Karen Cashman, Plein Air Artist


Mill Cove Dinghy oil painting by Karen Cashman

Plein air oil painter Karen Cashman is one of thirty artists participating in the upcoming Paint the Town event sponsored by the Chestertown Arts League, beginning Thursday, April 26 and culminating with the Quick Draw on Sunday, April 29. The Spy caught up with her by phone last week, speaking  from her home in Connecticut.

“I have always wanted to be outdoors,” Cashman explained, “whether it was sports while growing up, or just admiring the landscape.” And although she has taken art courses and participated in plein air workshops, Cashman claims she is mostly self-taught, commenting, “I read a lot of books.”

She paints year round, as do most serious plein air artists. As long as it is over thirty degrees, she’s fine. When asked whether temperature affected the paint, she said that it firms up faster, adding that watercolor artists have more trouble in cold weather. Cashman gravitates to farms and landscapes; the sounds and smells of farms are particularly enticing. And although in the past her favorite painting season has been winter, particularly when skeletons of trees are visible, Cashman said that this year spring has been spectacular.

Cashman will draw right on the canvas with her paintbrush,(unlike some who make a sketch first), and then put in color notes and

Connecticut Plein Air artist Karen Cashman will participate in Paint the Town this week

shadows. Most work is done in one to three hours.  “The light changes so quickly; you may like it better after an hour. You can go back the next day, but the light may be different. It is a challenge.” and, she confessed, ” I always like a challenge.”

Perhaps ten percent of her painting is done in  her studio, but she is happiest outdoors. Cashman is associated with a number of plein air groups in New England, as well as the illustrious Salmagundi Club in NYC. She explained that most groups paint every week, adding that to her, “there is no substitute for getting outside two or three times a week. It teaches color, value, and everything you need to get it down on canvas.”  She continued, ” Even though we may all be painting at the same location, everyone’s work is different; the textures, color palate, brushwork, angle, and size of the painting all vary. A selection of Cashman’s work may be viewed on her website.

You’ll be able to see Cashman and the other plein air artists in action around Chestertown and the surrounding countryside beginning this Thursday, and their results at the “Wet Paint” sale Saturday evening at the Episcopal Church on Cross St., as well as the Quick Draw, Sunday morning at Fountain Park.

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