On Friday, November 7, the Dover Art League held an opening reception for their Delaware Byways and Treasures Exhibit that featured several artists from Milford. The exhibit highlights works of the Mid-Atlantic Plein Air Painters Association members and paintings on display were produced over 25 sites in and around Delaware’s Byways. The exhibit began October 25 and runs through November 26 at the Dover Art League, located at 21 West Loockerman Street in Dover.
“Plein Air is French for painting outdoors,” explained founding member, Maria Bessette. “There are more than 30 members in the group which began with just four women in 2011 who simply wanted to get together and paint. The group has grown to artists throughout the state who learn about the program through word-of-mouth, Facebook and email. It is important to note that Plein Air is for all artists, not just women, as we do have men with exhibits here.”
Ms. Bessette explained that Plein Air was all about creating art and that it was often more about the social aspect of the events than the art. She said that she works to be sure there are facilities available so that the group can take breaks and get water. There is no membership fee and the main purpose is to provide an event where artists can simply come and paint.
Milford artist, C. Mercedes Walls, who has two pieces on display in the exhibit, says that Plein Air takes her out of her comfort zone as she is primarily a studio artist.
“It makes me uncomfortable painting outdoors,” Ms. Walls explained. “It helps having other artists there to help. We support each other and I learn so much from everyone. I have just completed an oil painting class, so I am hoping to experiment more outdoors with oils. It is challenging for me as a studio artist no matter what type of medium I am using.”
Ms. Walls explained that she had the opportunity to study art in Paris after she graduated from high school, but was afraid to take the leap. Instead, she said she took the “safe route,” working as a probation officer and as a substitute teacher while feeding her artistic talents as a hobby. Ms. Walls depiction of Abbott’s Mill in August and another work entitled Lavender Fields were both on display in the exhibit and both are for sale, as are all the paintings displayed.
Judy Struck, President of Mispillion Art League, who did not have an exhibit in the show said that she loved the idea of being spontaneous, but she struggled with painting outdoors. She said that she preferred taking photographs of outdoor locations and then returning to her studio to paint.
Each year the group paints weekly from April to November and attendance at any Plein Air event is optional. To date, the group has painted at nearly 90 locations throughout Delaware. Annually the group brings the art produced each year together in order to exhibit the “creativity, passion and kinship of en plein air artists.”
Dover Art League is open Tuesdays from noon until 4pm and Wednesday through Friday from 10am until 4pm. On the first Friday of each month, they are open from 5pm until 7pm. The gallery is closed Saturday, Sunday and Monday. For more information on the exhibit individuals can contact the Dover Art League at 302-674-0402.