The tradition of plein air painting, or painting in the outdoors directly from the landscape, goes back centuries and includes great Impressionist masters such as Monet, Renoir and Pissarro.
Even today, artists continue to work this way.
But why go to all the effort of hauling an easel and paints out into the wild, when one can so easily capture the entire scene by snapping a few digital photos on a smartphone? It turns out there are many advantages to painting the old-fashioned way.
"The artists are energized by the living environment, the movement, the wind and the smells," said artist Carol Foster of the Barrington Cultural Arts Center. "The painting is more alive than a photograph or any other two-dimensional medium. The painting becomes more emotional not only to the artists but to the viewer."
The Forest Preserves of Cook County is teaming up with the Barrington Cultural Arts Center to celebrate both local landscape and artistic talent at Art in Nature, hosted by Crabtree Nature Center Barrington Hills 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29. The event attracts thousands of visitors each year.
Visitors to Art in Nature will be able to peer over the shoulders of 50 artists capturing the beauty of the prairies and woods along Crabtree's trails. Members of the public can watch canvasses fill with color and speak with the artists about what they're doing.
The artists have a lot to inspire them. In late September, the vast acreage surrounding Crabtree Nature Center is a riot of color -- the prairies are vibrant with wildflowers, especially asters and goldenrods, while oaks are beginning to adopt warm autumn hues.
Visitors will be able to vote for their favorite painting and browse artists' work for sale. Adults can take painting lessons, and kids can sculpt with clay, paint or draw.
Food, live musicians and performance artists add to the ambience. And visitors have the opportunity to stroll over three miles of trails.
"Art in Nature gives folks a chance to see nature through an artist's eyes," says Crabtree Nature Center director Jeff Rapp. "We hope that folks who visit not only enjoy watching the process of capturing the natural world through a brush, but may be inspired to give it a whirl themselves."
The free event is at 3 Stover Road, one mile west of Barrington Road on Palatine Road. To learn more, visit fpdcc.com/art-in-nature, or call (847) 381-6592.