the subtle beauty I find around me…. color is everything. I exaggerate color to evoke emotional response.

Valerie Bassett: There is a freshness and spontaneity to plein air painting which is most always apparent in the work. Capturing a moment of time, light and space, transforms and transmits one's perspective for all to see.

David Brewster: My paintings sit within a tradition the French call premier coup, meaning 'all at once.' They are most often executed in one swift pass, with the graphic urgency of improvisational response underscoring all decisions and informing the energy of the mark.

Jeffrey Gatrall: Plein air painting is a process of continual re-evaluation, because of the relentless shifting of the effects of the light. This situation forces me to consider more how I feel about a landscape, rather than how it appears to me, and places me in a profound state of awe of artists like Monet and Pissarro.

Paula Gottlieb: I am fascinated by light, by the interplay of light and shadow, by the tactility and flow of paint, by color. Nature is nature. Paint is paint. Nature inspires and informs my vision but I'm not interested in solely replicating what I see...rather, using paint to transform and resemble my perception of what I see and feel.

Elizabeth Lehman: Having developed a strong sense of place and love of the natural world from my childhood in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York, I prefer to paint outside directly in the landscape, usually returning to the same location in different seasons and at various times of day. My current work explores particular light and place at locations along the Connecticut River and nearby uplands in Western Massachusetts.

Robert Markey: Working as an artist in a variety of mediums, I always enjoy drawing and painting the interesting and beautiful aspects of Northampton.

Robert Masla: My first experience painting in plein air was when I was about 12 or 13…It was a profound experience that has hooked me into landscape painting for my entire life. Though I don’t think of myself exclusively as a ‘Plein Air Painter’, I think of myself as an artist, a ‘spiritrealist’. I am committed to painting and creativity--in whatever manner the creative spirit moves me to express it. That said, I have been also committed to the expression of that creative spirit through painting the landscape

Scott Prior: In New England we live in a world of changing seasons, which, I think, invites an almost sensual awareness of time and its effects. The New England landscape is small and intimate and directs our attention to things close at hand.

Jan Ruby-Crystal: Creating in nature inspires me to see more, feel more and to respond in deeper and more personal ways. I am fascinated by the colors, textures, values, lines and shapes all around me. The sounds of the forest, the pounding sea, the wind, the swish and call of animals and critters of all kinds provide new possibilities. The changing weather, seasons and light challenge me, causing me to be prepared for everything. My goal is to bring into view something that feels unique and connected. Something I want to see again and again.