The Brown Family Environmental Center (BFEC) had its 25th anniversary in 2020, and this year, it is hosting the Plein Air Artist Exhibition in celebration. Local artists have been painting at the BFEC over the summer, spread out over 500 acres to capture the beauty of the surrounding area. These artists have a wide range of experience with painting, and use a variety of different media: watercolor, pastels, gouache and oil paints, among others.
Plein air painting, or “en plein air,” is the act of painting outside, away from the walls of a studio. The art form originated from the French impressionists of the 19th century and submerges the artist in their landscape. It took off with the invention of the paint tube, allowing the artists to travel with their work, and is still globally popular today.
“I hope viewers will see the parts of the BFEC through the artists’ eyes. It’s lovely to see how others interpret scenes that I see every day,” said Noelle Jordan, manager of the BFEC. “It brings a greater appreciation for those spaces.”
This exhibition perfectly captures the beauty of the surrounding area. The paintings feature the rich greens of Ohio summers, with blooming flowers or overgrown structures that flaunt the exquisite nature of Gambier.
Candice VanSchoyck, one of the plein air artists who has been painting at the BFEC since 2016, is a self-taught painter of several different mediums. She shifted her focus towards oil painting in 1991. Since her first summer in Gambier, she has found herself inspired to paint the Kokosing River and the French Cobb House, among other locations that have caught her attention.
“The gardens were especially delightful to capture on all my visits. All was in bloom, decked out in various colors, texture, and scents along the curving path to the farmhouse,” VanSchoyck wrote.
All artists had complete freedom when painting, which makes the exhibition an exciting tour of different styles. Each painting notices something new. One of the larger pieces in the exhibition, an oil painting of the gardens north of the farmhouse, expertly captures the image of sunlight casting through the trees and projecting on the side of a building. This artwork by Marianne Miller brings the image to life with unbelievable detail.
This exhibition is free to the public and just a 15-minute walk from campus. It might even inspire a walk through the nature preserve. All paintings will be on display, and for sale, at the BFEC’s Resource Center through Oct. 24.