Saturday, April 30, 2011


Top: First prize winner in Quick Draw, Dot Courson for "Patriot"

Middle: Second prize winner in Quick Draw, Craig Reynolds for "The Stoop"

Bottom: Third prize winner in Quick Draw, Millie Gosch for "The Patriot"

On-location painting for the Southeastern Plein Air Invitational is over but the event continued Friday night with an opening reception and Silent Auction. Art collectors came out to enjoy music, refreshments, and to buy art—sales topped $7,000. With over 150 original paintings created in one week by 15 professional artists, many paintings remain in the galleries of the Gadsden Museum of Art and are for sale through June 3.

A highlight of Friday night’s reception was the awarding of prizes for the Quick Draw, a special competition where artists had only two hours to complete a painting. Dot Courson took first prize, Craig Reynolds second, and Millie Gosch third--all painting the same doorway! The cash prizes for the Quick Draw were graciously donated by Mrs. Ruth Reynolds, widow of well-known local artist Leo Reynolds.

Come by the Gadsden Museum of Art to view the paintings from the 2011 Southeastern Plein Air Invitational. The next plein air event will be in October and will be open to all painters, professional or amateur. Look for the information about the event on the museum’s Web site.

Friday, April 29, 2011


Flowers by Donna Chieves

Landscape painting by Dot Courson

Musical group painting by Robin Roberts

What a week! Artists have painted everyday—even under threat of tornados on Wednesday. By 9 p.m. Thursday, 124 new originals were hanging on the gallery walls at the Gadsden Museum of Art—everything from grand vistas to intimate flower studies, musical groups to garden ornaments, street scenes to charming cottages.

Today the artists paint in the residential historical districts—Turrentine Avenue; Haraldson, Reynolds, and Walnut Streets; and Argyle Circle. This morning they are painting houses and gardens in a leisurely fashion but this afternoon they will switch to “quick draw” mode. A Quick Draw means that the artists get set up on the view of their choice, a whistle blows and the artists have only two hours to complete a painting before the whistle blows again. Ruth Reynolds, the widow of the artist Leo Reynolds and the mother of Craig Reynolds, one of the professionals participating in the Southeastern Plein Air Invitational, has generously donated the prizes for the Quick Draw.

Best of Show and other awards will be presented this evening at a reception at the Gadsden Museum of Art, 6-8 p.m. The public is invited to see the paintings, participate in a Wet Paint Auction (silent auction) of the artists’ choice of their best work (two from each of the15 professionals), and meet the artists.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Top: Beverly Ford Evans, Gadsden Country Club

Above: Jill Berry, Gadsden Country Club

Two days of paintings hang on the walls of the Gadsden Museum of Art. The 15 artists of the Southeastern Plein Air Invitational have faced windy conditions, threat of rain, and fatigue to produce truly outstanding paintings. Not content to paint only at the pre-arranged locations, some rise at 4 a.m. to find just the right place to catch the sun rise. Others skip supper to go to the rocky ridge of Scenic Drive to paint until it is too dark to see the canvas. For this week of intensive effort, the artists will go all out to chase the best views and bring them back on canvas to be enjoyed for years to come.

The difference in styles is astonishing from muted tonal palettes with smoothly graduated values to thick, staccato strokes that seem to break the painting surface into shards of color. Sweeping landscapes sit next to closely observed flower studies and old barns show off their gray sides and tin roofs next to manicured golf holes with triangular flags flying. Every artist has a point of view and a personal style—the fun comes in liking every painting but feeling the tug of preference for the special one that seems to speak directly to you.

