Three-Part Harmony

Second of two parts

MY PARENTS, Sally and John Powell, were frequent plein air painters (the term, dating back to Impressionism, loosely meansĀ “painting outdoors”).

I do not ever recall hearing them use that expression. Yet they would often pack up their watercolors and easels and head to a nearby stream, a lonely country road, or a coastal lighthouse to paint.

Until this spring and summer, I did very little plein air painting. I associated it with representational painting, like my parents. I had to come up with a different approach.

My goal is to become embedded in my surroundings rather than objectify them. I give up my ego to tune in to my inner self. My appreciation of the natural world deepens as I become part of it, no longer an outsider.

Sometimes I come to paint outdoors with an idea in mind. It doesn’t matter; the painting is the thing. Pick up a brush and pick a color. Be in the moment. With the slightest provocation, I am off.

Recently I tried a new premise: plein air on plein air. I took canvases I began on the shores of the Connecticut River on a Monday evening to Bradley Palmer State Park in Topsfield, two days later and more than 100 miles away.

I continued to refine them in my studio:

THE RIVER, early evening


WATERFALL, acrylic on canvas, 14×11


BOUQUET, acrylic on canvas, 20×16
COUNTING THE DAYS, acrylic on canvas, 11×14
AERIAL BALLET, acrylic on canvas, 11×14
RIVER SUNSET, acrylic on canvas, 11×14

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