Painting takes his brushes and easel outdoors

Not even a hurricane can keep J. Allison Robichaud from practising his art.

A Canadian landscape painter now living in Sarnia, Robichaud is known for his “plein aire” or open air technique, which means working outdoors with his paints and easel.

In November of 2012 as Superstorm Sandy pummeled the city, Robichaud was determined to capture the bruising wind and waves at Canatara Park.

“My umbrella is tied down and I was painting away,” he says with a chuckle. “I kept that painting for six months but then I painted over it.”

Painting over canvases is something Robichaud does a lot. Though he produces about 120 pieces a year, mostly landscapes and still lifes, he keeps only the best two dozen, which sell in the range of $500 to $2,000.

“That’s where you drive yourself crazy,” he says. “Good is the enemy of best, and only you can decide whether it’s good enough.”

Born in New Brunswick, Robichaud is represented by galleries in Ontario and Quebec and has staged more than 20 solo exhibitions. He’s also the author of three books on painting, including his latest, Plein Air Painting by a Plein Air Master, copies of which he’ll sign at the April 4 First Friday in downtown Sarnia.

Robichaud, a fit 82, worked a stint for Dow Chemical in Sarnia in the early ‘80s and moved back a few years ago with his wife Margot, who is native to the city.

“She had the money so she can do what she likes. And it really is a nice place,” he says.

He is passionate about art and its expression, often writing down ideas on the fly.

“A short pencil is better than a long memory,” he says. “My style is to put little daubs here and there, but putting them all in the right place.”

Though he wanders far and wide for landscapes Robichaud composes still lifes at his Sarnia studio, which is redolent of turpentine and often filled with the strains of Pink Floyd.

One disadvantage of painting “en plein” is the curiosity of passersby. In fact, Robichaud took out a membership at the Sarnia Yacht Club just so he could paint there without distraction.

“It’s worth $143 a year to do that,” he says. “And if the clouds are just right, bang, I can be right there. The lake is such a magnificent thing, just to stand there sometimes and watch the rain fall, the wildness of it all, in awe and wonder.”

IF YOU GO:

WHAT: Winter Landscapes, how and book signing with painter J. Allison Robichaud

WHEN: Friday, April 4

WHERE: Artopia Gallery and Framing, 188 Christina St. N.

– George Mathewson