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Continued: Painting outdoors, Twin Cities 'en plein air' artists are in their element

  • Article by: ANNA PRATT , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 2, 2013 - 4:17 PM

When working outside, “you never know what’s going to happen,” he said.

Although the group always gets permission before they show up somewhere, “Sometimes people get a little leery of you coming around,” he said, adding that he’s been kicked out of a few places.

More commonly, though, passersby are intrigued by the artists’ in-progress paintings. “They always have opinions,” Boecher said.

There are other hazards: a delivery truck might come by and block the view indefinitely, or, “You end up with bugs in the painting, or raindrops.”

On Thursday, Boecher’s canvas fell to the ground, smearing the wet paint. He took it in stride: “You have to be adaptable. You don’t always have a great painting, but you can learn something.”

Making adjustments

Richfield resident Ron Wilson, another regular with the group, seconded that idea. On Thursday, he got lost on his way to Banfill-Locke. Then, once he got there, he realized he was missing some materials, including a surface to paint on.

“It’s not my day today,” he said, as he set up his easel, shaking his head and smiling.

Still, he persevered, making do with watercolor paper that he bought at Banfill-Locke — maybe not an ideal surface for acrylics, but fine in a pinch.

He also borrowed a water can, a recycled coffee container, from Boecher, to wash off his brushes.

It wasn’t long before his painting began to take shape.

By the end, “I got a couple of good paintings out of the deal,” he said.

In the zone

During the “paint out,” the men worked quietly, taking only occasional breaks to let the paint dry, talk shop and check out each other’s progress.

Even though they were painting the same scene from only slightly different vantage points, their pieces varied wildly.

“Your personality and history comes through when you do a painting,” said Wilson, a former art teacher.

Tom Dimock, a retired graphic designer who lives in Columbia Heights, explained: “You’re interpreting as you go along.”

In “plein air” painting, “You make your decisions really quickly,” he said. “What you started with two hours ago can be radically different” later on.

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