Painting outdoors is adventurous pursuit

Messenger photos by Kristy Zurbrick

Tom Rodgers of Dublin works to get the colors just right on a painting of Lynne Alexander’s house on North Main Street in London.

Phil Brevick beats the heat in the shade of a pine tree as he works on a small canvas in Cowling Park. The Artists of Madison County member organized a recent paint-out in London.

Painting outdoors has its challenges, like uncooperative weather and changing light.

On Oct. 6, Gary Chaconas of Newark discovered a new challenge as he and a fellow artist were asked to leave the side of an access road that runs adjacent to the Madison Correctional Institution in London. The corrections officer politely explained that Chaconas was on prison property.

The Newark man packed up his easel and paints, headed to Cowling Park in London, and took up where he left off on a painting of cows in a field. He’d gotten a good start on the small canvas, so he relied on memory to finish it out.

Chaconas didn’t mind the disruption. He was just happy to be outside and painting. Chaconas retired a year-and-a-half ago from a job as a postage stamp and bank note engraver. The work required a handheld magnifying glass and cramped quarters.

“Now, I want to do something less confining,” he said, as he applied thick strokes of paint to the pasture on his canvas. “With this, I can be freer.”

Chaconas was among members of the Ohio Plein Air Society who participated in the Artists of Madison County paint-out. Plein Air artists meet regularly at different locations around the state to paint outdoors.

“That’s the nice thing about our club, is that we get to see all parts of the state,” said Chaconas.

The Oct. 6 paint-out was Dublin resident Tom Rodgers’ first visit to London. The subject that caught his eye was Lynne Alexander’s red-shuttered house on North Main Street.

“I like the tree and how it frames the house, the light hitting the shutters, the angles,” said Rodgers, who said time is of the essence when painting outdoors. Shadows and colors change quickly as the sun moves, he said.

Alexander crossed Main Street to check out Rodgers’ work. Another artist had fancied her home as a subject earlier that morning. She said she was thrilled to see what the artists came up with.

Phil Brevick, the Artists of Madison County member who organized the paint-out, chose as his subject a row of houses a bit further south on North Main. To beat the 90-degree heat, he found refuge in the shadow of one of Cowling Park’s pine trees.

“I like the looseness of it,” Brevick said of outdoor painting. “I like that you have to put a timeline on yourself with the hope to have a finished painting at the end of the day.”

The Artists of Madison County have held several paint-outs this summer, and Brevick, a London resident, welcomes them as a “nice variant” from his work as an advertising illustrator and wildlife artist.

Prior to last week’s paint-out, he photo-graphed scenes on Main Street and sent them to the Ohio Plein Air Society as part of an invitation to paint in London.

“There’s such a variety from Cowling Park to Center Street—the nature in the park or the architecture of the houses. There’s a lot to choose from in a small area.”

Marjorie Foulk’s choice was a scarecrow perched on the steps of a house on Park Avenue. For a person who prefers portraiture, painting outdoors is a step outside her comfort zone.

“I’m thinking of joining the Ohio Plein Air Society. It forces you to get it done, plus it’s good to have company,” said the London resident who has been a longtime member of the Artists of Madison County.

To learn more about the local artists’ group, call Alice Kennedy at 740-852-3924 or go to To learn about outdoor painting, go to

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