Come by the museum to see the first 60+ paintings and visit the artists as they set up their easels in downtown Gadsden, Alabama City, and Attalla on Wednesday, on the banks of the Coosa at Rainbow Landing (Southside Bridge) on Thursday, and in the historic districts on Friday (Turrentine Avenue; Haralson, Walnut, and Reynolds Streets; and Argyle Circle). See all the paintings and meet the artists at the reception on Friday, April 29, 6-8 p.m. in the galleries at the Gadsden Museum of Art.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Dot Courson from Pontotac, Mississippi, was the first artist to arrive for the Southeastern Plein Air Invitational and the first thing she said was, “You don’t know how lucky you are in Gadsden to have so much to paint!” Dot’s Southern landscapes depict the scenic beauty of her home state, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina—each of which she says has its own characteristic light, physical features, and atmosphere.

Dot took art classes in college but she became first a nurse and then a Healthcare Administrator. All the time Dot painted part time and studied with the late Billy Kirk, a well-known Mississippi artist who became her mentor. Now Dot is mentor to students in workshops like the one she taught last spring in Gadsden.

Dot is a juried member of Oil Painters of America, Landscape Artists International, Mississippi Painter’s Society, Mississippi Oil Painters Association, and Women Painters of the Southeast. She was the only Mississippi artists accepted into the American Women Artists National Exhibition in 2010, one of 65 artists from across the nation so honored.

While Dot was here for the 2010 plein air event, most of the locations this year will be new to her. It will be fascinating to see her vision of the unique characteristics of an Alabama spring. Visit her on location, April 25-29, and view her completed work in the galleries of the Gadsden Museum of Art through June 3.


The Southeastern Plein Air Festival is underway! Fifteen professional artists arrived last evening at the Gadsden Museum of Art for orientation for a week of on-location painting. Today they are painting at the Gadsden Country Club until 4:30. If you go, look for the Blue Umbrella in the first parking lot after the entrance (the pool parking lot)--volunteers will be there to assist you. Expect to do some walking because the only people with golf carts are the artists!

Tomorrow the artists will be painting at a farm 10 miles north of Attalla--call the museum for directions if you plan to go.

Drop by the museum between 10 and 4 all week to see the paintings that have been turned in each day. Please join the museum staff, artists, and volunteers at a reception on Friday evening, April 29, 6-8. All paintings will be for sale and 30 (two from each artists) will be in a Silent Auction.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Jan Polk paints with palette knives instead of the more usual bruhes. She traces the technique back to the original Impressionist, Claude Monet. While Jan has been studying art since the mid-1980s, she developed her current techniques at a 2003 workshop taught by Susan Sarback, founder of the School of Light and Color ( Sarback spent many years researchin the secret of painting the full spectrum of color as Monet did. Monet was self-taught and did not teach students but his contemporary, Charles Hawthorne, did. One of Hawthorne’s many students was Henry Hensche, an American Impressionist who became well-known as an art teacher. Sarback studied with him and now passes the techniques to her own students--like Jan Polk.

How is palette knife painting different? Each painting implement has its own character that determines in the way paint is applied and the final look of the painting. The flexible metal palette knives lend themselves to a thicker application of paint called impasto and an almost three-dimensional surface to the finished painting. By using the point or edge of the knife the artist can draw back into the paint revealing colors underneath.

While bold in execution, Jan’s paintings have a soft, soothing, mellow appearance that matches her philosophy. She sees a connection between painting and people’s behavior: “I want to use art to inspire all of us to be respectful to one another and to work together just as the paints must work together to achieve beautiful results.”

Jan’s art has led to affiliations with well-known organizations including the Cincinnati Art Club (Signature Status), Exhibiting Member of the Pleasure Island Art Association in Orange Beach, Alabama, and the Women’s Art Club of Cincinnati.

Jan has participated in the two previous plein air events in Gadsden and returns this year as one of 15 professionals invited to paint on location, April 25-29. Come watch Jan create landscapes using the palette knife technique and then view her paintings in the galleries at the Gadsden Museum of Art with a deeper understanding of how and why they were created.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Gina Brown is one of two local artists participating in the Southeastern Plein Air Invitational. The other, Craig Reynolds, was Gina teacher and mentor as she developed her art career. Gina participated in the first two plein air events hosted by the Gadsden Museum of Art as a gifted amateur but she was ready to join the cadre of professionals for this year’s event.

