Painting outdoors, Greater Boston artists capture the glory of fall

This month, Yurwitz’s outdoor class worked outdoors at Cogswell’s Grant, a historic New England farmhouse along the banks of the Essex River, observing the inspiring beauty of Boston’s North Shore while by connecting with nature and with other painters.

But whether they’re painting the windy ocean or a busy street, Greater Boston artists express the same fear of seeing the world spinning before their eyes.

“The earth is always on the move. The light is always changing. Watching nature spin in front of you is inspiring, ”said Stephen LaPierre, member of the Rocky Neck Art Colony in Gloucester. “You smell the salty air and the breeze. “

“When I paint outdoors all of my senses are working and I paint to capture that moment and the feeling of the day,” said Katie Cornog of Medford.

Art teacher Jessica Yurwitz, third from left, leads an outdoor painting class at Cogswell’s Grant in Essex.Laurie Swope for the Boston Globe / Laurie Swope

“I love being outside watching nature,” said Sigmund Roos of Concord, a retired lawyer who appreciates having the time to paint. “For me, it’s meditative to be outside and paint. When I paint, I don’t notice the passing of time.

Outdoor painting developed in France in the 19th century – with the invention of modern manufactured paints, portable canvases, and easels – and has become popular locally over the past century.

Elizabeth Wentworth Roberts, an American Impressionist who lived and painted outdoors in Concord, founded Concord Art in 1922. Today painters of all skill levels appreciate the benefits of working outdoors.

“The French term ‘en plein air’ simply means painting in the open,” said Kate James, executive director of Concord Art. “The style became popular with the Impressionists, especially Monet, whose haystacks exemplified the change in light over the course of a day. They found that the ability to restore atmosphere and light was easier to do outdoors.

“There is an immediacy to outdoor painting,” said Brigitte “Gitty” Schacher, president of the Newton Watercolor Society. “You feel the heat of the sun, live in the moment and capture the whole experience. You cannot do this by working from a photograph.

Meghan Messer of Dracut paints during an outdoor painting class at Cogswell's Grant in Essex.
Meghan Messer of Dracut paints during an outdoor painting class at Cogswell’s Grant in Essex.Laurie Swope for the Boston Globe / Laurie Swope

Nature is the greatest gift for most outdoor artists, but it can also be the greatest challenge.

“I’m always chasing the weather, the tides, the light and the seasons,” said LaPierre, who paints outdoors every day without it raining. “The days are getting shorter now. When I paint on the coast, I always dress warmly because when the wind picks up, it can be very cold.

Copley Society artist Christine Schoettle of Milton, who works with oil paints, admits that outdoor painting doesn’t come naturally to her.

“It’s a fight. I love being outdoors, but with four kids and two dogs finding the time to paint outside for hours on end is a real challenge, ”she said. “There are more challenges than the painting itself – there’s travel time, setup time, bugs, and transporting a wet canvas. I can probably only paint about 25. % of the time outdoors.

But the hassle is well worth it. “Fall is an incredible season for painting,” said Schoettle, who enjoys “the fireworks of fall colors” on the vast Blue Hills Preserve in Milton, near her home.

Art teacher Jessica Yurwitz, left, works with student Jane O'Maley of Rockport during an outdoor painting class at Cogswell's Grant in Essex.
Art teacher Jessica Yurwitz, left, works with student Jane O’Maley of Rockport during an outdoor painting class at Cogswell’s Grant in Essex. Laurie Swope for the Boston Globe / Laurie Swope

For those short on time, Schacher suggests trying watercolors. “They dry quickly,” she said. “With watercolors, it’s all about timing – you have to catch them when they’re not too wet and not yet dry. Learning to work outdoors takes practice.

Cornog, a retired computer engineer who has painted for 10 years, agrees that watercolors are less messy, more portable and “have a nice transparent effect.”

Being able to go out and paint during the worst days of the pandemic helped Cornog get through this difficult time.

“I belong to the Boston North Artists group and even before people were vaccinated we were outside to paint. We wore masks and we distance ourselves socially, ”she recalls. “We had a few Zoom encounters in the winter, but this year we were able to meet outdoors every week.”

Watercolourist Katie Cornog captured the beauty of autumn on a street in suburban Medford.
Watercolourist Katie Cornog captured the beauty of autumn on a street in suburban Medford.Katie cornog

Concord Art also brought people together during the pandemic, first remotely, then in person.

“Before the pandemic, making art was recognized as a creative and therapeutic process,” Yurwitz said. “When the forties started, art became a popular antidote to anxiety and loneliness. Our business flourished when we brought people together for online classes during the winter and then expanded again by offering a variety of outdoor drawing and outdoor painting classes in the spring.

The varied panoramas of New England, from the rocky coast and serene forests to the bold geometry of the cities, offer limitless landscapes to the open-air painters. The Reservations administrators, Arts of the North Shore of Gloucester and Cohasset South Shore Art Center are just a few of the many organizations in the area that offer outdoor classes online and in person. For artists wishing to share the experience, the Massachusetts Outdoor Artist Group has weekly meetups statewide.

“Fall is a great time to paint in Massachusetts – and especially fun with a group,” Schacher said. “Being with a group of painters brings positive reinforcement. It’s also wonderful because everyone has a different style and outlook.

Boston North Artist Group painted outside every week from May to October. “We mix it with landscapes and cityscapes,” Schacher said. “Outdoor painting gives us a reason to be outdoors to see and appreciate the world around us. “

Linda Greenstein can be reached at [email protected].

Jeff Pacione of Wenham paints during an outdoor painting class at Cogswell's Grant in Essex.
Jeff Pacione of Wenham paints during an outdoor painting class at Cogswell’s Grant in Essex.Laurie Swope for the Boston Globe / Laurie Swope
Sally Modest of Newton painted this during an outdoor painting class at Cogswell's Grant in Essex.
Sally Modest of Newton painted this during an outdoor painting class at Cogswell’s Grant in Essex.Laurie Swope for the Boston Globe / Laurie Swope
This fall view of the Amherst Reservoir was painted by artist Sigmund Roos of Concord.  “I like being outside watching nature,” said the retired lawyer.
This fall view of the Amherst Reservoir was painted by artist Sigmund Roos of Concord. “I like being outside watching nature,” said the retired lawyer. “For me, it’s meditative to be outside and paint. When I paint, I don’t notice the passage of time.”Sigmund roos

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