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Chester County Press

Art en plein aire

09/19/2019 02:29PM ● By J. Chambless

'Reflections of Autumn' by Kathy Ruck.

By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

Artistic painting, or at least the creation of that which is ultimately conveyed to a canvas of colors, texture and narrative, is often a solitary pursuit, hammered out mostly in the confines of both space and mind.

For many artists, these are the moments that provide the twin elements of breakthrough and terror, inspiration and self-doubt, and the repeat of the question that every artist worth their weight in paint cans asks in those moments: Is this any good?

For many artists, when the walls of a studio seem to concave and the interior voice becomes too persistent, they feel the need to take their paints and canvases and break free.

For five consecutive hours on October 12, eight Brandywine Valley artists will get to do just that. The third annual Art in the Preserve, sponsored by the Friends of the White Clay Creek Preserve, will invite the public to watch the artists work outdoors along the White Clay Creek Preserve, at locations of their choosing near the London Tract Meeting House.

This year's participating artists will include: Stephen Burke, Carol Gray, Betsy Greer, Mary Lou Hamilton, Roe Murray, Kathy Ruck, Mayura Simha and Joan Supplee.

“Along these trails, within close proximity to the meeting house, our artists will be set up and paint, and the idea of the event is to encourage connection between the guest, the artist, the work and the nature that surrounds everything,” said Shawn McCarren, Friends of the White Clay Creek Preserve volunteer and event organizer. “The idea is that visitors can ask participating artists what inspires them, ask them questions about their art, and enjoy the beauty of the location.”

For Hockessin artist Stephen Burke – who will be attending the Art in the Preserve for the third time – plein aire painting has become an artistic calling. Largely on the influence of his wife – fellow artist Anne Marvin – Burke began painting when he was 45, and following studies at the Cape Cod School of Art, he embarked on an artistic journey that has taken he and Marvin to the Canadian Rockies and several national parks around the United States

“Plein aire painting allows me the chance to paint nature and God’s creation in its truest form,” Burke said. “From this standpoint, I see the color and the light and the shadows and the shapes and the values that make a painting come to life. You can’t truly paint that from photographs.

“At the same time I am painting, I can smell the air, hear the birds, feel the breeze through the trees, and hear the water. It’s an incredible connection with creation that I get to experience.”

For the past three decades, watercolor and pastel artist Kathy Ruck has lived in Landenberg, and during that time, her paintings have served as a continuing document to the natural beauty of the area. Now in her third year at the Art in the Preserve, Ruck feels emotionally and artistically tethered to the Preserve

“The Preserve has been a constant inspiration for me as an artist,” she said. “I was recently thinking about how many paintings I’ve done in the Reserve since I became an artist, and by my count, it must be very close to one hundred.”

To Ruck, plein aire painting is “connecting with nature,” she said. “You find a lot of that in Landenberg. I love that we are given the constant change of four seasons here, and combined with the  remnants of what came before us, it lends an added appreciation to my work.”

Speaking with the artists in their domain is only one of the many events planned for Oct. 12. An exhibition and sale of the participating artists' work will be held in the London Tract Meeting House on the day of the event, and a percentage of proceeds from the sale of their work will be given to the Friends of the White Clay Creek Preserve, to help pay for beautification projects, maintenance improvements and educational programs. The event will also include history hikes with Friends of the White Clay Creek Preserve volunteers, a family hike and children's art class and live music by Fishcastle.

Visitors will also be encouraged to visit the Landenberg Store for lunch, or stop by 1723 Vineyards or Paradocx Vineyards, all a short drive from the Preserve.

 Art in the Preserve will take place on Oct. 12, near the London Tract Meeting House, 3027 London Tract Road in Landenberg, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The rain date will be Oct. 13. Parking will be available near the London Tract Meeting House, and admission is free. For updates on the event, visit Friends of the White Clay Creek Preserve at their Facebook page.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email

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