`Plein air' artists enjoy cool pastime

Painters of winter scenes are to be featured on MPT program Sunday

February 21, 2002|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Every winter, many Marylanders head for Deep Creek Lake to enjoy the pleasures of snow tubing, skiing and snowboarding. But John Ebersberger finds his cold-weather fun in another pursuit: painting.

The Annapolis-based artist was part of a band of five painters who traveled to Western Maryland last month to experience the joys of "plein air painting," portraying light through the use of color as was done by 19th-century American Impressionists. The group's trip will be featured on Maryland Public Television's Outdoors Maryland in an episode to be aired 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

Ebersberger, 45, has gone to Deep Creek Lake every year for at least 15 years to spend days in the cold air, catching the ever-changing shades of winter on canvas.

"The specific focus on these trips is the winter light and extraordinary range of colors," Ebersberger says. "These colors are produced by the reflective properties of the snow. The group has changed over the years, but the artistic spirit and intention has not: to paint as well as we can the beauty and majesty of nature."

The other members of the group that went to Deep Creek Lake last month were John Todd and Sarane McHugh, artists from Easton who have attended Ebersberger's classes at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis; Sharon Littig, a full-time art teacher at South River High School whose work is exhibited at the Marine Art Gallery at City Dock; and Abigail McBride, an artist from Annapolis.

Littig has gone on the past five painting trips to Deep Creek Lake, producing several snow scenes while recording others' work by serving as group photographer. McBride, who has also gone to Deep Creek Lake for several years, finds the experience "amazingly productive because everyone is there for the same reason: to paint. There is a real sense of camaraderie and fun. We motivate and egg each other on to get out there and do the best painting possible."

Recalling that Monet used a coal heater when he created his ice floe paintings in the cold, the 27-year-old artist says modern technology has made it simpler for today's painters.

Before buying her lightweight snowsuit this year, McBride described herself as the "Sta-Puff Marshmallow painter," wearing several layers of clothing including three shirts, an Irish cable wool sweater, a turtleneck and a raincoat.

Having come a long way with the benefits of modern technology in the form of snowsuits and chemical heat packets, McBride says, members continue to experiment.

"I actually paint with a wool sock over my painting hand," she says. "The palette knife just sticks out of a hole in the sock. That way, I can actually hold the handle of the knife with my bare fingers inside the sock and have total tactile sensation and control."

Susanne Stahley, a segment producer for Outdoors Maryland, described her experience with the painters at Deep Creek Lake as "a very creatively energizing experience."

"John and the entire group of fine artists have a remarkable appreciation of nature and its complexity," Stahley says. "They are committed, earnest and unflagging in their effort to capture the changing beauties of sunlight and color. My effort as a filmmaker was to capture the intensity of those creative moments, inspired by nature."

An exhibition of the group's winter landscapes will be displayed Monday through March 5 at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts' A.I.R. Gallery. The public is invited to a reception for the artists from 6 to 8 p.m. March 1.

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