Tag Archives: Plein Air Painting

Meet the Artist in Residence: Elizabeth Courtney

Elizabeth Courtney, artist in residence at Main Street Arts during the month of May 2019, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. We asked Elizabeth some questions about her work and studio practice:

Artist Elizabeth Courtney

Artist Elizabeth Courtney paining en plein air

Q: Tell us about your background.
Hi I’m Liz. I’m super excited to have the opportunity to paint here for the next four weeks. Let me tell you a little about myself and my work…

I have been painting in Eastern Connecticut, all my life. I decided to try to take my art to a more professional level my junior year of high school when I attended the RISD pre college program. I quickly realized I was out of my league there. So for my undergrad I did not want to go to an art school. I ended up at an environmental liberal arts college called Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont. I started there thinking I was going to go for environmental studies but something kept drawing me back to the studio. I still don’t know what it was.

I graduated from there in three years with my BFA with a concentration in painting in 2016. After a little while I realize that not going to art school for my undergrad may have been a mistake career wise, not personally, so I decided to do a post bac in Florence, Italy. That was easily one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Studying painting in Italy, not only got me to truly open up as an artist for the first time in my life but I also met so many other artists that introduced me so many new concepts and ideas I would have never been exposed to. Some of those artists even helped me get into other residencies and galleries. I am forever grateful for
that.

Elizabeth Courtney, "This Green Place II”, 2018, oil and acrylic on panel

Elizabeth Courtney, “This Green Place II”, 2018, oil and acrylic on panel

Q: How would you describe your work?
I am a plein air oil painter. I love painting outside. I have found that painting outside on site just helps me live in the moment. I truly appreciate where I am and what I came here to do. I know that I am not the best painter ever, but I love it. I don’t care that I am not the best painter, I just want to create an image that evokes an emotional response even if it is just for me.

Elizabeth Courtney, “Truth”, 2018, oil on canvas, 18”x24”

Elizabeth Courtney, “Truth”, 2018, oil on canvas

Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?
I feel like my process and style of painting are always changing but only the one thing that stays the same is that I take my paintings outside. Recently, I have been starting in the studio and experimenting with acrylic underpaintings so that I don’t start on the intimidating white surface.  Sometimes I completely cover that surface in a made up color of oil paint which I draw into, exposing layers of paint that I constantly change with more paint. Most people are afraid that it would get muddy and sometimes it does but I love finding the perfect top color and making it bright.

One of the biggest problems I have as an artist is knowing when to call my paintings done. I want to get better at that and I think I am.

Work by Elizabeth Courtney

Work by Elizabeth Courtney

Q: What are your goals for this residency?
I want to paint outside as much as possible during this residency. Possibly everyday if I can, even if it’s raining. Last summer I did some really cool paintings in the rain, in my car and under shelters at State parks.

I really want to drive around the area as much as possible, too. I want to get to Lake Ontario, Niagara Falls, and other state parks around the area to paint. I really want to do an en plein air painting of Niagara Falls—I just think that would be really cool!

I wouldn’t mind selling some of the paintings I do as this residency. I’ve recently started running out of wall space.

Work by Elizabeth Courtney

Work by Elizabeth Courtney

Q: What’s next for you?
As far as after this residency, I took a job with the Chautauqua Institute residence life department for the summer where, hopefully, I can keep painting there. I don’t have a ton of plans after that but I would love to someday get my masters in fine arts, maybe in Europe, but who knows. That might be my favorite part of being an artist. I don’t know what’s next.

Q: Where else can we find you? 
I am very active on Instagram @elizabeththeartist. I try to keep it as up to date as possible.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Phyllis Bryce Ely: Look Out the Window

“Look out the window.” My mother said that to me again and again. If I was bored, she would say, “Look out the window, what do you see? Make something to tell me about.” If I complained of long trips in the car she would say, “Look out the window.” Over time we drove and we drove and I looked and looked, and in my head I practiced drawing lines and shapes. I tried to count the different kinds of blues and greens I could see. I thought about how I could mix colors of paint to match what I saw. I wondered about the bright and dark places in clouds, and I wondered why the full moon followed our car so perfectly. That’s when I began to feel the need to move the images in my head onto paper and canvas.

Me and the Moon, pastel, Canandaigua nocturne

Me and the Moon, pastel, Canandaigua nocturne

Becoming an Artist
I have a distinct memory of deciding I was an artist while sitting on the dull brown carpet of our living room floor in front of our black and white television watching Captain Kangaroo and waiting for the “Magic Drawing Board” segment. Every morning I waited with oatmeal cartons, crayons, paper, scissors, and glue—anything the Captain may tell us we needed for the day’s project. My mother kept me stocked and ready. When Magic Drawing Board finally appeared, I loved watching the dark lines appear out of nowhere on a white board. In moments, a complete drawing would emerge. To me, that was truly magical. I clearly remember deciding I would be just like magic drawing board and I set about the business of making art.

