Plein Air 2023 (Part 1)

Plein Air 2023 (Part 1)

What a day for our 3rd annual Plein Air in Clifton Springs event!

On Saturday, September 16 we welcomed nearly 50 artists to the village of Clifton Springs for a day of outdoor painting followed by an exhibition and sale of the works made that day. The exhibition featured 60 pieces completed between the hours of 9am and 1pm. We had such a wonderful time celebrating with the artists at the reception!

Work from the exhibition is available for preview and purchase online through 5 p.m. Friday, September 22.

Over the next few days we will be sharing some of the artists’ experiences and getting a look into why they chose the locations they painted, their painting set ups, and how they approach plein air painting.

Today, we are highlighting artists Dave Austin, Jennifer Gibson, and Kerry Dorn. Enjoy!


Dave Austin

I paint in watercolor. I find it’s too easy to “burn the biscuits”, as my art teacher often reminded me, and over work paintings. With that in mind I try to work two or three paintings at a time to allow for dry time and mental distance from the subject. My primary painting was Reinvention Rails capturing the old train station as repurposed to an EMT ambulance station. My secondary painting was the Painter and the EMT”, documenting another painter in their process.

Perfect September day, chilly cold in the shade, hot and cozy in the sun. Main Street Arts was my first experience in a plein air painting event. From early morning coffee at registration through the day of exploration, sketching, painting to the final exhibition I was impressed by the warmth and comradery of all the participants.

Energy of space governs my approach to painting. I’m not a camera but a personal experience. The energy of a specific site engages my process. That energy may come from color, light or cultural / visual contrast.

My attention is drawn to railroad stations they combine history, travel and architecture I find interesting. This site at Crane Street and Railroad Avenue offered a great view, shade and sun and numerous different energies for painting.


Jennifer Gibson

I tend to use watercolor or gouache when I paint en plein air, because I make slightly less of a mess than attempting anything with oils (I personally love the look of oil paintings and am amazed at the oil painters at events like these, but I can only barely manage that medium while indoors)  So, to that effect, I like to keep things simple in terms of supplies, but also in terms of approach to the painting as I focus on values (lights and darks) more than other elements like color. 

What drew me to this location? A cat! I had trouble making up my mind where to paint.  My father accompanied me to this event, and we were looking around town at various buildings and homes for about an hour.  Then we ended up parking in front of the church I painted last year. I glanced across the street (corner of West Main and Broad, I believe), and saw a marmalade cat sunning himself at an entranceway to the Burke building. Wow!  If only the cat would sit still, it would make a great painting.  Well, I quickly set up, and just as I was finishing getting my paints and easel ready, the cat skedaddled.  So I turned the paper lengthwise instead of more horizontal, to capture the building’s details, instead of an up-close painting of the cat and entranceway primarily.  

So many kind people approached me throughout the day to watch, tell me their art story or their interest in this building’s history, or just relished in the nice weather, just taking a moment with me while I painted.


Kerry Dorn

My approach to Plein Air is to find a simple location and to anticipate how the light will move throughout the morning. Next I do a quick sketch showing lights and darks (known as a Notan), block in color on the canvas, and try to use lots of paint to give texture to the end piece.

I was drawn to our little book store downtown. Its charming shop front in the historical brick Foster Block made it a perfect place to paint. 

The day was beautiful both literally and figuratively. The weather was sunny, crisp and clear.  And my fellow artists, as well as the community, were all in good spirits. It was a wonderful day. 

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Closed 7/28 through 8/3:

We will be closed to the public Friday, July 28 through Thursday, August 4 as we install our next exhibition, Inspired By Nature. Please join us for the opening reception on Friday, August 4 from 5 to 8pm!