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Artists in the Village

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Part of the charm of walking through the cobblestoned corridors of European cities is seeing the artists, brush in hand, bringing the urban landscape to life on the canvas.

That idea is one which local artist Mary Ann Burrows would like to bring to Ladner in the form of a venture called Artists in the Village, sans the cobblestones, of course.

Employing a style called “Plein Air” painting, artists will periodically gather at various locations in the village to spend a few hours painting in full view of passersby.

“A lot of people are really interested but it’s quite intimidating being open in public like that,” says Mary Ann, who adds that artists are by nature somewhat shy about having people watch the process.

Moreover, non-artists may not understand that what they’re seeing isn’t the finished product, but just one stage in a painting that requires thousands of brushstrokes.

Still, she and others who turned out for the first event in April insist that Plein Air is the way to go.

“It’s the most freeing way to paint. You have to paint very quickly and balance between the techniques that you’ve learned and your gut intuition of what you’re supposed to do with your brush. And so there’s this dance between that.”

Up until Plein Air was popularized by the great 19th century artists like Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh, art used to be something mainly created inside a studio. But Mary Ann says there’s a “looseness” to the form that shines through in the work of those masters.

“It was successful because the beauty of the work they did was amazing. Because when you’re outside you see light as it’s supposed to look.”

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Not that Plein Air comes without its share of challenges. By painting outside you have to deal with the wind and the sun and other sorts of “environmental” conditions that can influence the final product.

“A couple of years ago we were in a farmer’s field and we got sprayed with manure,” says Mary Ann, who can look back and laugh now.

Mary Ann says when she began Artists in the Village she wanted not only to bring awareness to Plein Air but also create an “artists’ destination” for people to come out and paint and grow the art community.

She insists that participants don’t need to be accomplished to come out and paint, calling it a learning experience. Aspiring artists can walk around and watch what others are doing and even stand beside them and learn their painting techniques.

“Because it’s a process. And that’s how you learn, by spending time with the canvas. So you just have to try it!”

Mary Ann says they’ve since been invited out to places like Westham Island Herb Farm and Wellbrook Winery to be inspired by the sights in those Delta locations.

Delta will be holding a Plein Air event July 17 for the second annual Grand Prix of Art. Registration begins May 2. Visit GrandPrixOfArt.ca for more info.

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