Columbia artists gather outdoors for inspiration

Sunday, September 20, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 5:40 p.m. CDT, Sunday, September 20, 2009
Jean Neely sketches with pastels along the entrance to the MKT trail by the MLK Jr. Memorial at Battle Garden during the Au Plein-Air Art Day contest on Saturday. Artists using various mediums worked on pieces outdoors in several locations throughout Columbia. They submitted their art at the end of the day to be judged for the contest. Neely has been working with pastels for a few years and uses a tray made by her husband to hold her colored chalk.

COLUMBIA — Lemon yellow, dark sienna and cerulean blue are all colors in artists' vocabularies. Saturday, those colors could be used to describe the September morning that greeted Columbia artists as they congregated to portray the outdoors using a variety of tools and techniques.


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Inspired by “au plein air,” the art term for painting outdoors, the Columbia Public Library and the Columbia Art League partnered up for Plein-Air Art Day. The event's theme was inspired by the library's One Read program book, “The Air We Breathe” by Andrea Barrett.

Participating artists, brought their canvases to the library to get stamped to register for the art contest. They had to submit their entries by 4:30 p.m. in order to be eligible.  

In downtown Columbia, student Oliver Clark and artist David Spear stood side by side in the alley next to the Columbia Art League on Ninth Street.

Clark, a senior at Rock Bridge High School, was getting advice on his angles. The easel in front of him held a charcoal sketch of the Missouri United Methodist Church. Although he didn't plan on submitting his sketch to the contest, he enjoyed the process of sketching outdoors.

Painters using watercolors were situated at Stephens Lake, where local artist Chris Frederick gave a quick lesson. Frederick, who also works with acrylic and oil paints on occasion, said she prefers using watercolors.   

“I love the way it flows, takes its own way," Frederick said. "There can be so-called 'happy accidents,' and it's okay if the colors blend."

Her lesson included a tutorial on rigger brushes.

“You know why they’re called rigger brushes?” Frederick asked. “Because back in the day when people would paint ships, they would use this thin brush to paint the rig of the ship.”

There weren’t any ships sailing across Stephens Lake, but the landscape provided other opportunities for artists Bonnie Zelenak and Shirley Keller to use a tiny brush for details in their watercolors.

Kathy Walther, who normally paints with watercolors, used the day to experiment with oils. She said she felt a little nervous about trying a new technique but found inspiration from her teacher, Thom Smith.

“It’s easier to paint when you feel inspired and have a commitment to doing something once a week," Walther said.

Jean Neely, who was working by the entrance to the MKT trail at the MLK Jr. Memorial at Battle Garden, has been using pastels for a few years. Neely said she found the abundance of green trees in front of her daunting.

“It makes you use more shades," Neely said. “But I can’t wait for the leaves to change; it adds more warmth.”


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tom vibert May 16, 2012 | 10:04 a.m.

hi, my name is tom. i have a sketch of peachtree summit from 1979.about a 5x4 is this worth anything. i can sen pic if requried...thanks tom v.

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