Plein-Air Classes in a Garden

Barbara Thomas will teach painting at some of the most well-tended gardens on the South Fork this summer.

    The Parrish Art Museum in South­ampton is offering a series of plein-air classes taught by Barbara Thomas beginning Tuesday and continuing through Aug. 16. She will be instructing in gouache watercolor at Bridge Gardens, the LongHouse Reserve, and the Madoo Conservancy. She taught a similar class last year at Madoo.
    “The Parrish asked me to do it because I’m a garden painter. We had a dozen students and painted once a week in the gardens.” This year, they decided to branch out to capture the unique character of each garden.
    While each features sculpture, she said Madoo’s gardens in Sagaponack function as rooms, which are very much individual environments. “It’s about capturing the light of the setting.” At Bridge Gardens in Bridgehampton there are “extraordinary flowers and plants. It offers a great place to do a little bit more botanical study.” Of LongHouse in East Hampton, she said that it offers a wonderful combination of both rooms and flowers. “It’s extraordinary and arresting with the sculpture, and offers a larger, wider landscape, another thing to paint.”
    “It’s a real community thing to bring the gardens to students, and the paintings create a record of the gardens.”
    Ms. Thomas said she enjoyed letting her students in on “tricks of the trade” to capture certain effects and get them past what has eluded them previously.
    She also wanted to dispel the idea that gouache, an opaque watercolor, was a difficult medium to master. “It works like oil paint, you can make it thin or thick. It’s also very forgiving if you make mistakes, as opposed to transparent watercolor.” She added that it was a good stepping stone to oil paint for those who might be intimidated by that medium.
    The ideal class size being sought is 6 to 12 students, but she said she would add a Thursday class if more people enroll. She will welcome beginners as well as more experienced painters.
    “Learning something new, that you have never done before, is the ultimate personal challenge. I feel like I have a way to make people feel they are not messing up, and can really work at it.” She said the classes also change the way people look at art. “Once you have painted, then you really know what goes into it. It’s a great addition to art appreciation.”
    Classes will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the various locations. The six-week series, which will start with two sessions at Bridge Gardens and end at Madoo, costs $400, $350 for Parrish members.
    Cynthia Knott will also teach a plein-air class from Monday to Wednesday next week through Guild Hall. She will choose sites around East Hampton. The three-day class costs $270, $250 for members.