Art Magazine Editor Awards Prizes, Discusses Burgeoning Plein Air Scene

By PAT JOHNSON | Sep 25, 2019
Photo by: Pat Johnson Editor-in-chief of Fine Art Connoisseur Peter Trippi with LBIF Director Daniella Kerner at the ‘Island Life: Plein Air Plus’ exhibit.

Loveladies — Peter Trippi, editor-in-chief of Fine Art Connoisseur magazine, awarded prizes to the artists who participated in the “Island Life: Plein Air Plus” exhibit at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences through Nov. 2. Trippi congratulated the plein air artists who were selected to paint Island environs this July and August either entirely on site, “en plein air,” or paint studies and complete the paintings in their studios for the “plein air plus” category.

“I’m delighted to see the very high quality of the works,” said Trippi. “It was a challenge to select the winners,” he told the crowd during the artists reception on Sunday, Sept. 22.

To ease the tension, he started right off with the seven honorable mention awards. Susan Hennelly of High Bar Harbor was awarded a prize for her watercolor, “13th Street Dunes.”

“I’m a fan of watercolor, and Hennelly has captured that feeling of light in the dunes that straddle the area between the land and the sea,” said Trippi.

Kristina Sellers’ oil painting of a sailboat on the bay, “Engagement,” was worthy of an award for its “soft colors and management of brush strokes.”

“Summer Clouds,” a pastel by Linda Hibbs, won for the “harmonious management of purples and blues. It’s totally believable,” said Trippi.

Christa Pisano’s oil on panel “Marsh and Gold” is “a little jewel of a painting. It’s quietly toned, but it hits the nail on the head with its subtle gradations of color.”

Alexander Shanks’ oil painting of “Barnegat Lighthouse” was saved from being “something touristy” by the addition of the “strong, purplish cloud looming behind it and taking it to another level.”

Michael Budden’s oil, “Under the Bridge,” included high-tension wires and bridge structure and was a Trippi award choice because of the mundane nature of the view. “Reality is also mundane and OK to depict. It’s worthy of depiction.” 

Gretchen Kelly’s “Marsh and Blue Sky” study, done in watercolor and gouache, was the seventh honorable mention. “It has real personality moving in an abstract direction. The golden hue is not obvious; it’s intriguing the way the light messes with your eye.”

Lee Ann Lindgren’s “Serenity,” an oil on aluminum, won third place. Lindgren scratched into the oil paint to revel the metal beneath.

“This is an example of letting the support do some of the talking,” said Trippi. “I like the verticality of the grasses and the frenetic way she has painted some with the glint of sun on them.” Most paintings of the salt marsh show the grasses as a solid block of color, he noted. “But they are not solid. They are made up of thousands, millions of individual strands.”

Second place went to Al Barker, a well-known plein air painter from Bordentown, for his “Long Beach Island Dunes.” “Instead of focusing on the sky, the sea or a townscape, he has painted a mostly empty place. But he has managed to capture the dunes, the variety of late-day sun on them. I feel like I am there marching up the dune. You can hear the sea, but you can’t yet see it, but you anticipate when you do see it, and wow.”

As there were two categories to paint in, plein air or plein air plus, there were two first-place winners. Robert Baum placed first in plein air for his abstract “Bayside.”

“It’s a small painting, but it packs a punch. It’s painted impasto with a vibrant energy. I feel the air, light and wind when I look at it. It evokes what it’s like to be here in July or August.”

Joyce Millman won first in the plein air plus category for “Beach Greenery,” an oil on panel. It is a painting of dune grasses with “strategic use of red flowers. Flowers can be overdone in a landscape, but she has used them wisely. It also has an atmosphere of moving along the dunes to the sea.”

‘Beautiful Places
To Paint’

Trippi’s audience grew as he was scheduled to talk about plein air painting at 3 p.m. He is president of Projects in 19th Century Art, a firm he established to pursue research, writing and curating opportunities. Previously he served as director of the Dahash Museum of Art in New York and was vice director for the Brooklyn Museum of Art. He began working with Streamline Publishing, based in Austin, Texas, in 2006, culminating in his editor-in-chief position today.

“My previous interests in art were more figurative, but I’ve become more knowledgeable in plein air painting from my work with the magazine. I can tell you plein air is booming and why.”

Ever since the invention of metal paint tubes in the 1840s, the age of the Impressionists, artists have been able to move out of doors. Nothing much has changed since then, he explained.

He showed images of more than a few of his favorite plein air artists’ work. Karen Blackwood paints in a square format, more appealing to contemporary tastes, and eschews the traditional landscape gold frame. Instead she presents her work unframed for a more modern feel.

Some artists specialize in atmospheric painting; some move toward the abstract. Some find the odd or eccentric subject to include, such as Stephan Hannock, whose paintings are vast expanses of brooding landscapes that contain strings of words.

Trippi praised artist Timothy Horan for his inclusion of cars in the landscape. “Cars are hard to do, like figurative painting. We know what they are supposed to look like, and when they are not right, we ‘smell a rat,’” he joked.

“Jane Hunt’s tonalism and brilliant brushwork defines her work,” said Trippi. “Don’t be afraid to bring emotions to your easel and painting. Bring it on, but don’t let the colors manage you. Use every tool in your arsenal, but make sure you are managing the tools. ... Don’t let it run away with your voice.”

Two artists whose technique harks back to such early 19th-century painters as John Singer Sargent, J.M.W. Turner and Winslow Homer are Richard Schmidt and Joseph Sweeney. “Winslow Homer can talk to modern painters,” Trippi said.

Plein air painting has become the number one activity for artists of a certain age. “It’s attractive because it’s great to be out in the fresh air and going to beautiful places to paint, and they like the camaraderie,” said Trippi. “And it’s fun to get better and better doing something that’s difficult and maybe earning some money, too.

“The question is, will it flourish beyond the baby boomers.”

Younger people, he noted, are not into owning a lot of possessions. “But they are all about experiences, so I’m hopeful they will get into trying it.” And there is a resurgence of a desire to connect with nature and a concern for it.

“This is an amazing country full of things to paint,” he noted. “But to be successful as a plein air painter, you have to focus on your region. People want art that reminds them of home and is pleasing to their color sense.”




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