Landscape painters take their brushes indoors

May 12, 2006|By SANDY ALEXANDER | SANDY ALEXANDER,SUN REPORTER

The Washington Society of Landscape Painters was formed in 1913 to support artists painting outdoors.

But eight members of the group recently captured an intimate pub corner, a crowded general store, dolls in an antiques shop and a waitress preparing for the evening rush, among other interior scenes.

Their work is part of the exhibit The Intimate Ellicott City, which runs through June 4 at Andrei Kushnir/Michele Taylor, LLC American Painting gallery on Main Street in Ellicott City.

Gallery co-owner Kushnir, who is a member of the landscape society, said he was inspired to suggest the show by his experience painting at Sarah and Desmond's coffee shop last year.

He said he was interested to see what the landscape painters would do when asked to turn their attention indoors.

"I try to do one show featuring Ellicott City each year," said Kushnir, who lives in Bethesda and opened the gallery with Taylor in 2002. "By getting the society involved [in this exhibit], I thought we'd be able to present more variety and individual styles."

In recent years, the landscape society, which has 40 members admitted by jury, has held one-day "paint-outs" on the streets of Ellicott City. Kushnir has displayed the results in past exhibits.

The 19 paintings in the current show "are not only enjoyable to look at," Kushnir said, "they capture the historic town at a particular moment in time."

While landscapes - particularly of natural settings - can often appear timeless, Kushnir said, "genre paintings [a term for a painting of real life] really tell you about not just the painters, but the time."

For one of his paintings, Kushnir set up his easel for two days in Yates market, a long-standing general store on Main Street.

He said he used his landscape experience to capture the shelves and cases crowded with groceries without getting caught up in every detail.

When painting a landscape, "you can't paint every leaf," he said. "You try to approximate the feel. I had to use that same kind of technique."

Painting indoors, he said, "is a more controlled environment. You're no longer in a race against the sun."

Other painters chose not to paint on site but went to Ellicott City and "took a whole lot of pictures and did a whole lot of shopping," Kushnir said.

Nancy Tankersley, a painter and gallery owner from Easton, used photographs taken in Tersiguel's restaurant to capture the gestures of the people and the shapes in the scene. Then, in her studio, she changed the elements as needed.

"I try to eliminate anything in the background that is not important to my idea," she said. "For me, it's really just the abstract shapes that the figures form. ... I like to capture extreme contrasts in light."

Tankersley painted portraits for many years before deciding 10 years ago to focus on landscapes with figures in them. She said she enjoyed having a theme to work with.

Barbara Nuss, a painter from Woodbine, said she had wanted to paint some scenes inside art galleries when the Ellicott City interiors show came up.

She said she is interested in "how people react to a painting on a wall in a gallery. [I want] to be able to convey that feeling."

In the current show, she has a painting of Kushnir and an artist examining a painting in the Kushnir/Taylor gallery.

The painting Kushnir is depicted holding also is in the show. It is a still life of books, a plant and a statue on a shelf that Nuss created with objects from Gramp's Attic Books on Main Street. That painting is in the highly realistic trompe l'oeil style (meaning "fool the eye").

Nuss said she enjoys using Ellicott City as a subject. "I love it because its got history, and ... it looks sort of unplanned. It has a lot of textures, and it's just a fun place."

Lani Browning, a painter from Dunn Loring, Va., said that on a Sunday trip to Ellicott City she took photographs all over town.

For the show, she painted the glass canisters of biscotti at Sarah and Desmond's, a bunch of windows resting on the floor of Caplan's Antiques, two people having a drink at Ellicott Mills Brewing Co., a window full of cakes at Fisher's Bakery and the busy interior of What's IN Store.

"It was a nice change of pace this winter to work on interiors," she said.

Also for the show, Richard Whiteley of Alexandria, Va., painted baskets hanging in Cottage Antiques. Genevieve Roberts of Ashton focused on antiques stores as did Mary Kokoski of Catonsville. Barbara Piegari of Ashton captured Brendle the dog at the Yuppy Puppy Pet Boutique and dolls at Taylor's Antique Mall.

sandy.alexander@baltsun.com

Andrei Kushnir / Michele Taylor American Painting is at 8289 Main St., Ellicott City. Hours or information: 410-465-4467.

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