Through the Eyes of a Painter

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Oil by Karin Jurick

THIS WAS NOT just another walk in the park. It was a three-hour witnessing of the artistic process—in this case, oil paintings coming to life.

As part of a fundraiser, members of the Charleston Fine Arts Dealers’ Association (CFADA) gathered in the dappled morning light of Washington Park on a crisp, clear November morning. The goal of each painter—there were about  15 or 16 of them—was to complete a painting en plein air (in the open air) in just a few hours, after which the paintings would be sold at auction.

During those hours, a hundred or more people at a time wandered around the park sipping hot coffee and lingering to watch. Not only was it a gorgeous day, it was a unique experience to see paintings emerge from the canvas (or board) in so many different ways and styles.

It’s one thing to walk into a gallery and see finished, framed, glazed paintings. It’s another to see messy (and in some cases extremely tidy) palettes, and to see the artists in their work clothes—jeans, cowboy boots, and baseball caps—with smudged fingernails, oily rags, and beat up brushes. Something else stood out on this particular day: the obvious pleasure on these artists’ faces from having so many people take interest in their work.

The atmosphere in a gallery, particularly a gallery where paintings are for sale, can be stifling. The commercial ambiance and the “artiste” persona can inhibit you from experiencing the works sufficiently—that is, intimately and undisturbed.

These obstacles didn’t exist en plein air. In the brisk morning in the park everyone was on shared ground and shared interest. They had their brushes and gloves and scarves. We had our coffee and cameras and curiosity. And we could look over their shoulder and talk to them while they worked. It was a fantastic gathering for everyone. You could feel it all over the park.

Here’s a taste of what we saw:

As I strolled around admiring the myriad talents and tastes, I couldn’t help but think that this charming park should be put to good use like this more often. Yes, there are the French Quarter art walks several times a year, but they tend to be more social than insightful. The bustle is ill suited for contemplative viewing.

Which made me wonder: if these artists displayed their work like this more often, would people come more often to their galleries with a greater awareness of how much fine work is being created in this town? Maybe the only way to answer that question is to have more of these affairs. Besides, it’s the sort of cultural nourishment that weekends are made for.

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4 Responses to “Through the Eyes of a Painter”

  1. Harriet Smartt

    Lovely video and insightful comments as well. I recall when Piccolo Spoleto art event took place in Washington Park. The show had a special grandeur about it. Hoping your idea of greater use of the park for such events catches fire.

  2. Ann Ward Burris

    Very enjoyable article and slideshow. Thank you! Let’s hope the en plein air painting continues there.

  3. Loved seeing the art. Also loved the music, but unfortunately there were no credits for that. Would someone please enlighten me?

  4. Thanks for asking, Jan. The music is a selection from Enya entitled To Go Beyond, Part 2.


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It is with life as it is with art: the deeper one penetrates, the broader the view.                   
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