Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pleine Air on The Banks Of The Schuylkill.

I love the Schuylkill River. Rowers, bridges, changing seasons. Always evolving, yet the constant is beauty,
no matter what the time of year.

Here is an oil done in early spring, about a year ago, just off Montgomery Drive.

But I've never done any paintings of the river from Bartram Gardens, on a bend in the river in southwest Philly. It is the 18th century homestead of America's very first botanist, John Bartram, friend of Benjamin Franklin. The farm and buildings sit on a hill overlooking gardens woods and meadows, with paths leading down to the river below.

 On the opposite shore a pristine swan glided past oil refineries. I visited the gardens to check out the lay of the land, and hopefully encounter artists who were participating in Philly's second annual "Art In The Open" event, all along the banks of the Schuylkill river.

The first artists I found were in the cool interior of the barn. They were participating in a Botanical Painting class. It was very quiet there, and I felt a bit like an intruder.

Outside  was another artist; Carol Philips.   (

 Carol was using actual flower petals, mixed with acrylic medium, to create elegant little paintings reflecting
the beauty found in the gardens.

Beyond a meadow where a brick factory once stood is the skyline of center city Philly, just a bit more than a mile away from the lush natural landscape.

In the middle of the meadow were these two artists, Rebecca Keller and Amber Ginsburg. They'd traveled from  Chicago to participate in the four day event. They asked if I would like to draw, on objects of all kinds that they had dipped into wet plaster, then let dry.

I had fun letting my pencil line take me for a little walk over and around all the bumps and nooks and depressions of the object I'd chosen.

I then added it to the growing pile of  white shapes, each looking like an ancient Pompeian artifact,
on the table-top tableau. What fun!

On the other side of the meadow, in a parking lot at the river's edge, I found Karen Stone, creating a GIANT pleine air painting of what she saw on the river, and the industrial landscape beyond.

Karen's medium was very wide white tape describing in very graphic and simplistic images boats, fish, dock,
and industrial structures. She was delighted to hear from fishermen that her images also glowed in the dark at night. Next time I go to Bartram Gardens, I'll be loaded with gear, and ready to do some Art of my own.


  1. Thank you for this slice of Philadelphia, Bill. I hear your voice in your writing here, and love the authenticity, knowledge, and gentleness of both! The painting of yours at the top of this entry is stunning.

  2. Love your painting. The colors are delicious. I especially liked the purples in the bridge - so unexpected but perfect. I also love your generous spirit towards the other artist you found there.

  3. Thank you friends.
    I do love that river.

  4. How did I miss this!
    Fab activities - I would love to do this.
    The big table still life thing is stupendous!

  5. Thank you PB.
    I'll take you out there one day.