Gina, like many of the professionals in the event, showed early talent by sketching and painting as a child. And, also like many, life put those inclinations on hold while she attended to the demands of education, career, marriage, and motherhood. In 2009 she began studying with Craig and reconnected with what had been missing, the desire to create and share her art. Because she had worked as a graphic designer, she already possessed an understanding of composition and color and now applied those skills to oil painting. She began to paint often, almost every day. That commitment led to a rapidly maturing and distinctive style featuring lush colors, bold brushwork, and a ‘juicy’ look that jumps off the canvas. Gina’s selection of subject matter is also distinctive—like most plein air painters she focuses on landscapes but sometimes switches to more of a still life aesthetic by painting an interesting garden feature or flower-filled container. More than technique or style, Gina seeks to make her work personal. As Gina says, “Every painting has a story that I must share.”

In just a few years Gina went from being a workshop participant to a professional affiliated with the Oil Painters of America, American Impressionist Society, Women Painters of the Southeast, Alabama Plein Air Artists, and 10 Everyday Painters. Her work is represented by the Shelby Lee Gallery in Charleston, South Carolina and Renaissance Gallery in Northport, Alabama.

Thirteen artists come to the Southeastern Plein Air Invitational from other towns in Alabama or from other states. Craig and Gina know Gadsden and the surrounding county intimately—its history, ambience, light, and atmosphere. How will that connection become visible in the art they create during the event? See the artists on location (April 25-29) and enjoy their art in the galleries of the Gadsden Museum of Art through June 3.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Not many painters can trace their artistic ancestry but Katrina Weber is an exception—her great-uncle Erich Heckel (1883-1970), was a founding member of ‘Die Brücke’ (The Bridge), an influential German Expressionist group known for the vivid color and emotional content of their work. Katrina says she was influenced by early exposure to Heckel’s art. Today she paints in oils, watercolor, and pastels. Her work has been featured in six solo exhibits and over a dozen group shows in the last five years.

Katrina is returning to the plein air event hosted by the Gadsden Museum of Art for the second year. Last year she attracted attention with an unusual depiction of Noccalula Falls, a view that cropped out almost all the surrounding landscape to focus on water cascading off the sharp rocky edge and falling into the pool below. She captured the movement of rushing water with subtle and changing color and solid rock with brushstrokes that sculpt the ridges and striations. This painting perfectly exemplifies Katrina’s goal to “transcend the literal without losing touch with reality.”

Visitors to the galleries at the Gadsden Museum of Art will be treated to two chances to view Katrina’s art. Upstairs in the third floor gallery she is exhibiting with Huntsville’s Sanctuary Artists in ‘The Art of Nature’ through June 13. The exhibit highlights the beauties of a nature preserve donated to the city to save it from encroaching development. Downstairs she will be showing with the artists of the Southeastern Plein Air Invitational. In both venues take delight in Katrina’s arresting compositions, masterful color blends, and expressive brushwork.


Greg Little discovered his natural talents for drawing and painting as a boy growing up in north Alabama. Now living in Florida, this self-taught artist uses intuition and observation to capture a moment in time and a sense of place. As he puts it, “The light in my paintings reminds us that even sitting still, time is moving, life is changing, and we are both a witness and a participant.”

All plein air painters deal with the difficulties of changing light and the challenge of sun, wind, and transporting equipment on location. But Greg sometimes takes on the challenge of working in pastels. In a pinch an oil painter can take everything they need in their hands--one or two brushes, a lightweight panel, a jar of mineral spirits, and a small palette loaded with a few colors. A skilled painter can mix every color they see from the three primaries of red, blue, and yellow plus white—even an approximation of black can be created by combining colors. Pastel painters must take the colors with them in the form of sticks of almost pure pigment; fragile sticks that can shatter into dust unless they are protected in foam-lined trays. Because of the difficulties relatively few plein air artists work in pastel. Discriminating collectors understand how rare the works are and appreciate the colors and textures that belong exclusively to pastel paintings.

