Friday, 13 March 2015

Plein Air Ensemble

Blog 10

Last week, I gave you some information about the Group of Seven.

Today, I want to take the opportunity to talk about “The Plein Air Ensemble”, a local group of outdoor painters that is celebrating its 25th anniversary this month with an exhibition at WALL SPACE GALLERY, 2316 St Joseph Blvd, Orleans. 21 artists are participating in the retrospective, among them two of the original founders, Pierrette Dulude-Bohay, and Charles Spratt. The exhibition runs from March 25 to April 6, 2015.

The show highlights the wonderful talent and diversity of this group of artists. You will find fine art works in oil, acrylic, watercolours, and pastel.

The participating artists will be present at the official “25 Year Plein Air Ensemble exhibition” opening on March 26, 2015 from 7- 9pm to talk with you about the group and the artworks.

I joined in 2009. Since last year, my friend Hélène Martin and I took over as organizers of the group’s activities which include the scouting for accommodations, getting quotes, negotiating, and finally signing a contract with a hotel as well as preparing the registration documentation for the members. During the trip, we are responsible for getting things ready for the daily get-togethers as well as the evening entertainment. It is a lot of work but I really enjoy it.

The founders of this group were three artist friends, Pierrette Dulude-Bohay, Charles Spratt, and Andrew Lyall, who encouraged by their students, organized the first painting trip 25 years ago. It took place in the fall of 1990. The first destination was Calabogie. The idea was to offer painting trips to teach students outdoor painting. However, the group soon attracted more experienced artists than students. Many artists just came to paint with like-minded artists.

From the beginning, the group's aim has been to capture the beauty of the landscape while fostering the friendships among artists. Each year, a group of organizers has planned a spring and a fall trip to different destinations, mostly in the province of Quebec. For the spring trip they hope for some remaining patches of snow and brilliant colours for the fall trip.

Nobody would have predicted that this small group would grow continuously. Today, the group has about 75 members, with about 15 to 20 taking part in each trip. Most of the artists come from the Ottawa-Gatineau region.

Some well-known artists have joined the group, like Quebec artist Bruno Côté and Kanata artist John Mlacak. Unfortunately, both of them and some of the early members have either passed away or are unable to paint in nature anymore.

There is no doubt, plein air artists definitely have to be a resilient bunch. The Canadian climate has thrown a couple of surprises at us, from arctic temperatures, snow storms, ice rain and dense fog to wind gusts, and pouring rain for the whole duration of the trip. Many of the artists still go out no matter the weather. It is amazing to see how they can set up in the front or back of a car. However, there is always a room available at the hotel or inn to set up a still life or work from reference photos when the weather is just too miserable.

Over the years the time spent painting together and the evening entertainment of games, music, and dress-ups created many long-lasting friendships. Painting demonstrations, and talks by different speakers as well as the occasional movie about some of Canada's finest artists satisfied the educational thirst.

As for me and many of the group, we are already looking forward to our next trip to Val David at the beginning of April. You will be able to read my trip report in my blog on April 17, 2015.

If you would like more information about the artists participating in the “25 Years Plein Air Ensemble” exhibition and to view some of their work, please visit the Facebook event page

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