578 West Main Street
Spartanburg, SC  29301
(864) 804 - 6501

            WEST MAIN ARTISTS CO-OP        


Art by Sight: The Plein Air Group

Artists Who Paint Outdoors Bring Their Work to Co-op

West Main Artists Co-op will host in July a group exhibit by plein air artists, showcasing a large collection of artwork that was created outdoors in Upstate South Carolina. The exhibit -- Art by Sight -- will run July 3-27 in the Venue, the facility’s largest gallery. The public can view the work Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at no cost. The exhibit’s reception will be Thursday, July 19, 5-9 p.m. during the city’s monthly ArtWalk.

The participating artists are all part of an informal and less-than-one-year-old group of retired teachers who gather to paint in the classic French tradition of plein air, which by definition is work created on location and outdoors. The group is still in the formative stages and includes core members Jessica Barnes, Shannon Patrick, Doris Turner, AK McMillan, Cynthia Link, and Shelba Cook.

“Through my association with various Upstate artists, I had heard about this group of artists who were gathering to do plein air,” said the Co-op’s chair of Venue Exhibits Dwight Rose, who is an established watercolorist.

“I thought having them exhibit at West Main would be a good way to give them exposure and to bring in some of the community’s most respected artists who practice plein air. It takes a bit of understanding to truly appreciate plein air,” Rose said. “Most of the time artists work in their studios, but plein air artists work in the field, using natural light and often times dealing with a changing environment. They have to work fast, and sometimes they come back to a location to finish the work. Normally, I’d say, the work is spontaneous, in the moment, and less detailed than studio work. But each artist is different with different styles and techniques. The trick is applying your style and technique to working outside in the open spaces.”

Each of the six artists will provide at least seven paintings, most of which will be for sale, starting at $50.

“I like the immediacy of the process. Looking at the scape and responding to it in an immediate way,” Barnes said. “It is not overworked. It is much like our heroes paintings in the impressionist world.”

“Our backgrounds are different in that some are potters, fabric designers and mixed media artists,” Barnes continued. “All of us have been art teachers. That alone shows that we have a streak of bravery in our makeup. Sometimes it is intimidating to sit and paint an almost finished work in public. The Co-op is gracious to share its space with us. Between us, we have 351 years of experience in appreciation and of making art. The oldest member is a native of Spartanburg. The others came from Massachusetts, North Carolina and Georgia. We all enjoy painting.”

“First you look. You search for your composition. Or you sit, observe and find a composition that feels right and interesting,” Turner said. “The view and surroundings become yours. This position can be outside in the fresh air or inside. It can be comfortable, blazing hot or numbing cold. Being up close with the experience has its rewards. Perhaps the extremes or pleasantness will show and really make your art relevant, especially when you view your painting and relive the moment. Observers may get a feel or an identity with your expression.”

“The process of painting never really took hold of me during most of my life.  I wasn’t passionate about it,” Link said. “As an artist I am more of a maker of things, not so much a painter. The images in my head that push me to work are always three-dimensional and the process and intricacies of how it will be constructed is the main challenge. That is until I traveled with two friends to a plein air watercolor workshop to Tahiti. I was hooked. Now, I love to paint, mostly outside on a sunny warm day. The experience of the outside is a draw as well as looking for the lights and darks, working fast and being spontaneous. The biggest draw though is sharing the experience with by painting buddies. It is such a pleasure to go paint with friends. We laugh, share and see how each person paints the same area completely different.”

West Main Artists Co-op is a non-profit arts agency in Spartanburg that is dedicated to local artists and art. It provides affordable studio space to its member artists, as well as a retail outlet and several galleries to sell and showcase their work. The facility has the most extensive collection of locally made artwork for sale in Spartanburg, and it includes pottery, jewelry, paintings, sculptures, prints, quilts, and other artistic creations. In addition to hosting three different exhibits each month, the Co-op also provides public workshops. For more information about West Main Artists Co-op, please visit online WestMainArtists.org.