Thomasville Times Enterprise

Local News

May 6, 2014

Painting in the dark

THOMASVILLE — Plein air painter Lynn Wilson had set up her easel on the sidewalk near the bandstand and bleachers on Broad Street and the Rose Festival crowd was streaming around her and milling and dancing in front of her. Did all the commotion interfere with her creative effort?

Not at all, she said, smiling and swaying to the loud music.

“I wanted to be close to the music — rock ’n’ roll — to keep me awake. I’m usually in bed by 9,” she said, laughing.

Wilson was one of the regional artists in Thomasville on April 25 for the Piney Woods Plein Air Paint Out, a two-day affair that would culminate Saturday evening with a judging of their works, a patrons party and a sale. She had driven up from Apalachicola, Fla., where she owns On the Waterfront Gallery.

Painting en plein air or in the outdoors  was nothing new for her, but painting in the dark was. She had been worried that her subject, the Thomas County Courthouse dome, wouldn’t be lighted but it was.

Down the street, Linda Greaves also welcomed the partying crowd. “That doesn’t bother me at all,” she said. “We’re artists so we’re right-brain people. This helps us focus.”

Painting under streetlights at night is the latest trend in plein air, and Greaves had also never painted in the dark before. She took that as a challenge.

“I’m a colorist,” she said as she scrutinized the façade of Q Café, her subject. “I work in color, but at night I can’t even see what colors I’m making. To me, that was the challenge to see what would work.”

The Valdosta resident and member of Thomasville’s Wiregrass Gallery was overflowing with enthusiasm for the event.

“I’m delighted to be here,” she said. “How can anybody not be excited when the community does this kind of thing? This gives us exposure, and exposure to the arts.”

A woman and her three children stopped to look at Greaves’ painting.

“Look at the little children coming out here,” Greaves exclaimed. “They see this and they may take up painting some day.”

Earlier in the day, when the sun was out, the artists had captured scenes from around Thomasville, including the Big Oak and the Thomasville Rose Garden, and the next morning they trekked to Hardscrabble south of Boston to paint its hay field, moss-draped live oaks, canopied lane and stands of cypress. The former farm is now the home of Margo and Mitchel Brown, who welcomed the artists to their property.

“Isn’t it gorgeous out here?” Rebecca Hendrix, event co-chair, said as she focused on the canopied road running past a barn.

To a casual observer, her painting appeared finished but her eye was more critical. She said that she was trying to capture the sunlight in the trees and on the sandy road. 

“I’ve got to get more yellow, more light in it,” she said.

Keith McCulloch, who, like Hendrix, displays his work at the Wiregrass, settled into a spot looking over the cypress swamp and woods. A teacher at the LeMoyne Center for Visual Arts in Tallahassee, Fla., where he lives, McCulloch said most of his paintings start as plein air, but he finishes them in the studio.

“I need to get the tones right,” he said, explaining why he gets out in the field.

But plein air painting was rewarding to him for other reasons too. “You get out on site, breathe the fresh air and talk to people,” he said.

Up the road, a novice artist, Susan Jobson of Thomasville, was painting a chinaberry tree covered with lilac-colored blossoms. She had been hesitant about going on an outing with professional artists, but now that she was here she was totally into the experience.

“This is fabulous, just fabulous,” she gushed. “Once you get here it’s so meditative and relaxing.”

Her husband, Randy, looked on in a supportive role. “As a bystander I’m just enjoying being here, out in this place,” he said.

After a morning at their easels, the painters gathered in town at The Boardwalk, one of three galleries in the Piney Woods Alliance, which organized the paint out. The Wiregrass and The Accidental Gallery are the other members of the alliance.

Boston mayor Danny Groover and Boardwalk owners Rich and Lori Curtis greeted the artists at the door.

This event “means a lot to Boston,” the mayor said. “It’s exciting to have a group of artists who have an interest in Boston and our beautiful surroundings.”

The painters took in a Thomas University student photography show in The Boardwalk and work hanging in the adjoining Accidental Gallery before enjoying a lunch provided by Groover, an honorary chair for the event.

That evening the artists and art patrons crowded into Wiregrass for the judging of their paintings. McCulloch won the $300 first-place prize for his painting of roses at the city’s rose garden, and Susan Richardson of Apalachicola and Mary Sterner Lawson of Tallahassee received $200 and $100 respectively for second- and third-place showings.

“I was astounded, because I didn’t think I was that good,” said a beaming McCulloch. “But I guess the judges thought so.”

While art fanciers socialized and munched on hors d’oeuvres passed by Thomas County Central High School students, event co-chair Sandi Shaw of The Accidental Gallery announced the winners of the door prizes and raffle.

“It was a big success,” Wiregrass president Paul Croft said of the evening. “The artists all seem to be having a good time. I think (this event) is a significant exposure to new patrons who haven’t been here before.  It’s consistent with our mission.”

At least as enthusiastic was Karen Smith, Main Street and Tourism director, who said Thomasville was always looking for ways to keep the 93-year-old Rose Festival fresh and interesting, and the plein air event did that.

“It was fabulous,” she said, “a wonderful addition to the Rose Festival weekend.”

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