With a curve of blue water winding back through a marsh or a sandy path through the dunes, Nancy Thomas’s oil paintings invite you in. The Eastern Shore’s watery landscapes are her favorite subject, and she captures the light and color of marshes, trees and curving waterways in her show, Trees, Trails & Waterways, on view in the Adkins Arboretum Visitor’s Center through Oct. 27. There will be a reception on Sat., Sept. 9 from 2 to 4 p.m.
There’s a gentle feeling of peace in “Urieville Lake.” Lush trees catch the light and throw warm shadows onto its calm water while lily pads float lazily in the foreground. Created during this year’s “Paint the Town,” Chestertown’s annual plein air festival, it’s an inviting portrait of a warm summer’s day.
Plein air painting is an increasingly popular form of art whose name comes from the French for “open air” and refers to painting outdoors. But it’s more than just working at an easel in the open air. It’s a form of landscape painting aimed at capturing an intense and intimate impression of a landscape.
“I particularly enjoy the immediacy of plein air painting and the constant decision-making it entails,” Thomas said. “One has to decide what to include and what to edit out and when to commit to the ever-changing shadow patterns. During this process, I feel most alive.”
Thomas has been an avid plein air painter since she moved to the Eastern Shore from Alexandria, Va., in 1994. She regularly paints with the Plein Air Painters of the Chesapeake Bay and participates in many plein air festivals, including Plein Air Easton, Chestertown’s Paint the Town, Artists Paint OC in Ocean City and Paint It! Ellicott City. She’s a member of the Baltimore Watercolor Society, the Oil Painters of America and the Working Artists Forum and has been a partner in The Artists’ Gallery in Chestertown since 2010.
Thomas has a flair for capturing momentary experiences. Her loose brushwork and strong, often surprising color choices give her paintings a lively energy and a compelling sense of discovery. Marsh grasses glow chartreuse, emerald, ochre and cinnamon brown in “Assateague Favorite View,” while pale blue water catches reflections in its rippling surface. A fleeting glimpse of sunlight glows on the angular branches of a cedar in “Last Light,” while in “Peaceful View,” late summer trees lean toward a hot, pale sun glowing in the hazy sky.
“Whatever the landscape, it is the light that determines what one will paint,” Thomas explained. “It is the attempt to capture a moment in time.”
This show is part of Adkins Arboretum’s ongoing exhibition series of work on natural themes by regional artists. It is on view through Oct. 27 at the Arboretum Visitor’s Center located at 12610 Eveland Road near Tuckahoe State Park in Ridgely. Contact the Arboretum at 410-634-2847, ext. 100 or [email protected] for gallery hours.