Plein Air Ensemble 30 years and Still Going!
I am very proud of the fact that Plein Air Ensemble, started 30 years ago next year, continues to organize spring and fall plein air painting trips for artists. I remember vividly discussing the idea over an extended lunch in Ottawa with two painting buddies, Andrew Lyall and Pierrette Dulude Bohay when we were thinking of ways that we could share our passion for plein air painting with other artists.
Originally, we pictured each of us demonstrating different aspects of outdoor painting in an outdoor setting. But after the first trip that we organized to Calabogie Peaks in the fall of 1988, we realized that many of the 22 attendees were competent artists and that what they really wanted was a few days of freedom from everyday life to paint outdoors and share experiences with other like-minded artists. The three of us understood, from personal experience, that being an artist can require spending many hours alone at an easel but even so, we acknowledged that there are many benefits from working along side othe artists: benefits such as learning through the exchange of knowledge and picking up new skills from watching others paint. Generally, most artists are happy to share what they know about art.
So the instructing idea got dropped and we decided to join in the experience ourselves. We also decided to invite artists recommended by other participants - with the proviso that everyone was expected to work independently. And we looked for interesting locations that would suit groups of artists.
The trips extended to locations in the Gatineau Hills, the Eastern Townships, Charlevoix and Quebec City. And after 13 years the organizing duties were taken over by artists Mette Baker, Deborah Czernecky and Malcolm Cowell, who directed the group for a further 13 years. During that time the name was changed from Artists Painting with Artists to Plein Air Ensemble to reflect the fact that a number of the participating artists also played musical instruments resulting in many evenings filled with music
In the spirit of sharing the work, Helene Martin and Kirsten Peters next took over the organizing duties for several years, and in July 2017, those duties were handed over to Mary Moore and Tom Lillico, the current administrators.
Sadly, two of the founders, Andy and Pierrette have passed. Yet, while the leadership of the group has changed, the trips continue without a break. Just thinking about those many trips brings back a flood of fond memories of painting in all kinds of weather, making new friends and talking art and playing music late into the evenings.
I am looking forward to the next trip: one with good friends, good painting opportunities and new experiences.
For more information, go to: pleinairensemble.ca
The Art of Charles Spratt