Taratories Blog

Plein Air Painting in Peninsula

Ever since I have lived in Akron, I have wanted to do the local Plein Air painting completion in the neighboring town of Peninsula.  Every other year it didn't seem to fit in with my schedule, but this year there was time to squeeze some outdoor painting in.  "Plein Air" is from the French expression, "in the open air."  I am not a landscape painter by any means, but I do love a good challenge.  I really like to push myself into new territories every once in a while because it forces me to grow and learn and to get out of my comfort zone.  

I woke up early and headed over to the Peninsula Art Academy where we were to bring our canvases to get stamped and get a map of the area.  I drove around for about a half an hour to find a good location. First I started off in town, but there were already artists situated on the side of the street in what I thought were good locations, and I didn't want to intrude into their spaces.  I was happy though, because I had envisioned myself by a lake somewhere in peace and quiet where I would not be disturbed.  Eventually I found that picturesque lake I was hoping for at Kendall Lake.  All that was there was a few fishermen on the dock so I figured I wouldn't be bothered there. 

I found an area that had a great view of the water and I started unloading my stuff.  It was muddy, but I was prepared with my waterproof hiking boots so I didn't mind at all.  As I started to set everything up I thought to myself, "what in the heck am I doing?  I have a million other things I could be doing right now and here I am standing in the mud setting up an easel."  I pushed that thought aside and indulged in the moment.  Doing things that are not practical are sometimes necessary for the soul.

I began painting.  I absolutely loved being in nature and hearing the bullfrogs and watching the red winged black birds fly around me.  It felt like I just pushed pause on life and was able to breath clearly.  It was a little cool, but sunny, so pleasant.  I soon got in the zone, and that's when they started coming... the visitors.  People were curious as to what I was painting and began to strike up conversations with me.  

One man told me that he was an artist and used to work for American Greetings.  He went on to tell me that because he had to do his art for a job to please others, it ended up killing his creativity and left him not wanting to be an artist in the end.  So sad.

Another man told me that he used to come to the lake with a friend of his and sit on the bench nearby.  They used to paint there together and did not communicate with words.  The friend of his was Chinese and spoke only Mandarin, so they connected through art which transcends all language barriers.  His friend since passed away.  This story was so touching.

I had many other interesting conversations with people while I was there and found out from the park volunteers that there are baby eagles in a nest nearby (which they were right because my family and I went looking for them where they said they were, and they were there!).  Near the end, a man stopped by to observe and his dog planted a hot steamy one right behind where I was standing!  He was so embarrassed and I was glad that I was almost done painting!  It turns out that the most inspirational part of Plein Air painting was the conversations I had with people, which was the very thing I was planning on avoiding!  

My painting is now for sale at the Peninsula Art Academy (hours: Wed-Sun 11-5pm) and there will be an artist reception next Friday on May 26th from 6-9pm where they will announce the winners of the competition.  Hope to see you there!

Photo credit for all photographs: Cara Mancari

More Than Meets the Eye

Recently I did an art lesson with my art class based on the book, "Over and Under the Snow" by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal.  The book takes readers on a trip through the woods in winter discovering the secret world of animals living under the snow.  

I decided that collage would be a good medium of choice for this project.  They were allowed to use a mix of construction papers and pieces from magazines.  I instructed them to start from the top and work their way down, that way they could overlap their pieces without covering anything important.  The goal was to have 3 layers including the background (sky), middle ground (landscape), and underground! I love the affect of the different white pieces from magazines that were used to create the snow.  There is so much more shading and texture that comes from using magazine pieces compared to just using white paper.  

I taught them how to draw a variety of animals that they could draw and put into their scenes.  I showed them step by step how to draw an owl, squirrel, bear, mouse, and a fox.  I love the variety of scenes that they came up with!  As I thought about these underground winter habitats, I thought about how sometimes we are fooled by other surfaces we encounter.  Just like these animals that are hidden from the naked eye, in the same way we are fooled by what we see on the surface of people in the world around us.  Sometimes it takes getting to know people on a deeper level to find out what is really going on inside.  I am guilty of making judgements of people based on my first impressions, but I want to work hard to always give people a chance to show who they really are.

I also have a friend a fellow artist here in Akron named Deborah Shapiro http://deborahshapiroart.com/ who creates works of art from torn pages of magazines.  I shared this video of hers to my students to give them some inspiration for their collages...

Window Painting at the Akron Children's Hospital

This past week I had the privilege of helping my son and some others from his school paint windows in our local Akron Children's Hospital.  Our school has been painting windows at the Akron Children's Hospital at every change of season for years and I think it is such a great opportunity.  We were painting a fall inspired landscape in the windows of the Locust Street bridge.

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I just love opportunities to hang out with my kids during school hours and it was so much fun to work side by side with my son who is a little budding artist himself.  It was so much fun watching him dip into the paint with excitement and paint what he envisioned to be a cheery fall landscape.  

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As people passed by they had so many comments on how thankful they were to have something cheery to look at as they walked through this hall.  There was a young girl waiting for a couple hours to get some test results and as she was checking out our paintings we invited her to join us! She was so happy to be able to pass her time this way, and the children from our school also got such joy out of having her be a part of our group!  It was so good for me and our group of children to see how art can bridge the gap between people.  Art can speak to others like a friendly voice.  It can help cross all language or social barriers to help to form relationships where there might not have been any before.

I love opportunities to be able to bless others through art and beauty and serving others in this way is also a great reminder to me not to focus on my little problems, because there are children  in hospital rooms fighting for their lives right down the street from me.  We have so much to be thankful for, even in hard times, and I hope that I can always stay grounded in that.  

I feel like we are all paint cans, sometimes more full than others, sometimes less full.  Right now, my paint can is really full and I have a lot to give to others at this season in my life.  There have been many seasons where my paint can has been pretty low and I welcomed other paint cans to pour some of their beautiful paint into my life.  I want to always be thinking of ways to use the outpour of my life for others using all that God has blessed me with, because you never know, tomorrow I may not be able to give as much and will have to rely on others to lend me some of their paint.