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Outdoor artists group visits campus

April 14, 2011 : Allison Cundiff/Liberty University News Service

David Heath, a member of the Blue Ridge Plein Air Painters, talks with students in front of the Carter-Glass Mansion on Thursday.

Rodney Laughon paints in front of the Carter Glass Mansion.

Students of Liberty University’s Visual Communication Arts (VCAR) program had an opportunity to learn from nationally known artists Thursday as the Blue Ridge Plein Air Painters painted outdoor scenes on Liberty’s campus. Five painters were located around the Prayer Chapel and Carter Glass Mansion.

The Blue Ridge Plein Air Painters are a regional painters group; “Plein air” is a French term used to describe painting outdoors.

Todd Smith, director of the VCAR program, which teaches students skills in the traditional arts as well as graphic design, took his classes outside to meet the artists.

“They [the artists] love the mission of our art program here. They are all Christians and have a national reputation,” Smith said. “When you see their work, they really show the glory of God's creation.”

Smith said he likes to have teaching experiences outside the classroom, with people who are experts in their profession.

“You can see the techniques, talk to them, ask them questions, it’s an incredible opportunity. It’s part of what we want to do in this program, to build a base of traditional art skills that apply across a variety of media,” Smith said.

Kathy Seek paints in front of the Prayer Chapel.

The experience also drew the attention of Stephen Doherty, editor of PleinAir Magazine, who traveled from New York to observe how the artists interacted with students. He plans to feature the experience and highlight Liberty’s VCAR program in the summer issue of the magazine.

Painter David Heath, whose work has been featured in Liberty’s art gallery, was enthusiastic to answer students’ questions about painting in nature.

“The reason we wanted to paint outdoors today was to show artists and art students that it’s not as complicated as it looks to paint outside … the first thing you think about is the elements, but it’s really not that big of a problem,” he said.

It definitely wasn't a problem on Thursday, as the beautiful spring weather was perfect for painting outdoors. Some of the painters brought umbrellas to provide shade while working.

Painter Rodney Laughon said painting at Liberty was an opportunity he couldn’t turn down.

“It’s a really good opportunity to show them [what we do]. … Plein air painting is not really mainstream, there’s work involved. You’ve got to pack up and be out in the wind or with the bugs or whatever,” he said. "It’s really important to paint from life … it really helps you look at things differently.”