It used to be Kanta Lipsky’s secret spot. The West Tisbury artist would stand across the road from the orchard on the old Humphrey’s property in her town, dabbing bright greens and yellows on a canvas, working quickly to set the colors down before the light changed and the scene vanished.
“I’ve done this in different mediums,” Mrs. Lipsky said in an interview this week. “I’ve done it in watercolor, acrylic, pulp paper . . . in oil a number of times.”
This weekend, Mrs. Lipsky’s secret spot will be on display for all, as she and fellow Island artists Valentine Estabrook, Thaw Malin, Marjorie Mason, Brandon Newton, Liz Taft and Kate Taylor showcase a collection of plein air paintings at Bananas Gallery. The show opens tonight and runs through June 8.
In keeping with the spirit of older plein air shows hosted by Dragonfly Gallery, the paintings at Bananas all spotlight one site — in this case, the eight-acre Humphrey’s property. The land, with its orchards, meadows and 19th-century buildings, seems tailor-made for the brushes of outdoor painters.
“Getting permission to come in here was amazing,” Ms. Mason said last Friday afternoon, as she touched up a small painting of flower fields and a white barn from the shade of one of the orchard’s trees. “This is such a treat, to be able to do this.”
Mrs. Lipsky and Mrs. Estabrook began planning the show in January, contacting property owners Jeffrey and Kristen Kusama-Hinte and receiving permission to paint during the first two weeks of May. The painting period was extended after rainy conditions throughout most of the month prevented the artists from venturing outdoors.
In addition to planning around the whims of the weather, plein air painting requires far more organization than working from the comfort of a studio, Mrs. Lipsky said. “You get out there and suddenly you don’t have your rags, or your water bottle, or . . . something crucial to allow you to stay comfortably, and so you have to either quit or somehow muddle through.”
But with seven artists all working from the same site, the group quickly developed a camaraderie not typically seen in the solo pursuit of painting, sharing supplies between them, taking breaks to simply sit beneath the trees and talk art, and roaming from easel to easel to peek at works in progress.
“What we found is that the property has so many different views — unique views — that I think our assigned pictures will all be quite different,” Mrs. Estabrook said. “In technique, certainly, but also in the subject matter.”
“It’s really fun to see how everybody interpreted it,” Ms. Mason said.
Because the host studio space is relatively small, the paintings themselves are sized to fit accordingly. Some artists chose to paint on traditional canvas, while others, such as Liz Taft, work with birch plywood or masonite board.
“There’s really something that happens when you’re outside . . . you just can’t think about [the painting] too much,” said Mrs. Estabrook. “Marjorie Mason always says that there’s a real specialness, a vitality to a plein air painting because . . . it’s never really finished. It’s just going as quickly as you can to capture it.”
The length of time spent on working on the property, however, means that a far longer moment than the typical one or two hours was captured by the group. Mrs. Estabrook plans to ask each artist to include the date and time their painting was made alongside each work’s title.
“I think it would reveal a blossoming on the property,” she said, “Just a whole different look from the beginning of May to the end.”
Adding to the camaraderie of the plein air project, business owners around the Humphrey’s property are working to keep the spirit of the show overflowing throughout the mini-neighborhood. Bananas owner Judy Hartford “has been most supportive” of the endeavor from the beginning, Mrs. Estabrook said. Neighboring businesses such as State Road Restaurant and Middletown Nurseries have offered their support, with Middletown providing flowers for the reception and keeping later hours than usual so attendees can visit the greenhouses after a stroll through the gallery.
“We were received very well,” said Mrs. Estabrook, “And so I think it’ll be good.”
“People are already asking us if they can be in the next one,” Mrs. Lipsky said. “I think there’s a need, almost, for such a thing as this — because everybody who does it has so much fun.”
The Up-Island Plein Air Art Show opens tonight with a reception from 7 to 10 p.m. at Bananas Gallery on State Road. The show will run through June 8.