Artists go on location in Columbia

Howard County Times

Don’t be surprised if you see a lot of artists working on location at Lake Kittamaqundi and Wilde Lake on Saturday, Sept. 8 from 8:30 a.m.- 5 p.m. They’re participating in the second annual “Color Columbia Plein Air Paint Out.”

Even if you miss them in action during that one-day event, you can see the resulting paintings, watercolors, drawings and prints in a follow-up exhibit at the sponsoring Columbia Art Center. Its opening reception on Saturday, Sept. 15, from 2 to 4 p.m., includes giving out monetary awards, and the exhibit then continues through Sept. 30.

“There is a very spontaneous, in-the-moment quality about having to make the work in a quantified time frame,” said Columbia Art Center Director Liz Henzey. “Very little refinishing is allowed, and so it just flows as they’re doing the work on site. The artists love painting on the spot and don’t mind having people watch them. People have really embraced the idea of having a plein air event in Columbia.”

In addition to watching artists in action, Henzey said that people at the Lake Kittamaqundi site will be able to listen to poetry readings organized by the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society.

Henzey said her inspiration for having such an event in Columbia came from the already-existing plein air paint out that the Howard County Arts Council sponsors in historic Ellicott City every July.

A sign that last year’s inaugural event in Columbia went over well with the participating artists is that many of the 45 artists who took part in last year’s event are among the 45 artists taking part this year.

Among those returning is Ellicott City artist Joyce Bell. Last year she did a watercolor depicting houses along Wilde Lake, and this year she plans to return to that same area.

“I like it that you have to do it right on location, and that a whole lot of people stopped by to talk,” Bell said.

Of course, working on location involves considerations that differ from being inside a climate-controlled studio.

“I can’t tolerate the heat, so it’s important for me to have a hat and a shady spot,” Bell laughed.

Also, the temperature and humidity level affect the drying time for watercolor, she added.

Bell, 71, is a member of the Artists’ Gallery in Ellicott City and also the Baltimore Watercolor Society. Other local venues at which she has exhibited her work include the Bernice Kish Gallery at Slayton House, which is situated a short distance from her favored outdoor spot at Wilde Lake. Bell also teaches at the Columbia Art Center.

Although a majority of the participating artists live in Howard County, Henzey said that artists from elsewhere are also drawn to this opportunity to work outdoors in Columbia.

Mike McSorley, who lives in Washington, D.C., set up near Lake Kittamaqundi last year and is returning there this year. He noted that his planning for such an event involves bringing an umbrella “to keep the light out of my eyes and off the painting itself.”

That waterfront location will provide him with the perfect spot to make an oil painting in which he intends to creatively explore reflections playing across the surface of the lake.

McSorley, 61, is a semi-retired art handler who works part-time as a museum assistant at the Phillips Collection in Washington. He mostly does still-life paintings in his indoor studio, and said that is why he looks forward to getting out of his studio and making the trip to the downtown lakefront in Columbia.

For more info about the plein air paint out on Sept. 8 at Lake Kittamaqundi and Wilde Lake, and the exhibit from Sept. 15- 30 at the Columbia Art Center, 6100 Foreland Garth in Long Reach Village Center, call 410-730-0075 or go to

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