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Show of landscape painters offering change of scene

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Cathy Dobson

It was bitterly cold when J. Allison Robichaud and buddy Bill Walters set up their easels outdoors in December for a session of “plein air” painting.

It was also Robichaud’s 90th birthday.

“We go out to paint whenever we can find an excuse,” said the Sarnia artist, who has painted professionally for 30 years and specializes in landscapes done quickly in the open air (plein air).

“It was -10 degrees on my birthday and we were dressed for it, but you don’t wear gloves when you paint,” Robichaud explained.

The day was “brutal,” but also exhilarating, he said.

Completing a canvas entirely outdoors is one of the most peaceful and satisfying experiences one can imagine, he added.

“Once you get a taste for plein air it’s almost like a drug. You find harmony with your surroundings and it becomes addictive.”

The landscape of a barn under a winter-blue sky and completed in about an hour that frigid day is one of 15 paintings he contributed to an exhibition on now at Gallery in the Grove.

Three other local artists – Bill Walters, Irvin Hawkes and Dan Ryan – each contributed 15 works as well.

The four painters were chosen for the Gallery’s first show of the season because of their Sarnia roots and passion for art, said Gallery chair Kirsty Kilner Holmes.

“The common denominator is that they all have a landscape background but they work in very different mediums and different scales,” she said.

Apart from Robichaud and Walters, the men didn’t know one another.

“But when they were introduced, they got along fabulously,” Kilner Holmes said. “It’s turned out to be a win for everyone.”

Dan Ryan worked as an illustrator and art director in Toronto before recently retiring to Sarnia. He can paint full-time now and his work is heavily influenced by his experiences as a young man in Canada’s north where he sketched and painted. Ryan later attended the Ontario College of Art and trained as an illustrator at Sheridan College.

Irvin Hawkes is relatively new to painting and discovered watercolours after retirement. He’s taken classes from Sarnia’s Kathy Rath as well as numerous artists in Fort Meyers. He won awards once he began exhibiting at juried shows.

Bill Walters is well known around Sarnia for his art, having had numerous exhibitions and displays at various downtown venues.

Since his participation in the 1975 “Look” show at Gallery Lambton, he has continued to paint and win multiple awards. Walters recently reached his goal of 100 paintings in a year, many finished out in the field with Robichaud.

IF YOU GO:

WHAT: New exhibition featuring local painters Allison Robichaud, Irvin Hawkes, Dan Ryan and Bill Walters.

WHERE: Gallery in the Grove, 2618 Hamilton Road, Bright’s Grove.

WHEN: Ongoing until March 26. Open Tues. & Wed. 2 p.m. – 5p.m.; Thurs. 2 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.; Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

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