Oak in Sunlight, Spring

"Oak in Sunlight, Spring", oil, 5 x 7", © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

“Oak in Sunlight, Spring”, oil, 5 x 7″, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

$325 + $10 shipping and handling

The foliage on this water oak at the college was in brilliant sunlight while the trunk, deep under the canopy was in shadow. The wall behind was flooded with light making for strong contrasts in both color and value.

This has been plein air week for my painting class, a treat at the end of the semester for all of us. One of my favorite things as a teacher is to watch the whole semester gel and come together for them. Lots of light bulbs going off so far.

Cedar in Sunlight

"Cedar in Sunlight", oil, 7 x 5", © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

“Cedar in Sunlight”, oil, 7 x 5″, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

$325 + $10 shipping and handling

This cedar was blazing in the sunlight this morning as I took my painting class at the college outside to work. It was a beautiful morning to paint with warm temps and a light breeze.

I did this as a demo painting as we all worked on simplifying shapes and getting the full range of values so that the forms were defined. They all did a great job and within an hour and a half they’d all captured their first plein air painting.

Congaree River, Spring

"Congaree River, Spring", oil, 5 x 7", © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

“Congaree River, Spring”, oil, 5 x 7″, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

$325 + $10 shipping and handling

Another one from painting along the Congaree River last Sunday. The water was high and running with some speed out in the center of the river, but more quiet with lots of eddies close in to shore.

I was really interested in the patterns made by the rocks and shadows in the water and want to play with them some more. I may have to venture back to the river some this week.

From the Edge at ArtFields 2014

"From the Edge of the Highway" is now up in the Hub at the ROB in Lake City.

“From the Edge of the Highway” is now up in the Hub at the ROB in Lake City.

Many velcro tapes later, “From the Edge of the Highway” is up in the Hub at the ROB for ArtFields 2014 in Lake City, SC.

ArtFields is the brainchild of financier Darla Moore, a Lake City native, who has consistently reinvested her wealth in her home town and state. Modeled on Michigan’s ArtPrize Competition, ArtFields runs from April 25 – May 4 and offers $100,000 in cash prizes.

The People’s Choice prizes are determined by popular vote so head down to Lake City next weekend and vote for your favorite pieces. You can vote for more than one piece, but only once for each piece.

Congaree Path

"Congaree Path", oil, 5 x 7", © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

“Congaree Path”, oil, 5 x 7″, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

$325 + $10 shipping and handling

The light on this path along the edge of the Congaree River at Riverfront Park played across the ground, revealing the underlying geography of the site – rocky and rolling.

There was a strong play of light between the path and the river below.

Congaree Waterfront

"Congaree Waterfront", oil, 9 x 12", © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

“Congaree Waterfront”, oil, 9 x 12″, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson


The view of the Congaree River from the edge of Riverfront Park in Columbia is spectacular. The river stretches wide below the footpath dotted with overlooks with benches and shade.

The folks taking my plein air workshop this weekend joined me in parking our equipment in one spot for the whole weekend and really going deep in observing the surrounding natural world. The weather cooperated in full, warm sunshine and cool breezes giving a variety of light and shadows that we could chase with our brushes and palette knives.

This was the first of the demo paintings that I did over the weekend, broken into two takes by the swift movement of the light. There is something magical about painting beside moving water. The air is charged, filled with the energy of the moving river, a constant rippling backdrop to the day.

I hope you’re out enjoying the return of spring or planning on doing that soon! Remember that you don’t have to be a trained artist to enjoy the pleasure of observing the natural world and recording it in your memory. Grab a notebook, a sketchbook or camera and head outdoors to record some observations and memories.

Let me know what you find in the comments below!