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Nygren Plein Air

July 14, 2010

Helen with me at Nygren Wetland Preserves

This past weekend, Helen and I spent time painting on location at the Nygren Wetland Preserve in Rockton, Illinois. I am entered in a competition to produce paintings of the preserve “en plein air”.The concept of plein air is to create works on location as opposed to going back and working at an indoor studio. As an artist, you race to capture the light. You move quickly as you do not have time to waste. You have no time to “overthink” your decisions. The work becomes an immediate response to the stimulus. The results become much more impressionistic. Freer and less stiff.

The competition kicked off July 10 and will run through early September. By September 11, I will be able to submit two of my works for consideration to be included in the competition/exhibition. On Friday September 24, for those of you that live in the Rockford Illinois area or have a strong desire to come visit our fair city, I may need your help. The exhibit opens to the public at 7:00pm. Between 7:00 to 9:00pm, you will get to submit votes for your favorite painting in the competition. A Peoples Choice monetary award will go to the artist whose work receives the most votes. I hope that you will vote for my work. Perhaps you can vote as, I am told, they do in Chicago – early and often.

Anyway, my initial impressions of Nygren were not as promising as I had hoped. The area adjacent to the entrance and parking lot offered minor inspiration and we were told that, to get into the preserve, they would drive us into the preserve on their “gator” (a two person, motorized four wheeler). To save time and effort, I set up my gear near the main entrance to paint a scene.  Helen moved around and spent time sketching some of the wildflowers that were in full bloom. After I finished a small painting, we drove our car over to check out the possibilities from the Observation Tower site then take a break for lunch. Upon return to Nygren that afternoon, the staff allowed us to drive our gear into the preserve. This consideration saved us from having to manually lug all our gear around the preserve. It also enabled us to easily get into some remote areas and really absorb a feel for the landscape at Nygren. It was quiet, peaceful and we gradually found more designs and ideas than we could possibly draw or paint during a few short hours on location.

Saturday afternoon, we set up near one of the signature oak trees and painted a scene which included the wet prairie. Sunday, we decided to spend more time interpreting scenes near that same Oak tree. We continued to discover design possibilities.

Painting along the Mesic Prairie

During our painting sessions on Saturday and Sunday, we witnessed only a handful of  other artists committing their impressions to canvas or paper. There seemed to be a lot of photographers (which is a whole other concern – more on that later) walking the paths and working their cameras. On one hand, we enjoyed a lot of uninterrupted painting time and the ability to work uncrowded. On the other hand, it seemed a shame that more artists had not taken advantage of this opportunity.

I am hoping to get more time at Nygren to create some additional paintings. This should increase my odds of creating some good paintings. The committee at Nygren Preserve is trying to come up with additional dates for us to paint on location. For now, I hope you enjoy our pics from last weekends work.

Nygren-Dry Prairie Morning, Oil on Canvas Panel 9" x 12"

Photo of the Scene used for Wet Prairie

Nygren-Wet Prairie, Oil on Canvas Panel 9" x 12"

Photo of Scene used for Oak at Wet Prairie

Painting Oak at Wet Prairie in process

Nygren-Oak at Wet Prairie, Oil on Canvas Panel 9" x 12"

Scene used for painting Dry Prairie

At work on the painiting Dry Prairie

Dry Prairie painting in process

Nygren-Dry Prairie, Oil on Canvas Panel 9" x 12"

Helen's attempting to paint with a visitor. I guess that her painting looked so real, she had this bug fooled.

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