Group Ten Gallery hosts Ohio Plein Air Society II Juried Exhibition

Carolyn Lewis stands by one of her compositions.

Chris Ramos

The city of Kent became a source of inspiration as painters scattered throughout the streets while creating a snapshot of the scene around them.

Group Ten Gallery kicked off the Ohio Plein Air Society Juried II Exhibition on Saturday, May 19. Charles Basham, a painting professor at Kent State, selected the compositions showcased in the gallery.

The French term En plein air means “outside” and artists use this to term as a foundation, requiring artists to leave their studio and submerge themselves into the environment while paying close attention to the quality of light. Plein air painting traces its roots back to the 19th century Impressionists.

“Plein air painting gives you the sense that you don’t have to be an amazing artist,” Doreen St. John said.

St. John is the secretary of the Ohio Plein Air Society. The society consist of artists from all over Ohio and surrounding states who share a common love for outdoor painting. She has been an avid painter for years, beginning with watercolor painting in 1979.

“With plein air painting, you are essentially translating the environment with your eyes,” St. John said.

She said oil paint primarily is preferred because the Impressionists used oil. Although there are watercolor compositions; watercolor paint is more susceptible to the environment.

Carolyn Lewis, a charter member of the OPAS, shared the same warm sentiments regarding plein air painting.

“I am a nature lover, I love being outdoors,” Lewis said. “Sunsets and sunrises are the hardest images to paint because you only have minutes.” 

Lewis has taught workshops for 30 years in the U.S. and internationally. She has been to Italy, Scotland and Wales. Lewis served as a juror for exhibitions and is the author of “Painting Mood and Atmosphere in Oils” published by North Light Books.

“When you ask artists how long they have been painting, they’ll always tell you that they’ve been doing it their entire life,” Lewis said.

Lewis and St. John are also signature members in the Oil Painters of America.

Before the jurors came to a decision on the winning piece in the gallery, a quick-draw competition kicked off the festivities.

Plein air artists took their canvases and brushes, picked a location in the city and painted. The event was open to the public, which allowed anyone to join for $10.

Unfortunately, the forecast prevented many artists from participating. The overcast may have kept the lighting consistent for the painters, but the humidity grew heavier.

Within 30 minutes of the competition, violent rain began to power wash the city of Kent. Artists were forced to take cover and had to adapt to this chaotic dynamic. There would be no extended time due to the inclement weather. Eventually, the rain stopped.

After the artists’ time was up, the plein air painters regrouped at the Group Ten Gallery for the evening reception which offered food and glasses of wine. The gallery’s doors were swinging open every few seconds, as the public wanted to observe the eight quick draw entries and the works on display.

Dino Massaroni was the winner of the competition and Janet Stolle, a Kent State alumna, was the winner of the exhibition.

The Ohio Plein Air Society II Juried Exhibition runs through June 22 at the Group Ten Gallery in Kent. The event is open to the public and compositions can be purchased. A full listing of can be found on the OPAS event website.

Chris Ramos is a general assignment reporter. Contact him at [email protected].