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It’s time to paint “en plein air”

They call themselves colorists, expressive impressionists, realistic expressionists or modern impressionists. They paint in oil, watercolor and/or pastel. Some are full-time artists, others part-time and their works draw a range from $75 to $25,000. What unites this special breed of local artists is their love of painting “en plein air” (outdoors) and when the snow melts, they shed their studio walls for the expansive High Sierra landscape.

You can see them in early morning carrying a 30 pound supply pack on a 5 mile hike into the wilderness, at sunset kneeling by the lakeside or setting up an easel in a meadow. Art is an integral part of their life, a passion and they can’t imagine life without it. Though the artistic process is often meditative and spiritual, it can also be play-like and even entertaining while mixing colors, and it is most certainly a form of discipline.

It’s not easy battling the changeable High Sierra weather conditions, lack of humidity and quick moving light. And then there are bugs and mosquitoes, flying dirt and sand, not always a comfortable place to sit or a nearby bathroom. But creature comforts mean nothing to capturing the breathtaking beauty of a Tahoe sunset, crystal clear waters or sun rising over snow-capped mountain peaks.

Any artist who paints outdoors has stories to tell. All have been eaten alive by mosquitoes, had a canvas blow off an easel into the water or dirt, picked bugs out of fresh paint. When totally immersed in their work, they have been surprised by bears, coyotes and even an old gray mare taking a bite out of a canvas. All plein air artists are time limited due to the quick changing light. Some finish their entire painting outdoors, others take photos to finish in-studio and some rely only on memory to finish. Still others do in-studio touch-ups and then return outdoors to finish.

But when the work is done and the painting is hung some celebrate with a glass of champagne while others have a hard time letting go – all feel blessed with a talent to capture the essence and spirit of a scene  to pass on to others. We the observers of Tahoe landscape art reap the most reward. We are given the opportunity to ponder the oriental-like simplicity of design of a Peter Darvas, lush colors of Janette Reed-Lawson (at right), confident strokes of a Silvio Silvestri, warm interpretive colors of a Ginny Schankerman.

These are but a few of Tahoe’s plein air artists. Next time you ponder an artistic rendition of a Tahoe landscape, remember there is more to a painting than meets the eye!

By Jill Beede

This is not a gallery with works for sale - it is strickly for some visual relief! Includes oil, watercolor, pastel, silk painting, pen and ink, print making, photography, and crafts using High Sierra natural materials, such as basketmaking. Anyone may contribute work on the theme of Tahoe and surrounding areas. At left, work of Liz MacMillan-Hanley.

The Gallery
Watercolors by Bill Clausen - Tahoe's West Shore
Acrylics and pastels by Liz McMillan-Hanly - several Tahoe scenes, and a mural!
East Shore Cabin - by Betty Beede
Another Green World - by Birgitta McCarthy
Lake Tahoe Map Poster - by Mona Schulte
Tahoe Landscapes by oil painter, Paul Bartmettler.
Mum - Oil of Emerald Bay, by Tim Messersmith, painted for his grandmother.
Dana Schnabel
Bella's Tahoe - Computer-enhanced colored pencil drawing by Bella Meister
Animals - Pen and Ink, by Don Blasingame.
Kirkwood Meadows - Watercolor, Madeline Bohanon.
Mountains Majesty - Pen and Ink, by Martin J Benoit.
Nature, Flowers, and Family - Watercolors, by Missy Sandeman, who kindly donated the painting for Tahoe Country's logo.
Photo-impressionism - Roy E. Dryer III "capturing people's passions"
Scenes of Tahoe - Miriam Biro, watercolorist, shares some of her "Tahoe Cards".
Visions of Tahoe - by Masaki Kawana, Tokyo, Japan.

Special Exhibits
Meeks Bay - Old Time Photo Exhibit
Vintage Tahoe Postcards - From John McKinney's rustic Hunter's Retreat in the 1860s to such posh turn-of-the-century resorts as the Tallac Hotel and Tahoe Tavern, the life of early day vacationers was made vivid for those at home by postcards.

Basketmaking - The North Lake Tahoe Historical Society site includes the Gatekeeper's Cabin Museum, the Watson Cabin, and the Marion Steinbach Indian Basket Museum.
Nature crafts - some fun things to make.
North Tahoe Art Center , in Tahoe City next to the fire station, offers summer classes for adults and kids, monthly exhibits and monthly program meetings. The Visiting Artists' Workshops bring in national experts, and they feature a local artist gift shop. Each July there is a 30-40 artist open studio tour called ARTour.


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