Painting by Peg Usner
Plein air artist Peg Usner has painted since her college years, but she attributes her permanent escape to the outdoors, where she prefers to spend much of her time anyway, to a class she took with her mentor, the New Orleans painter Phil Sandusky.
That was three years ago, and Usner has since become the artist-in-residence at Longue Vue House and Gardens, where you are likely to find her capturing an as-yet-uncaptured vista.
We asked Usner to give some pointers to budding artists drawn to the outdoors:
- The well-provisioned artist will weather Mother Nature much more gracefully. Be sure to bring—at minimum—water, bug spray, sunscreen, and a hat. Stools are optional.
- Bring at least two canvases because as soon as you don’t, the sun will decide to hide (thus changing the colors in the painting) or morning will turn to afternoon (thus changing the direction of the shadows).
- Speaking of canvases, you should probably put a light stain of your preferred color on the canvas before taking it outdoors so that your eyes aren’t straining against a stark white background all day.
- Usner prefers to position herself to the side of the scene she is painting rather than facing it. That way she doesn’t have to constantly peek around the easel to see what’s what.
- Luckily, all you need are a few basic colors to mix any shade on God’s green, red, auburn, chartreuse, or umber earth. Just carry those primary tubes and learn to mix the rest of the rainbow.
- Bring a piece of cardboard the same size as your canvas to place behind the canvas in case the sun is shining through the back of it.
Artist Peg Usner.
Usner teaches three-day workshops (half a day each day) at Longue Vue six times per year. Two special workshops are scheduled to coincide with the blooming of the camellias in winter and the irises in spring. In fact, this year’s iris workshop is scheduled for April 4—6. Each day lasts from
1 pm–4 pm. Check out the schedule at longuevue.com.