In the past two events Greg Little has created works in both oil and pastel. He is also well-known to Gadsden Museum of Art staff and volunteers for going to hard to reach locations. While painting at Noccalula Falls during the first plein air, Greg disappeared under the Falls and came back with views of the gorge that no other painter captured. Watch for Greg on location (if you can find him) and see his paintings on exhibit in the museum galleries. Look especially for his vibrant pastel paintings and appreciate the special difficulties required to make them.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Discovering a new artist whose paintings attract your attention and captivate your interest is a great thrill for an art collector. This year’s Southeastern Plein Air Invitational hosts five artists new to the event—Jill Berry (Pensacola, Florida), Millie Gosch (Roswell, Georgia), Becky Joy (Phoenix, Arizona), Ralph Parker (McKinney, Texas) and Beverly Ford Evans (Nashville, Tennessee). Artists by definition are sensitive to their environment whether is it is the dearly loved scenery of their home turf or the new, unfamiliar, and different. Meet the artists who will be experiencing locations around Gadsden for the first time!

Jill Berry paints most often along the Gulf Coast and her favorite subject is the interaction between land, sky, and sea. She values plein air painting for the spontaneity required whether it comes from wrestling with an easel on a windy day or trying to capture the constantly changing light.

Millie Gosch finds inspiration in the lowlands, rural fields, marshes, and waters of coastal Georgia. She explains, “For me art is an expression of my love of nature.” She seeks to capture the serenity of the landscape offering the viewer a glimpse into a special moment and the opportunity for quiet reflection.

Becky Joy feels both calm and euphoric in the outdoors and seeks to relive those moments in her paintings. At each location she finds a connection to nature and translates that into the color, texture, and mood of her landscapes. For her, “painting is like solving a puzzle” where each location challenges her to “put the pieces together into a cohesive whole.”

Ralph Parker wants to stir the viewer’s curiosity about “the quiet drama of everyday life” and invite memories of special places and peaceful scenes. By “combining just the right consistency of paint with the right brushstroke” he brings out the colors that describe a quiet creek bank, an open field, or an old barn.

Beverly Ford Evans combines a love for nature and history with wanderlust. As she explains, “Through traveling I create memories for myself as well as have the pleasure of creating paintings that can evoke memories for others.” While steeped in the beauty of her home state of Tennessee, she loves to pack her paints and get “inspired by the diversity at every turn in the road.”

What will these artists see in the locations around Gadsden? What will they notice that we who live here have overlooked or failed to appreciate? Come join the artists on-location daily and visit the galleries of the Gadsden Museum of Art to see the paintings, still wet, but ready to evoke the memories of a day spent out-of-doors.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Artists and spectators at the Southeastern Plein Air Invitational will be treated to several new locations this year. Each location offers a completely different challenge to the artists but every site offers variety, drama, and beauty. Spectators may visit the locations between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily but the best time to see the artists working is before 11 a.m. and after 2 p.m. because plein air artists find midday light less interesting. For help on site, look for the Blue Umbrella where volunteers will be on hand to assist you.


Monday / April 25 COME TO THE CLUB

The Gadsden Country Club has kindly offered the use of the golf course on a day when the premises are usually closed. Only artists will have use of golf carts so spectators can expect to do some walking.

Directions: The Gadsden Country Club is located on U.S. 411/Rainbow Drive. The entrance is marked with brick columns and red roses (no traffic light). Proceed up the hill to the 2nd parking area and look for the Blue Umbrella.

Tuesday / April 26 UP ON THE FARM

Stone Arches Farm in the Little Wills Valley community offers artists bucolic scenes much like those favored by the first Impressionists in France over 150 years ago--fields and meadows, flower gardens and fish ponds, blue hills and stately trees. Directions: The farm is located on U.S. 11 about 10 miles north of Attalla. Look for the Blue Umbrella.


