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Outdoor painter learns to paint quickly

Published on

Cathy Dobson

“Being a plein air painter is like having a little secret. It’s almost mystical.”  

– Bill Walters

There are only three, maybe four, serious plein air painters in the Sarnia area, says Bill Walters, a retired elementary school teacher and plein air artist.

“It’s much more difficult but I prefer it,” he said.

Plein air refers to painters who set up their easels outside and capture what they see. Walters said he generally completes a painting in one sitting.

“Around here, you have to learn how to paint skies because it’s so flat,” he said. “Plein air is more challenging but I just want to be out there, always problem-solving because there is so much that can go wrong and you can’t control that.”

The environment produces wind, ever-changing light conditions, precipitation and untold equipment problems, said Walters.

It means learning to paint quickly, always using oil paints and usually producing smaller 12-inch X 16-inch pieces.

“You have to move fast to capture the light. In my case, you can see the brush strokes are blended less.”

This past year has been his most productive in 45 years, said Walters, who took up painting as a hobby the year he began to teach Grades 7 and 8 in Sarnia-Lambton.

Walters, 67, retired 14 years ago after teaching for 31 years.

“I’ve produced 87 paintings this year,” he said.  “Not all are masterpieces. Sometimes you nail it, sometimes you don’t, but I’ve painted a number recently that I really like.”

His landscapes and waterscapes feature Sarnia-Lambton locations. Many are in Canatara Park, close to where he lives. He seems drawn to the water and often paints along the St. Clair River, incorporating the Chemical Valley where his father worked when he was a boy.

He also takes annual painting trips with his wife Jacquie to Ogunquit, Maine where he focuses on shorelines and the ocean.

An exhibition of 28 of Walters’ paintings is on display until Jan. 20 at the Cheeky Monkey record store, 130 Christina St. North.  His work will also be on display at Victoria Hall in July and at








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