‘Island Life: Plein Air Plus’ Artists Bring Newcomers’ Inspiration

Exhibit Now at LBI Arts Foundation
Sep 27, 2017
Artwork by: John Meehan III ‘Pathway to the Ocean’ by Surf City artist John Meehan III won the Passport to LBI Award at the ‘Plein Air Plus’ exhibit, now at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences.

For those of us who live, work or vacation on Long Beach Island, it’s easy to fall in love with the beauty of the ocean and bay. Everyone has his or her favorite scenic places.

So it’s great that a group of artists who have not lived long with our coastal splendor, come and explore it, interpret it and produce works of art to celebrate it.

That is the premise of the exhibit “Island Life: Plein Air Plus,” now at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences through Oct. 23.

But the show was really created during the wind, sun and vicissitudes of weather and traffic during the months of July and August when artists from as far away as Vermont and Baltimore made their way through the summer crowds to capture their impressions. Stuart White, artist and president of Mid-Atlantic Plein Air Painters of America, chose the painters who participated in the “paint out,” as these types of contests are regularly called.

The artists could start and finish a painting in one or two days, outside in the elements. Or they could complete the paintings at home in their studios – the “plus” part of the contest.

On Sunday during the reception, a few of the artists shared their impressions of LBI.

Cynthia Rosen came all the way from Vermont for her second LBI plein air paint-out, as this was the second year LBIF offered the contest. Last year she won a prize for one of her paintings. Rosen is a purist, as far as plein air is concerned: “I work quickly with a palette knife, and work totally on site, 100 percent. That’s where I draw my inspiration from.

“A studio piece is a studio piece, and that’s fine. But I enjoy the energy of working on site.”

Her bright oil paintings, “Surf, Sand and Sun” and “A Perfect Beach Day,” retain the freshness of her experience.

Rosen has participated in many plein air contests along the East Coast. She is represented on the Island at Wildflowers Too! Gallery in Barnegat Light.

John Creagh from Warwick in Ocean County, N.Y. was a newcomer to LBI. “When I first got on the Island, I was wondering what I would paint. And within 20 minutes I saw Barnegat Light, Viking Village, sailboats – and I couldn’t wait to get started.”

Creagh is a member of the Hudson Valley Plein Air Painters. He lives in a beautiful place with mountains and valleys, farms and the Hudson River.

“This was a challenge but it was nice,” he remarked. “Everything at home is green everywhere, and more green. You get tired of painting the same thing. Down here you have the light on the water, and it’s great.”

He painted families enjoying the beach (“Ship Bottom Beach”), a sailboat in dry dock and Viking Village. Creagh recently retired from teaching art at Westchester Community College and can now devote all his energies to painting.

Doug Tweddale from outside Philadelphia is also retired and painting full time. He travels all over the western states with his wife and paints in the national parks. His art business card read, “Living the Dream.”

Both Creagh and Tweddale agreed that they like having an audience as they paint, though sometimes it’s a bit difficult. “I was painting the Grand Canyon and busloads of people came by,” said Tweddale. “I was back from the edge but suddenly I had 300 people in front of me. I had to stretch to see,” and he showed how he had to get up on his toes. “Sometimes it’s hard to maneuver when someone is at your elbow. But it’s all good. I sell paintings right off the easel.”

Sandy Taylor of Belmar won third prize for her “Morning in the Marsh,” one of a triptych of paintings of the LBIF marsh she did at different times of the day. “I stood right up on the Foundation deck and painted. It was good, but buggy and hot.”

Linda Kirvan’s daughter has a home on the Island, so she was able to do several paintings and relax in comfort. “I discovered some new places. The museum garden in Barnegat Light was beautiful.”

Kirvan sold her painting of Viking Village.

Charles Snell from Moorestown also chose Barnegat Light as his “private Idaho.”

“All my scenes have at least one boat in them.” His large painting, “Tranquil Cove,” was painted in the studio from sketches. He conveys a sense of depth of the water as it comes around a bend, varying the color from a light blue to darker blue in the foreground.

Lisa Abrams came from Baltimore and stayed in a local Airbnb (a website to find bed and breakfast rooms at private homes) site in Barnegat Light. “I’d never been to LBI. I painted Kelly’s (restaurant) because I ate there every night and it’s such a cool place.”

Her other paintings include scallop boats and the beach after a rainstorm.

Linda Patti Lucas Hopkins got to meet shop owners on LBI by painting their establishments: the Island Dress Shop and Lucille’s Candy.

Danielle Kerner, art committee co-coordinator for the LBIF, and Gail Sidewater were the co-creators of the exhibit and plein air events. Kerner thanked the art committee for their help in staging the major event. She pledged another year of the plein air event in 2018, and asked the artists to spread the word.

“We’re committed to making plein air painting important on LBI and in the region,” said Kerner.

The juror and judge of the show, Stuart White, said he had a tough time whittling the strongest paintings down to eight awards. He said his choices were made in two categories: ones done entirely outdoors and paintings that were done partly outdoors but finished in a studio.

White quoted American painter John Sloan with, “Painting is a response by the living to life.” White added, “Originality is usually overrated. It’s how you look at life, or respond to life, that matters. You are all unique painters.”

One of the guidelines he used in awarding the prizes was if the artist was thinking and guiding the painting, or letting the materials guide the process.

“Pathway to the Ocean,” an oil painting by Surf City artist John Meehan III, won the prestigious Passport to LBI Award. “I felt he captured the spirit of the place,” said White.

“Evening Approach Study” by Michael Budden won first place for a painting done completely on site.

“Rising Tide,” an oil painting by John Slivjak, won first prize in the Plein Air Plus portion of the show, where an artist works from both the location and then studies and completes in the studio. “I think he made some good choices,” said White.

“Salt Marsh Path” by Susan Graeber won second prize.

Sandy Taylor of Belmar won third prize for her “Morning in the Marsh,” part of a triptych of paintings of the LBIF marsh at different times of the day.

“Le Grand Fromage,” a watercolor of a boat in dry-dock by Laurie Maher, won honorable mention for its “simplicity and immediacy.”

White liked the handling of the blue tones in Neal Hughes’ “Working Boat,” and the small scale of “Sand Shadows” by Chris Pisano. The judge gave both honorable mentions.

A large, realistic oil painting of Viking Village scallop boats by Peter Yesis, titled “Ready to Go,” won the People’s Choice award.

— Pat Johnson


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