Artists have a choice of three downtown settings—Gadsden, Alabama City, and Attalla—each with its own flavor and character. Spectators are invited to visit each site, call the museum during the day for information on where artists are located, or come by the Blue Umbrella at the Gadsden Museum of Art. For spectators with limited mobility, this day offers the chance to see artists at work with little walking required.

Thursday / April 28 DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE

Artists will be painting on both sides of the Coosa in the area of the Southside Bridge—Rainbow Landing, Buck Island Road, and the causeway on Hwy 77. Look for the Blue Umbrella at Rainbow Landing.

Directions: Take Rainbow Drive (Hwy 411) to the intersection with Hwy 77. Turn left. Proceed past Regency Point on the right. Turn right just before the Southside Bridge. The entrance to Rainbow Landing will be on your left.

Friday / April 29 GADSDEN HISTORIC DISTRICTS (morning only)

Historic homes, tree-lined streets, and beautiful gardens make this residential neighborhood near downtown Gadsden an ideal location for plein air painting. Artists will have their choice of painting on Turrentine Avenue, Argyle Circle, Haralson Avenue, Reynolds Street, or Walnut Street. For spectators with limited mobility, this day offers the chance to see artists at work with little walking required since most will be visible from the street. The Blue Umbrella will be located at the corner of Walnut and Turrentine.

Friday night, Gadsden Museum of Art, 6-8 p.m.

· Wet Paint Silent Auction (2 specially chosen painting from each of the 15 artists)

· Artists’ Reception (refreshments will be served)

· Artist Recognition and Awarding of Prizes

The public is invited to view over 150 paintings created during the Southeastern Plein Air Invitational and to meet the artists.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Provenance for a painting means its history—who painted it, who has owned it, and where it has been exhibited. The provenance of a painting adds value for the art collector. A painter can’t have provenance like a painting but sometimes knowing about the artist enriches the experience for a collector. Craig Reynolds participated in both years of the plein air events in Gadsden and is scheduled to be one of the professionals at this year’s Southeastern Plein Air Invitational. Craig’s late father was also an artist whose watercolors are avidly collected. Now Craig continues the tradition but in his own style—oil paintings with the loose brushwork and soft edges of Impressionism but with strong contrasts and color combinations that are uniquely his own. Look for Craig’s work at the Shelby Lee Gallery in Charleston, The Gale Gallery in New Orleans, and The Renaissance Gallery in Northport, Alabama. But for the week of April 25-29 look for Craig on location in Gadsden and his painting in the galleries of the Gadsden Museum of Art until June 3.

I was lucky to buy one of Craig’s painting at last year’s plein air event—an evocative study of late afternoon in the James Martin Wildlife Park, an urban greenspace bounded by busy streets and a shopping mall. I was immediately attracted to the sense of peace it captured, a meditation on the beauty that is all around us if we only take the time to see. Notice the many shades of green in the trees and the water? Green is the hardest color for artists to mix but Craig is a master of this difficult task. Still, would the painting have any impact without those hints of red and orange? In the art world this effect is called simultaneous contrast—opposites placed close together intensify each other. Since red and green are opposite on the color wheel and opposite in temperature (warm and cool), the addition of touches of red to a mostly green painting makes it glow with an inner radiance. I enjoy the painting everyday not only for its beauty but also in appreciation of the highly developed skills of the artist.

In the next blog I’ll preview the locations for this year’s painting days.

Friday, April 15, 2011


The railroad bridge across the Coosa River has been a landscape feature in Gadsden since the late 1800s when it was the only bridge. Vintage photos show pedestrians and horse and buggies using the bridge between scheduled trains. More recently citizens and city officials declared its rusty girders an eyesore and began looking for grants and contractors to paint the structure. But artists look with different eyes and many plein air painters at the 2009 and 2010 spring events hosted by the Gadsden Museum of Art made paintings of the bridge, rust and all.

