Plein Air in the Gardens brings painters outside


Lin Bailey works on her floral piece for the plein air event at Hidden Lake Gardens. Photo courtesy of Gregg Perez.

Rain may have deterred participation at the first Plein Air in the Gardens event held at Hidden Lake Gardens (HLG) July 30 and 31, but five artists braved the stormy weather to set up easels and create works of art. The event was a collaboration between HLG and the Clinton Arts Center (CAC), said Susan Amstutz, exhibition and special events manager for CAC.

En plein air, a French expression meaning “in the open air,” refers to the act of painting outdoors with the subject in full view. Amstutz, who is also the painting and drawing art studio manager at CAC, has had experience with outdoor painting events. “I’ve done it for four years prior to this before I became an employee at the CAC, and thought it would be good for what we’re doing there.”

Amstutz said working outdoors forces the artist to speed up the creative process. “If you want to keep the light you have to work really fast. It’s really good practice,” she said. She had praise for Paul Pfeifer, managing director of HLG, on his willingness to collaborate on this event. “He is very much in support of it. It has been wonderful working with him,” she said.

Artists checked in early in the morning and were invited to choose a spot anywhere on the grounds to paint. Lin Bailey of Onsted said this was only her second time participating in a plein air event. “This was fun,” she said. It took her four hours to complete her acrylic piece, “Corn flowers.” Bailey started dabbling with paint 30 years ago. “Once the kids left the nest, I started doing it more,” she said.

Kelley Shirkey of Liberty, Michigan completed two oil paintings on Saturday, one a pond view and the other of flowers by the gazebo. “I ate lunch during the rain and then caught the better part of the day,” she said. The former art teacher said she paints plein air often on her own, and has participated in the Dexter Plein Air Festival. “An event like this is a great place to come and paint,” she said.

Yoshiko Mishina finished an acrylic lily pad scene on Saturday, then came back Sunday and painted a view of the observatory. The Saline resident said she first got interested in painting in 2010, and has gone to other plein air events. “Everybody focuses on their spot,” she said, “Some people like to paint with their friends, but experienced painters go right to the spot they’re interested in.”

Tecumseh resident Pat Ducat Bogusz completed most of her piece while sitting in her car to stay out of the rain. “At one point I did have a chance to go out and do in on the bench,” she said. She used a combination of ink, watercolor, conte crayon, chalk and aluminum foil to produce a colorful and surreal image of woods and water.

Ellen Leigh Sadler, who moved to Clinton just last November, said she is primarily a mural artist but has gradually been transitioning into fine art. This was her first time at a plein air event. “It was nice to be out in the fresh air, dodging the raindrops,” she said, “It was a lovely place to paint.”

Sadler’s piece “Pond at Hidden Lake Gardens” was awarded the People’s Choice Award with a prize of $100, voted on by those who attended the artist reception held in the HLG’s visitors center Sunday afternoon. The artists’ works will be displayed in the gallery through the month of August, and are for sale.

The CAC would like to continue offering this kind of event for artists of all skill levels, Amstutz said, “We’re planning on it being an annual event.”


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