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
I remember noticing John on the day artists, museum volunteers, and visitors traveled to Wills Creek Vineyards (willscreekvineyards.com) 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!