Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Plein Air Paint Out Reflections from volunteer and Committee member Ken Thibado

Last Saturday, I relieved Joan Spring from her chilly post at The  

Green Bridge.  I actually didn't recognize her, she was stored so  

deeply in her hooded winter jacket.  Joan had volunteered to stand at- 

the-ready to inform the public about the artists The Arts Center had  

invited to Old Forge for the weekend.  Guide book in hand, and an  

improvised schpeel about the auction silently rehearsing itself, I now  

tucked myself into tweed, and stood at the ready.

Joan pointed out Ingrid Van Slyke, working away at her easel, and  

mentioned that another artist was parked at the other end of the  

bridge.  Without haste, Joan then made a break for her vehicle and  

escaped into the cold morning, no doubt with the heater pinned on high.

I introduced myself to Ingrid and couldn't help but notice that she

was visibly freezing.  Ingrid forced a frozen smile and returned her  

focus to the pastel landscape in front of her.  Eventually Sandy  

Hildreth carried her easel, filled with oil paints, and positioned  

herself next to Ingrid.  As an excuse of chivalry, I offered to get  

the girls warm coffee and a snack from Artist Headquarters, at  

Niccolls Memorial Church.  Both refused, and being only a gilded  

gentleman I deserted them to track down a coffee and bagel.

Upon my return it was apparent Ingrid was nearing completion on what

turned out to be her second pastel of the morning.  In the meantime  

Sandy had laid down her entire background; gray skies, dark blue  

water, and burnt orange foliage.  I, for my part, picked up wind-blown  

Plein Air guidebooks with Lexi (the yellow lab from down the street).

Around one-thirty Ingrid packed up her pastels, promised to return  

once she was warmed through, and headed to Niccolls to frame up her  

landscapes.  Sandy began to correct her painting to match the now  

brighter circumstances of the warming day.  I ate part of my bagel.   

Lexi stared at me while I ate.

Throughout the day we continued like this.  Sandy maneuvered through

a changing scene.  Lexi was loaded into a car and returned to her  

home.  At one point Sandy's paint pan was absconded by the wind and we  

scraped up oil paint from the road surface.   People walked and drove  

by.  I stumbled through my Plein Air schpeel numerous times (never  

saying it the same way twice no matter how hard I tried).  I picked up  

more wind-blown brochures.  Ingrid Van Slyke returned, as did Lexi.  

By the end of day both artists were no longer standing.  The wind  

which had toyed with the artists earlier, now had knocked them to the  

ground.  Sandy Hildreth had folded up the legs of her easel and was  

crouched diligently before her painting.  Ingrid Van Slyke on the  

other hand was kneeling, almost in fetal position, over her last  

pastel landscape of the day.  Visibly suffering, it appeared that as  

though she was using the guardrail to break the force and bite of the  

wind.  Oncoming traffic steered around her position, and without  

seeming to take notice of them she'd turn her head to glance out at  

the Moose River.

Sandy's painting was sober and beautiful, not a bad compliment to


an afternoon that had treated her so grimly.  Later on, Sandy Hildreth  

would frame that painting in gold and donate it to the Arts Center  

auction that signified the end of this year's Plein Air Event.  It  

would be among one of the highest earners in the auction.  She smiled  

Sunday night as an auctioneer coaxed the assembled crowd to bid higher  

and higher, reminding them that it was selling for well below its value.

In the end The Plein Air Artists raised over ten thousand dollars


The Arts Guild of Old Forge.  McCauley Mountain played excellent host  

to the very successful event, as did Niccolls Memorial Church, and The  

Old Forge Fire Hall.  Artists, volunteers and staff spent the late  

evening of Sunday plotting out the second annual event over soup and  


It's easy to wax poetic over artists battling changing light, or  

embattled organizations raising enough support to survive, or  

supportive volunteers pitching in to pull off the unpredictable.   

However, it's important to remember.

We have arbitrary concerns, differing viewpoints, and very real  

carnage that dip and dive into our individual lives.  Regardless of  

what else happened in October of Two-Thousand and Nine, Old Forge was  

subject to something only slightly less ancient than our existence.   

It was recorded visually by artists.  That, as it turns out, is no  

small deed.

I'll never forget Ingrid Van Slyke, hunkered against foul wind and  

oncoming traffic.  Her tiny frame desperate to escape to a heated  

interior, while her stoic artistic pride refused to surrender.   

However, remembering that day has been made easy for me.  My wife, a  

new patron of the arts, Sabrina Thibado, bid on and won Ingrid's last  

pastel from Saturday, October Tenth, Two-Thousand and Nine.

Plein Air Reporter,

Ken Thibado.

1 comment:

  1. I was honored to have been invited to participate in the Old Forge Paint Out and Ken has framed our day at the Green Bridge most eloquently in his words. It's great to hear our contributions raised so much money for the Arts Center.