Every summer Ellicott City poses for its picture on a July weekend, as artists set up their easels and have a plein air paint-out event in this picturesque location.
Much of the resulting artwork then goes on display at the Howard County Arts Council, whose "Paint It! Ellicott City 2015" amounts to a walking tour you can take without leaving an air-conditioned gallery.
This exhibit was coordinated by Selection Juror Valerie Craig and Awards Judge Gary Pendleton. They've picked work that literally reflects Ellicott City in different kinds of light. Similarly, there is a spectrum of subject matter ranging from landmark structures to less expected views.
Some of the artists set up along Main Street and depict its commercial life. Alexander Wissel's oil painting "Journey from Junk" depicts a storefront whose front window is full of assorted items for sale, and it's a sale that extends toobjects resting out on the sidewalk too. A signboard on the sidewalk reading "Hello Summer" offers yet another reason to linger.
Venturing indoors, Charles Snell's oil painting "Ellicott City Brewing Co." depicts an establishment where, one need hardly add, it's nice to linger. Customers relaxing at tables are backed by the tanks and other equipment used to brew what they're drinking.
The shops lining Main Street lead down to the Patapsco River, which remains a favored subject for many artists.
Lissa Abrams' oil painting "Cairns in the Patapsco" calls your attention to the recent practice of piling small stones atop one another in the river. That subject also appealed to Chrissy Pahucki, whose acrylic painting "Water Under the Bridge" shows cairns placed in the water beneath a bridge.
Whether setting up along Main Street or down by the river, most of the artists paint these familiar scenes during daylight hours. Some, however, opt for nocturnal hours.
Michael Bare's oil painting "The Presence of the Past" has a few buildings you can make out within the blurry darkness, which is only illuminated a little by two street lamps. Alexander Wissel's oil painting "Judge's Light" similarly has no more than a bit of light emanating from under this restaurant awning.
Joanne Bare's oil painting "10:10 to Ellicott City," however, deploys a sharper focus for its depiction of several buildings and a church steeple beneath a very deep blue night sky.
Regardless of whether they work by day or night, a number of artists like to show how completely this town essentially melts into its hilly setting. There is a pastoral quality to Lida Stifel's oil painting "The Painter," which offers a soft-focus view of the bridge over the Patapsco. She uses melting tones of green for both the water and the trees.
Maria Marino's soft pastel "Enchanting Woods" deploys fast-seeming strokes of intense color to effectively merge houses and forest together.
The melding of architecture and nature is something beautiful to behold in picture after picture, but then you come up against what might be described as an anti-pastoral picture: Ken Karlic's watercolor "The Graveyard," which is a clear-eyed view of a junked truck and scrap metal. This watercolor's tones of gray and rust are carefully arranged and so there is an unconventional beauty here.
If most artists opt for panoramic views of this old mill town or at least a look down the block, there are some who prefer tightly cropped views that make you focus on things you otherwise might walk right by.
Kathleen G. Kotarba's oil painting "Hill Street Garden" depicts a modest flower garden in front of a window. Brian E. Gray's oil painting "Mount Ida" only presents a corner of that historic mansion; and his pastel "To Tiber Alley" emphasizes how an old building was constructed directly above a narrow, rocky stream. You'll look more closely the next time you walk through town.
Also exhibiting are Duane Sabiston, Ann Jagielski Crostic, Greg Johannesen, Bruno Baran, Deborah Lovelace Richardson, Roberta M. Staat, Joanna Barnum, Elissa Gore, David Diaz, Mary Boeh, Deborah Cole, Michael Kotarba, Steve Stannard and Janice Kirsh.
"Paint It! Ellicott City 2015" runs through Aug. 21 in Gallery I at the Howard County Arts Council, 8510 High Ridge Road in Ellicott City. Running concurrently in Gallery II is "Present Past," featuring work by Michelle Rogers and George L. Smyth. Call 410-313-2787 or go to www.hocoarts.org.