"Monet did it; so did Manet and Renoir.
But chances are none of these renowned Impressionist painters had
to lug along the kind of gear that a group of intrepid local artists
do when they paint en plein air.
"There are a few items other than rain
gear that we have come to think of as standard equipment: bug spray,
sunblock and bottled water," explained artist Judy Stach. "I
have even brought an anchor with me [a small one] to wrap around
my easel when painting in the wind off the Navesink River!"
Stach, Little Silver, is the founder of Plein
Air Painters of the Jersey Coast, a group that meets weekly to paint
scenes of the coastal area at locations like Marine Park in Red
Bank and Sandy Hook.
"We started in May with three of us,"
she said. "Word has spread, and we now are 18 artists. We meet
in a new location every week and paint from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.
and then critique each other's works. The support we show each other
is what makes this work so well."
According to Stach, there are three essentials
to plein-air painting: "a fabulous view or vista, something
to duck underneath if it rains, and a bathroom nearby."
"Everybody is very mobile," added
plein-air painter Anthony Migliaccio. "You need things that
are portable. Easels fold up pretty small. Mine is a tripod and
goes in a bag. I have a way of transporting paints. I put my oil
paints into a pillbox so I don't have to deal with tubes
"You get bugs that stick to your paint,
you get dirt on your painting because when you are done you have
to carry your painting back to the car," noted Migliaccio,
Long Branch. "I had two workshops at Sandy Hook and got rained
on twice. Standard operating equipment is an umbrella that clips
onto your easel. But it's a quality outdoor experience, and you
learn to deal with it."
Wherever they set up their easels, the group
attracts onlookers, Stach said, and eventually the plein-air painters
came to the attention of local galleries.
"We have been approached not only by
the public, who see us at work and ask or comment about what we
are doing in the most adorable way," she said, "but we
have been approached by a few galleries and are thrilled to have
our first show at the Guild of Creative Art, where several of us
are exhibiting members and a few of us teach as well."
"The Plein Air Painters of the Jersey
Coast" opened last weekend at the Guild, located at 620 Broad
St. in Shrewsbury, and will run through Sept. 27. Gallery hours
are noon to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
In addition to portability, Migliaccio said
plein-air painting forces artists to distill the trappings of their
art down to a minimum."
"When you paint outdoors, you capture
the moment. The sunlight moves very rapidly, and you're dealing
with very natural shadows and the sky reflects in the water,"
he explained. "You get beautiful colors and tones.
"Painters of the latter part of the
19th century, Impressionists and post-Impressionists, did a lot
of painting in the south of France because the light there is so
dramatic and so powerful," explained Migliaccio. "Monet,
Renoir, Manet, one of the reasons they were important was that they
became fascinated with the true colors of light hitting surfaces.
The transient nature of light and shadow
pose a challenge to plein-air painters, explained Barbara Grena.
"You have to work pretty fast to get
your first impression, because the light changes so fast,"
said Grena, Jackson. "As an hour passes, or two, you'll see
a whole different light. At the beginning, you try to get most of
it, lay in the color and work with your first impression of what
you see. Shadows change, everything changes. Noontime is really
the most difficult time because the light is so different. There
are no shadows at noon, the light is very bright. But in the morning
it's more subdued, the sun has just come up."
Other artists whose works are included in
"The Plein Air Painters of the Jersey Coast" are: James
Ferrier, Avon-by-the-Sea; Kathryn Rapp and Mimi McCabe, Little Silver;
Margaret Mascia, Monmouth Beach; Tarphy Harcsar, Rumson; Debbie
Redden, Fair Haven; Donald Robinson, Edison; Leonia Mroczkowski
and Bob Herbert, Neptune; Kuni Strange, West Long Branch; Caroline
Klein, Somerset; and Nessa Neilson Morse, Middletown.
According to Stach, the challenges of plein-air
painting tend to winnow the number of practitioners down to a hardy
"The people that show up are very serious
artists because you are putting up with all the elements,"
she explained. "It's the most difficult type of art to do because
nothing is controlled. Conditions like light and shadow constantly
change. It's fun, but you contend with that. It's not painting for
sissies, it's painting for serious artists.""