Watching Artist Is Hard To Leave Off

Art Review

July 26, 2009|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Taking its origins from 17th-century Paris salons, the summer salon show tradition flourishes every July at Annapolis galleries, which hold invitational exhibits to showcase artists' new works.

Last weekend this event was celebrated at McBride Gallery on Main Street, where for the past 29 years gallery owner Cynthia McBride has introduced a growing number of first-rate representational artists to local admirers. The shows encourage artists and viewers to get acquainted through an understanding of the artist's work.

Featured artist Scott Lloyd Anderson conducted a three-hour plein-air painting demonstration, followed by an evening artists reception that included Anderson discussing his work.

Born in 1958 in Atlanta, Anderson grew up in Chicago and moved to Minnesota in 1980. After spending 22 years as a magazine designer, he left his computer in 2001 to paint outside. He studied with artists who had been taught by American Impressionist Frank Vincent Dumond of Old Lyme, Conn., and incorporated Dumond's prismatic color palette to capture nature.

Anderson describes his paintings as "impressionistic in describing the unique character of a particular day's weather and light, and realistic in their desire to show the world as it is." He uses "the language of landscape to express abstract notions about color, form, design - and simply for the pleasing texture of paint on canvas."

Marked by a large open umbrella above the sidewalk on Main Street, the artist's site was easy to locate and hard to leave as we watched him create. He worked to capture the scene directly across the street, where Chancery Lane climbs between Colonial brick buildings up a hill to State Circle, and the State House dome is outlined by the sky.

At midafternoon, Anderson was applying the darker colors from his palette mixed from patches of umber, cobalt and crimson to dissolve into deep neutral tones on the canvas. As the artist worked in sure strokes, capturing the natural light, this early process gained a certain lyricism from a young man seated on the steps playing classical flute music.

Adding a distinctly Annapolis flavor to the scene, the musician lent scale and human warmth to Anderson's evolving work. Some minutes after our arrival, the musician left the steps and crossed Main Street to chat with Anderson, who had persuaded him to stay for a $10 fee in a gesture of an artist supporting a fellow artist.

How he does it

During our two-hour stay, we watched Anderson's painting take form.

Working continuously, Anderson's goal was to capture nature at that particular instant. He applied pure white lines to capture the brightness of columns bathed in sun. White window frames were represented by simple lines. A fascinating dialogue concerned capturing the color of the concrete steps, which came alive as he added green to gray for realism, and purple to shadows.

Painting nature is spellbinding to watch. Light changed as cumulus clouds moved across the sky and behind the State House dome. None dared ask the artist about adding these clouds, certain they were recorded in his mind's eye, and we later discovered them captured at their natural perfection.

We reluctantly left the plein-air demonstration to view Anderson's paintings inside McBride Gallery. Several required study - a flower-bedecked European balcony with a folded umbrella observed from below with sunlight falling on the lower wall; another scene with subtle natural color and atmosphere that captured a gentle Minnesota spring breeze and a distinctive verdant spring green.

Far removed from Monet's famous haystacks, Anderson's Minnesota haystacks are neat utilitarian objects shown in spring in one gallery room, and snow-topped mounds in a smaller painting in another room.

At his evening talk Anderson said his mother had been an artist, as had his grandfather, and he had been drawing for as long as he could remember. He said getting laid off from his designer job was "the greatest thing that ever happened to me."

He studied with excellent teachers who helped him to learn about art, but he cautioned his artist listeners to learn what a teacher has to offer and move on.

"I go out and find something to celebrate in the visual world," Anderson said. "Everybody understands landscape. The main thing is to capture the atmosphere and light of a particular place at one time."

If you go

"Summer Salon Show," McBride Gallery, 215 Main St. in Annapolis, presents recent paintings by 15 artists with Scott Lloyd Anderson as the featured artist. The exhibit runs through Friday. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 p.m. Thursday and noon to 5:30 p.m. today. 410-267-7077.

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