Once a month on second Sunday mornings this summer, a group of painters can be seen setting up shop by the Alexandria waterfront. They pull out their easels, arrange the canvases, spread out their paints and brushes, and get to work immortalizing the beautiful scenery.
This group of artists is known as The Art League Plein Air Painters. They came together for the first time this month with a common purpose: to share their talents, not only by documenting the breathtaking views, but also by letting the public experience their creative process as it unfolds. Patrons are welcome to stand by and watch the paintings come to life or to come back periodically and check in on the works-in-progress. So far, the event has drawn crowds from all over the area as people watch the masters at work, with some hoping to snag a few tricks of the trade.
The idea started with a meeting held by the Alexandria Waterfront Planning Committee. The Art League’s executive director, Linda Hafer, was asked to help liven up the water view spread in front of The Torpedo Factory Art Center by getting a few painters to start working outside.
“The idea to breathe a little life into the neighborhood was going to be the undertaking of four different Alexandria groups,” says The Art League Gallery director Rose O’Donnell.
Those four groups included the Alexandria Archaeology and The Seaport Foundation, along with The Art League and The Torpedo Factory Art Center. The Art League’s contribution was the plein air display.
|Artists Sketching in the White Mountains by Winslow Homer|
“Plein air” is French for “open air,” a practice which found a huge following among the impressionist artists of the 1870s. With the invention of tube paints and the box easel, which were easily portable, painters took their operations outside to capture nature on their canvases. Legends like Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir were the most famous advocates of the practice, as several of their famed works were created outside, usually under a large white umbrella.
Yet with Monet and Renoir unavailable to lead The Art League’s outdoor movement, painter Jean Schwartz took over planning the monthly event. Last Thursday, she updated her official blog with a post about July’s plein air party, even showing off her work from the day.
“Last Sunday was the very first paint out of the Art League Plein Air painters. There were four of us, Jill Banks, Vicki Blum, Jack Dyer and me. We met on the dock behind the Torpedo Factory around 9:00 (Vicki wisely started earlier) and painted until noon. It was HOT! Thank goodness for my umbrella because the scene that interested me required I be in full sun and looking right into it. The brollie did its job and without it I would have fried. Lots of sunblock and water also helped.”
|From the Torpedo Factory Dock by Jean Schwartz|
August’s event is scheduled for the 14th from 9am-noon on the waterfront in Old Town Alexandria. The Torpedo Factory Art Center is located at 155 North Union Street.