Outdoor painters gather in Sierra
June 24, 2011
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – From the snowy peaks to Hope Valley’s whispering meadows and Lake Tahoe’s glimmering shores, plein air painters are putting brush to canvas to capture it all.
“It’s just so beautiful here,” said Evelyn Yonker, who owns the Markleeville Art Gallery. “And all these plein air artists just love to come here.”
En plein air, a French term meaning “in the open air,” is often used to describe painting in the outdoors. This week Yonker is hosting the area’s first plein air event, Markleeville Plein Air.
Fifteen artists, including several from Lake Tahoe, will be painting the lakes, rivers, mountains, valleys and town of the Markleeville and Hope Valley area.
“Some of the favorite spots will be Hope Valley and Woodfords Canyon, the East Fork of the Carson River, Markleeville Falls near Grover Hot Springs, and downtown Markleeville,” Yonker said.
South Lake Tahoe artist Kit Night began painting outdoors a year ago. There are a lot of difficulties to the work, but also a lot of rewards, she said.
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“It’s a challenge painting out in the changing light,” Night said. “That’s one of the
High wind, black flies and mosquitoes can be a bother, but they also help “inform” the painting, she added. Getting out in the wild against all the elements adds something to the painting.
“It makes you feel rugged and intrepid,” Night said. “I kind of refer to it as ‘Pony Express painting.'”
Night, who’s used to painting fixed objects in her studio, had to adjust her process to dodge the adversities of the outdoors.
“Out there it’s a different form of painting,” she said. “Sometimes you really have to focus on what you’re seeing so you can remember it as it changes.”
With the help of advocates such as Claude Monet and Pierra-Auguste Renoir, the painting style’s popularity initially rose in the 1800s in Europe. As oil paints developed and the easily-transported box easel was invented, it spread to the Americas.
In 2007, PBS produced a documentary titled “Plein Air, Painting the American Landscape,” which conveyed the “renaissance” the style is experiencing in the United States. Night has also noted the increasing fashionableness of painting in the open air.
“I think that it’s really growing,” Night said. “Plein air has really picked up in the last 3 years.”
And this region is just the spot for it, she said.
“I think it’s great she’s putting on this event because Tahoe is just natural for it,” Night said.