At the 2010 event Dmitriy Proshkin used the location as the site for a workshop attended by aspiring plein air painters. His demonstration painting shows the thrust of orange girders against a blue sky, beautifully crafted stone supports, the wide Coosa, and steep river banks. I was lucky enough to buy this painting and it became the focal point of my dining room. Everyday I’m struck by the sensitive brushstrokes, color contrasts, and light effects—notice how the girder structure is lost and found against the bright sky, just the way the eye sees but most of us never notice.

Dmitriy brings an international touch to the Southeastern Plein Air Invitational because he was born and received his art training in Russia. He admires famous Impressionists like Monet, Pissaro, and Sisley and Russian Impressionists Shishkin, Savrosov, Vassilev, and Levitan. He explains that the Russian School of landscape artists seeks simplicity, to bring out the richness and poetic beauty of ordinary sights. I can see this approach in his painting of Gasdsden’s railroad bridge. As Dmitriy puts it: “I feel one of my most important tasks in painting landscapes is to express and bring out the true reflection of the mood of the moment.”

What will happen this year at the Southeastern Plein Air Invitational? What surprising subjects will artist choose? Will some once again choose the railroad bridge? Since last year the rust has been scraped off the bridge and it is now pristine silver. Will artists still find it appealing as a subject? I’m so thrilled to have a painting of the bridge as it was during my lifetime and will not be again. A good reason to buy a painting is that it captures a moment in time that will never return—a memory in paint.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


The first plein air event was a gamble for both the organizers at the Gadsden Museum of Art and the artists—the year was 2009, the depth of the recession. Would people worried about the economy buy art? One of the artists taking a chance on the event was John Guernsey, a businessman transplanted from Southern California to Georgia who transitioned into a fulltime art career.

I remember noticing John on the day artists, museum volunteers, and visitors traveled to Wills Creek Vineyards ( in Duck Springs for a day of painting. The weather was perfect, clear and sunny and not too hot. With meadows and vineyards stretching to a range of blue mountains, a lake, and high white cumulus clouds, artists quickly fanned out setting up their easels to capture the views. But John did not. Instead he kept walking around and looking this way and that. Since I was one of the volunteers assigned to greet visitors and assist the artists I asked him if he needed anything. “Just looking for something to paint,” he said. I remember being astounded because it seemed to me that we were surrounded on all sides with things to paint. But John walked away still looking.

When all the paintings were hung in the museum galleries ready for the opening reception and sale it was hard to choose a favorite—the artists had transformed our local sights into fine art! But I kept returning to one particular painting of the meadows, mountains, and clouds on that day at Wills Creek Vineyards and it was a painting by John Guernsey. Why did that painting captivate me so? John explains it best, "I strive for a tonal, atmospheric look - and try to communicate to the viewer the feeling of 'being there'."

I bought the painting. It hangs across from my desk, a daily reminder of that perfect spring day. I wasn’t the only buyer to discover a painting I had to own—the plein air events for 2009 and 2010 resulted in over $30,000 in art sales!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


In the last two years I’ve become an art collector the easy way—I attended the plein air events hosted each April by the Gadsden Museum of Art. This year the Southeastern Plein Air Invitational offers a chance to see 15 professional artists from eight states painting the spring beauty of the Deep South—April 24-29, each day at a different location. Join me as I search for my next acquisition among the over 150 original paintings created in that one week. Watching the paintings as they are created on location and meeting the artists makes the owning the paintings so special.

What is plein air painting, you may ask? Today’s artists continue a tradition begun over 150 years ago in France by artists like Monet and Renoir who left their studios to paint en plein air (in the open air) and became known as Impressionists. Like today’s artists they wanted to save the light, color, and atmosphere of a moment in time. A plein air artist captures dancing sunlight with a flick of the wrist, a spring garden in a swirl of color, and historic architecture with a few brushstrokes. While it seems like magic, painting the landscape on-location requires a mixture of talent and years of observation, study, and practice.

Tomorrow meet John Guernsey who painted my first acquisition from the 2009 festival. This is his third year at the festival. Can’t wait to see this year’s landscapes!