Uncle Deek and the Endless Paper
My Uncle Deek worked at the Democrat & Chronicle and would bring my sister and me endless reams of fresh, plain newsprint for drawing. I loved when a new pile would arrive. I was small and the paper was large—more magic. Today, I get the same thrill when I visit the astounding paper room at Rochester Art Supply.

My First Studio
My parents built a new house when I was six. Many of the rooms remained empty as they saved money to buy furniture. I thought the empty rooms were great, so many places to make things! I remember my “64 ounce Welch’s Grape Juice can period” when I built giant sculptures and rockets snaking throughout the house (this was the Apollo space era). I had important projects and paintings in every room. That was about the same time my friend and I made “Jackson Pollock art” in her family’s newly finished basement. Without a strong grasp of physics, we weren’t paying attention to the paint flying off our brushes on our backstrokes as we hurled paint at a canvases shouting “Jackson Pollock!” I was sent home, and she was left to clean the basement walls and ceiling. As I remember, the paintings were pretty good.

Getting Serious
Throughout school, my teachers encouraged my artwork (“Phyllis’ creativity should be encouraged”). In high school, I began to think seriously about developing a portfolio and applying to art school. My art teachers coached me through the process and I ended up at RIT with a degree in painting and printmaking in 1981. I still recall conversations, critiques, and ideas that inform my work today. Friendships have endured, certain colors remind me of certain people, and challenges from gifted teachers like Bob Heischman, Bob Cole, Judd Williams, Phil Bornarth, and Ed Miller still resonate.

On My Own
After my RIT years focused on figure painting, I popped into the world ready to make art. I had relied so heavily on the figure that I floundered alone in my studio. Eventually I realized my mother had already told me what to do—I only needed to look out the window. I found myself sitting in Ellison Park, learning that the hills, trees and sky offered me the familiar shapes of the human body. More magic! My favorite place to make art is sitting on the ground in a beautiful place trying to describe my experience with paint and pastel.

Painting at Durand Eastman Park

Painting at Durand Eastman Park

Painting at Durand Eastman Park

Painting at Durand Eastman Park

Today
I have been painting landscapes en plein air in the Rochester/Finger Lakes region for more than 30 years. My paintings offer a narrative of color, movement, shape, light, and pattern through rolling fields, moving water, and dramatic skies. Features of the landscape become characters in the story as I paint the places I love to be. In the studio, I work from still life compositions and use my plein air work as source material to further explore and indulge in the shapes and colors I enjoyed in the field. Whether in the field or studio, my paintings simply explore the idea of place. I feel I am successful when viewers feel a connection to the place I offer or remember a favorite place of their own.

After the Storm, acrylic, Philbrick Park, Penfield

After the Storm, acrylic, Philbrick Park, Penfield

"Little Pine Between, Adirondacks", Acrylic on panel, 8" x 10", 2012

Little Pine Between, Adirondacks, Acrylic on panel, 8″ x 10″, 2012

Small is BIG
My mom wasn’t an artist but I believe an artist’s spirit was in her somewhere. She died of Alzheimer’s in 2012. It occurred to me while writing this blog that in her final months I would draw pictures of the view out her window while she watched. I just made that connection. Watching me draw soothed her.

Artists’ work is always changing, but our small beginnings are fixed. I’m grateful to the people in my life who knew my need to make art was big.

You can see more of Phyllis’s work at her website, www.behance.net/phyllis_bryce_ely. Or stop by Main Street Arts through December 29, 2014 to see two of her landscape paintings in person.

Check out our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by encaustic artist, Virginia Cassetta.

“Paintings, Made Outdoors” by Terry Oakden

Terry Oakden currently has a solo exhibition Upstairs at Main Street Arts. “Painting, Made Outdoors” includes expressive oil and acrylic paintings on paper and board made outside and in the Finger Lakes region.

Terry Oakden, "Through the Vineyard 'Seneca'", Acrylic on board

Terry Oakden, “Through the Vineyard ‘Seneca’”, Acrylic on board

These paintings are full of vivd and sometimes unexpected colors. Splashes of bright pink contrast with bright green grass, swaths of red, blue, and yellow create deep, beautiful skies.

Terry Oakden, "Addison", Acrylic & oil on board

Terry Oakden, “Addison”, Acrylic & oil on board

Terry Oakden, "St. Mary's 'Corning'", Acrylic on board

Terry Oakden, “St. Mary’s ‘Corning’”, Acrylic on board

The exhibition combines paintings on paper with paintings on panel, emphasizing the spontaneity of Oakden’s work. His brushstrokes have a loose quality that add so much emotion to what would otherwise be a simple landscape.

Terry Oakden, "Paintings, Made Outdoors"

Terry Oakden, “Paintings, Made Outdoors”

Stop by to see Terry Oakden’s solo exhibition Upstairs at Main Street! His work will be here through September 27, 2014. You can see more information about exhibitions at Main Street Arts here.

Exhibition Dates: August 5–September 27, 2014