Leonardo Da Vinci said, “The artist sees what others only catch a glimpse of.” This describes well what makes artists painting outdoors in the open, en plein air, fascinating to watch. Where an observer may only see a glimpse of a landscape, an artist sees light and atmosphere, shape and color, subject and form, all combining in a blaze of inspiration that beckons the artist to capture it in paint.
Sat., Nov. 5 offers a rare opportunity to see nature through a painter’s eyes during the inaugural Plein Air Adkins. Artists from across the region will congregate to paint en plein air from 10 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. During that time, the public is invited to explore the Arboretum’s paths and trails to see the artists and watch them paint. This event is unique in that it takes place in autumn amid a beautiful native Eastern Shore landscape with miles of paths through wetlands, meadows and woodlands, rather than in a town or at a marina.
Each artist will start with a blank canvas or panel. The vista they choose to paint will be right before the observer’s eyes. When the artists finish painting, their work will be for sale and shown on their easels behind the Visitor’s Center from 1 to 3 p.m. Five award winners will be selected by judge Bernard J. Dellario, a painter and instructor who exhibits widely across the Maryland Eastern Shore and Washington, D.C., regions. In choosing an award-winning painting, Dellario says, “I look for a good, solid design that shows the artist’s command of their material. Also something that surprises me, piques my interest.”
While the public enjoys the art during the exhibit and sale, Fine Times will provide live music, Pete’s PeteZa will sell breakfast and lunch fare starting at 9 a.m. and Blue Monkey Tacos will be on site to sell food beginning at 11 a.m.
Let’s take a walk through the Arboretum to see what the artists might find to paint! As you enter, the Parking Lot Alive! plantings are filled with the texture and form of grasses, shrubs with berries, flowers gone to seed and trees turning color—any of which might spark the desire to paint them. Walk toward the Visitor’s Center and pause on the footbridge over the wetland. Look across and into the water at its color and reflections. Trees and grasses frame it in intriguing patterns that artists work to capture. Pass through the Visitor’s Center to the patio. In front of you is the Gnome Home. Turn right, walk past the meadow on your left and the persimmon grove on your right and head toward the woods. Watch for dried milkweed pods along the path, and stop to appreciate the artists at work.
Continue along the meadow, veer right at the native bee house and enter the woods. Watch for artists along the path as you walk through dogwood, beech, oak and tulip tree and down to the bridge over the Blockston Branch. Here in the woods, artists can find layer after layer of shapes, colors and light. Watch how they capture the subtle tones of nature.
Walk across the bridge to the corner of Blockston Branch Walk and Upland Trail Walk, then look on the left for the main patch of paw paws. Here you can go left along the creek on Blockston Branch or straight up the Upland Trail to higher ground, amid loblolly and Virginia pines, native orchids and evergreen ferns. Watch on your right for a small spiral labyrinth and on your left for wigwams.
“When painting in plein air, I am treated to having all my senses awakened,” says plein air painter Maggii Sarfaty of Easton. “My mind quiets and becomes more responsive. Studying light and pattern outdoors has provided great growth in my art. I look forward to capturing the magic as each new season unfolds.”
Plein air painter Debra Howard Sorenson of Crisfield considers herself an interpreter rather than a recorder of a scene: “For me, painting is a way to solve the problem of how to engage someone I’ve never met and introduce her to the scene that I was drawn to. The problem to be solved is that I have a small two-dimensional panel as my tool to explain a limitless view, complete with weather, light changes, bugs, beauty, even danger. So I push the subject material, I edit, I add color, contrast, softness…whatever I need to use to get the viewer into my world.”
And it is indeed a fascinating world. Don’t miss the experience of seeing nature through a painter’s eyes at Plein Air Adkins. There’s none other like it!
Observing Plein Air Adkins is free for Arboretum members and $5 (the price of Adkins admission) for non-members. Artists may register up to and on the day of the event for a $10 fee. Advance registration is appreciated at adkinsarboretum.org.
Plein Air Adkins is sponsored in part by Choptank Electric Cooperative.