“The Traveling Paints” is the name of a group of local artists who share a common interest in painting ‘en plein air’ — four of them are members of In-Town Gallery and are exhibiting their paintings in February.
The opening reception at the gallery — from 5 to 8 p.m. on the First Friday, Feb. 1 — is an opportunity to meet these painters and see their diverse works. A close look at these authentic outdoor paintings might just reveal some real bugs stuck in the paint.
Marie Miller, Victoria Pearmain, Janis Wilkey and Ellen Franklin carry their portable paint kits to various locations around town and beyond, capturing the scene with oils in the great outdoors.
Each artist has a unique style, so that the same subject will have its own look as interpreted by these individuals. Even at the same location, they can choose from many different views.
Favorite painting places are the Walnut Street Bridge, Chester Frost Park, Cades Cove, Reflection Riding, the Hiwassee River, Nickajack Lake, along the Tennessee River and on Signal Mountain.
This traveling troupe meets once or twice each week, ready to face the unique trials of painting outside. “Plein air painting is not for the faint of heart,” says group member Marie Miller. “You have to stand in the sun and (put up with) bugs, wind and rain.”
One big influence of painting outdoors is the ever-changing light. The artists have just a small window of time to finish their work after they start. “Because the light is always moving,” Miller says. “From the first brushstroke, you have two hours maximum to work.”
Even though it’s challenging to paint outside, the artists say it gives them more information to work with than they could get painting from a photograph.
“It’s fresh, you see the effect of the clouds and the atmosphere,” says Wilkey. “No camera can capture the nuance of color you get in the sky and the landscape.” For Wilkey, the main appeal of painting with “The Traveling Paints” group is the camaraderie. “It’s really nice to be able to paint with other people, and take a break and look at each other’s work.”
Miller and Pearmain are former In-Town members who have recently rejoined the gallery. Wilkey, a seven-year member, is the current president, and Franklin is a four-year member.
During the Spring Hatch Festival in Chattanooga the group sponsored a “paint out” at Rock City. Miller and Wilkey also won awards at an outdoor painting competition in Knoxville.
In-Town Gallery, founded in 1974, is one of the oldest cooperative galleries in the nation. It presents the original work of more than 30 regional studio artists. Located at 26A Frazier Ave., between the Market Street and Walnut Street bridges in Chattanooga, it is adjacent to Coolidge park on the North Shore of the Tennessee River. The gallery is open every day year-round except major holidays. Call 267-9214, or visit www.intowngallery.com for more information.