Artwork by Julie Bradbury-Bennett, Brian Belfield, Jeannie Petaja, David Peterson, Ronald Oliver, Leslie Jakes and Tricia de Luna will remain on display through Sept. 1.
Founded by Rod Lindgren 10 years ago, the Plein Air Painters Meetup Group now has more than 600 members. He had formed the meet-up because he wanted to meet other plein-air painters.
“Now we get to show each other the work we started with and where we have ended up. We have all grown in our technique. Plein-air painting is different from any other painting form. You can’t edit plein-air,” Lindgren said.
There were nods of agreement all around from the exhibiting artists.
“Capturing the place and time, the weather and tide and light – all that affects what you see,” said Belfield, who has done plein-air work for 10 years.
Like most of his plein-air painter friends, Belfield tries to finish on-site a painting within three hours.
“After that, the light changes so much that you might as well start a new painting. So I try to capture the light and shadow as soon as I can, and get everything down in blocks of color, then work on the details later,” Belfield explained.
Sunset Cliffs is one of Belfield’s favorite places to paint. “It’s beautiful and the energy of the waves energizes my paintings,” he said.
Ten-year member Jeannie Petaja had been a studio painter before she began plein-air painting.
“It’s so different from studio painting. With a beautiful place like the beach or Sunset Cliffs, you have quite a large view, so you have to find your composition right away.
“And you have to be willing to have people talk to you when you paint. But I like that. I like it especially when the kids come by to talk with me,” said Petaja.
Ronald Oliver, a member since 2012, has been taken with the idea of plein-air painting since he was 5 years old. “I saw a painter working outdoors when I was very young, and I thought of him as a true artist,” he said.
For decades, Oliver has been a successful painter of still life and abstracts. But he always had plein-air painting in the back of his mind as something to pursue.
“So I googled it one day and discovered this meetup. It’s been great because I have met all these wonderful people and I get ideas and help from other painters,” said Oliver, who has several larger-frame paintings of Cabrillo on exhibit at the library.
David Peterson also paints with gusto on-site with his fellow meetup members. Some of his favorite subjects include Point Loma and Sunset Cliffs. He considers himself still a beginner, however, because he started plein-air fairly recently when he returned to San Diego after many years of pastoring and doing studio painting for 30 years.
According to Peterson, the most challenging, yet the most endearing qualities of plein-air painting, have to do with the environment. Once when he was painting outdoors, a screw came loose from his easel and he had to rope it onto some barbed wire. Another time painting outside, he realized his leg was hurting badly.
“I looked down and I saw all these ants crawling up my leg,” he said, remembering, with a laugh.
“In a regular art studio, you’re all comfy with the air conditioner on and no worries of flies or bees landing on your painting.
“But it’s all worth it. I’m happy every moment I am doing this. I can stand and work even with my sore knees. And it’s hard to beat the sun and surf and the sound of the sea,” said Peterson.
San Diego Plein-Air Painters Meetup Group has regular on-site paintings and other outings, thanks to Julie Bradbury-Bennett. “Julie does a really nice job of organizing,” said Oliver.
Bradbury-Bennet smiled in response. “Come on out and give us a try,” she said. “You don’t have to be a great painter, or even an experienced one, to enjoy the learning with others and being out-of-doors. If nothing else, you can enjoy the view.”
At times, beginning plein-air painter Ruth Anne Swiderski has done just that, even going for a hike after talking with and learning from her fellow members as they paint at various places around the county.
“It’s a great way to get outdoors and learn the different places in San Diego and get to know the people,” said Swiderski.