Perhaps no other artists capture the spirit of the East End’s farms, forests, ponds, bays, salt marsh estuaries, beaches and dunes as well as its plein air painters who set up their easels in their “outdoor studios” in the midst and mists of our storied landscapes. Working on site allows them to capture the authentic light and subtle colors, which they must execute quickly. The three featured here are some of the ten painters and three photographers who belong to Plein Air Peconic, a collaboration with the Peconic Land Trust celebrating its tenth year. The Peconic Land Trust’s mission is to preserve as much of our remaining land as possible for future generations.
Susan D’Alessio began painting on site as a child with her mother, but didn’t return to it till she had already had a career as a product developer, textile designer, and public school art teacher. Inspired by the “coastal light,” she believes that “the direct observation of this landscape increases the ability for my paintings to have feeling as well as a sense of place.” While her subjects change, she often depicts such local sights as farm equipment, boats, birds, and flowers.
For her painting of Georgica Beach Path done last October, she set on canvas “the warm autumn yellows and lingering summer greens in the dune grasses.” Choosing late day, she captured the deep shadows contrasted with dwindling light to emphasize the old coast guard station. The S-shape composition “brings your eye back to the far field preserved by Peconic Land Trust.”
Born and raised in Southampton by a farming family, Eileen Dawn Skretch says her “life has been molded by the expansiveness of the area’s fields and water. As a kid I loved being out in the open field or marsh. Still do.” Painting on wood, the artist chooses from sheets of birch plywood to find the right grain pattern on which to express the setting she has in mind. “I see the scene in the wood before the first brushstroke,” she says. “The pattern gives life to the composition, becoming another layer of the mist, movement in the sky, or a ripple in the water.” She then uses glazes to capture the depth of color while allowing the grain to peek through. For her ‘Pond in Autumn,’ she painted Scallop Pond with a simple Z while highlighting the “play of bright colors.”
As she was growing up out here, she recalls that she could see vast expanses of field and sky. “Some places all the way to the ocean.” Nowadays: not so much.
A Woman For All Seasons
Talking about the process of plein air painting, Joanne Rosko describes the light as “fleeting” and the palette as “alive and moody.” She finds her inspiration in how “light illuminates and creates shadows on the surfaces of land, bounces on the water, or penetrates the foliage. The light plays tricks on you as it changes so rapidly.” Trained in oil painting since she was a young girl, she says that it has been a life long challenge to master.
Of her rendering of the Wolffer Estate vineyard, she says, “I liked the patterns of the vines.” She has painted the view at the corner of Mitchell Lane (now Madonna’s property), during different seasons. “Every year there would be corn, rye or potatoes growing. I’m sad that the view is no longer there. The field was so beautiful.” Accabonac Harbor has also been a favorite site. The one here was painted in the morning. “The color is so different from the late afternoon paintings I’ve done. It was a joyous paint session.”