The Asheville Urban Landscape Painters (AULP) group enjoys leaving their studios and painting outdoors in the magnificence of the Western North Carolina landscape. ‘En plein air,’ (literally ‘in the open air’) is a phrase meaning painting outdoors. It’s a method of painting that goes back centuries, but was made famous by French Impressionist painters. It conveys the feeling of air and natural light in the painting — and it’s the freedom to paint without “predetermined looks.”

Think luminous light and air and you’ll understand the artists’ representations, when they paint ‘en plein air.’

Asheville Urban group

The AULP, a networking artists’ group, began in 2014, and now has about 400 artists on its group list. It’s open to all artistic levels and ages.

“We see between 150 – 200 of the artists throughout the year,” said Sue Dolamore, oil and watercolor artist and group leader. “It’s a very active group and a big network for Asheville. We have all levels, from beginners to artists who have been painting their whole lives.”

The artists in the group work in many mediums, including oil, acrylic, pastel, watercolor, sketch pads, collage and mixed media. Dolamore said the artists have differing styles — some more representational (paintings that look like photos); some more impressionistic.

While the Asheville Urban Landscape Painters meet each week to paint at various locations, once a month, during the good weather months of April – October, they meet to watch a demo from a featured artist, then select their own spot to paint ‘en plein air’ at the designated location. After a few hours, the group gathers to show each other their completed work from the paint-out.

Amid the peonies

Dolamore is “always on the search for locations,” and chose Wildcat Ridge Peony Farm, on the edge of Clyde and Crabtree, for the May paint-out.

Owned by Ricardo and Suzanne Fernandez, the farm sits in an idyllic setting, alongside the Pigeon River. May is when the peonies bloom and the farm was bursting with color when the artists visited.

Wildcat Ridge Farm is a riverside haven with the largest collection of peonies in the state of North Carolina. While AULP was painting, other visitors strolled the farm, admiring the peonies and shopping for their home gardens.

Owners Chef Ricardo and Suzanne, who previously owned the Lomo Grill in Waynesville, also prepared a lunch for the artists to be enjoyed al fresco.

“This location generated a lot of enthusiasm,” Dolamore said, “not only for the peonies, but also for it being along the river, since some artists really like to paint riverside. And the lunch by Chef Ricardo in this setting was special.”

Richard Oversmith demo

The demo for the May outing was given by well-known impressionistic painter Richard Oversmith, whose work is exhibited at the Grand Bohemian Gallery in Biltmore Village and others, in and outside of North Carolina.

Dolamore said that Oversmith always draws a crowd, and some 45 artists gathered at Wildcat Ridge Farm to watch him paint and listen to his commentary as he painted.

Oversmith began his painting discussing color, balance between lights and darks, proportion and shapes.

“Good paintings are based on shapes,” Oversmith said as he brushed the blank canvas to rough-in in the trunk of a tree in the peony garden.

While Oversmith starts with an idea or ‘intent,’ he finds that he adjusts the plan as he works.

“A lot is very intuitive, and you can change your plan as you go,” he said. “I work all over the canvas at one time because it helps the harmony of my work.”

He talked about artists he admires, including Claude Monet, “who had well-defined value and shapes,” and Vincent Van Gogh, Oversmith’s “all-time favorite painter, who did his own thing.”

Oversmith took breaks at various stages of painting to answer questions from the artists and chat with them about their work. The peonies in the garden were the lasts bursts of color Oversmith added to his canvass.

“See the light on the peonies,” Oversmith said, “That’s what I was hoping for.”

All the while, there were artists taking notes and close-up photos of the peony blooms to use for future reference. Some of the painters took gorgeous peony stems to paint a still life at home the next day, and Oversmith did just that.

Future group outings

The next Asheville Urban Landscape Painters artist demo is June 6 with acrylic artist Bee Adams at the JuneBug Retro Resort in Weaverville, followed by July’s featured artist, Sandra Moore doing a watercolor demo at Blue Ridge Day Lily Farm in Alexander.

There is no doubt the community of Western North Carolina is enriched with the gifted artists working throughout the mountains — and for the rich treasure-trove of paintings generated by the Asheville Urban Landscape Painters.

“We interact with the community on a weekly basis, sharing the love of our area and art,” Dolamore said on the group’s website. “We paint the town, finding subject matter in a wide variety of venues from urban streets to parks and gardens, invoking appreciation for our beautiful and vibrant environs.”

Dolamore encourages artists to check out the group.

“People don’t realize what great participation we have going to great locations,” Dolamore said. “With great enthusiasm, we celebrate life in Asheville through art.”

Follow Asheville Urban Landscape Painters on Facebook or visit www.ashevilleurban.com. See Richard Oversmith’s work at www.richardoversmith.com. Sue Dolamore’s work can be viewed at www.suedolamore.com or at the Asheville Gallery of Art.

Wildcat Ridge Farm also is the location of the Yin Yurt, a luxury yurt, available for rent on Airbnb. For information on the farm, visit www.wildcatridgefarm.com.

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