‘Island Life: Plein Air Plus’ Brings the Outdoor Inside at LBIF

Sep 14, 2016
Artwork by: John Meehan III ‘A Surf City Lagoon’ oil painting by John Meehan III.

Painting “plein air” sounds lovely; the Impressionists combing French countrysides in search of fields of lavender comes to mind. In reality, painting out of doors is more of a contest, you against nature. Finding the right spot requires consideration of which way the sun is glaring. The canvas should be in the shade so you must squint into the bright landscape. Then set up the tricky French easel that has more appendages than it seems to need, open a folding table for the palette, and plop into the folding chair (all these things you have lugged over a dune or through a field). Slather on insect repellant and sunscreen and brush off any blowing sand. Then it’s back over the dune or through the field to the car to get the water you forgot and return to the easel. Now you are ready to paint.

But the results are often worth the hassle as proved by the colorful and wonderful exhibit now at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences, “Island Life: Plein Air Plus.”

This inaugural event was curated by plein air painter Nancy Tankersley, co-founder of Plein Air Easton, a large juried painting competition held every year in Easton, Md.

Artists were asked to email examples of their plein air paintings and from those, Tankersley selected 35 artists. These artists were directed to ramble over the Island this summer and paint as many canvases as they liked and then choose up to three of their best for the exhibit.

The result pays delightful homage to the Island’s scenic spots, with Barnegat Lighthouse only making an appearance in two or three paintings. The most painted spot was Viking Village docks and scallop boats. The least painted spot? The dunes and, oddly, the ocean itself.

Local artist John Meehan III has been painting Surf City beaches for years. His three paintings in the exhibit of bathers, beach umbrellas and other beach accoutrements, focus on the people rather than the ocean. The stark white sun of noonday washes much of the color away, and shadows make for exciting compositions.

Joyce Lawrence’s painting of two little girls playing in the sand at the edge of the surf, “Beach Sisters,” captures the nostalgia of those innocent vacation days that will last through the winter.

“Between Showers,” three paintings by Michael Budden, point out the other variable when painting outdoors: the weather. His brush strokes are sure and quick and make for Impressionist paintings.

The intense color of a late afternoon on Barnegat Bay is one of Susan Graeber’s paintings. Her “Barnegat Light Salt Marsh” is painted in thick brushstrokes.

“View Through the Marsh” by Judith Hummer includes a wooden beach walkway that leads us through the painting. An osprey nest is a plus.

Kirk Larsen digs a sunset over the bay in “Crepuscular Light.” The tiny Causeway lights seem to wink from his canvas.

Cynthia Rosen’s “After the Haul” is one of the more expressive, almost violent depictions of the scallop fleet. Her heavy brushstrokes commit the scene to memory.

Bruce Bingham painted the Fantasy Island Ferris wheel at dusk and titled it “Anticipation.” Daytime pursuits are subjects like “Clamming at High Bar Harbor” by John Slivjak and “View from Molly Allison Sail House” by Patti Lucas Hopkins.

Old Barney is quickly sketched by Lisa Burger Lentz in “Lighthouse.”

And Linda Burns captured the translucent, turquoise shallows of the beach known as “The Dike” on High Bar Harbor in her painting “Barnegat Bay.”

Artist Linda Kirvan took the challenge and painted the hot dune environment for “First Line of Defense.”

Only one pastel artist, local expert Linda Coulter, exhibited her works, and I could find only one watercolor depiction of the Island, Mary Clark Confalone’s “Wild Side.” Watercolor tends to dry too fast for outdoor painting.

These artists and paintings are joined by many others in the “Island Life: Plein Air Plus” exhibit that continues through Oct. 24 at the LBIF. An artists’ reception is set for Sunday, Sept. 25 from 2 to 5 p.m. with a pre-show lecture by Tankersley from 10 a.m. to noon.

— Pat Johnson


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