Here in Woodstock, in the Catskill Mountain region, the season has started for plein air painting and the local artists are already making plans and making trips.
In addition to just setting out alone, French easel and umbrella in tow, there are plenty of programs available if you want company or guidance. Two important ones to consider are:
Woodstock School of Art offers a slew of different plein air workshops and weekends for artists who want to learn new techniques or just paint under the aegis of a professional. The workshops are well worth the money, and the website is definitely worth visiting! Go to http://www.woodstockschoolofart.org/index.html
Palenville Paint Out, June 27-28. Palenville is a small village north of Woodstock, approaching the High Catskill territory. It offers a weekend of plein air painting plus “hidden galleries” selling art. This is an annual event that many local artists are drawn to. The town supplies a small canvas (5×7 or 8×10) and the art is sold online (for $100, 50% going to the town). http://www.palenvilleny.com/hidden-gallery-walk-2015.html
Of course there are plenty of private places—the farms and backyards of local people whom you might know or get to know. But there are also plenty of publicly available locations, which offer a range of visitor facilities (from excellent to none at all) and have the added benefit of giving the painter independence of movement. (Painting in your friend’s sister’s back yard always has strings attached, and outstaying your welcome is also a risk).
Where to Go:
Here is a brief list of the best publicly available areas for plein air painting in the Woodstock area, that I’m aware of. There may be (probably are) more. Although I’ve visited all of these locations, I haven’t painted at all of them, not yet…
Cooper Lake is one of the most popular venues for local plein air painters. Mary Anna Goetz set her DVD on plein air painting (A Fieldguide to Landscape Painting) on the shores of this lake. (the DVD is well worth watching). You can get onto the lake’s footpath from Cooper Lake Road, which starts in Bearsville off the Wittenberg Road. http://www.woodstockguide.com/01.html
The Zena Cornfield is a famous local site that was the first of now many local spots that are under preservation by the Woodstock Land Conservancy. Like the Thorn Preserve, it is a large open field with some stunning mountain views. Note that there are no facilities at either of these locations.
Wilson State Park is hands down my favorite local public venue. It has everything—mountains, a big lake, streams, fields, marshes, and excellent public facilities. They include a sheltered picnic area. If it rains, you can continue painting under cover! Also, because this park requires a small fee to enter, it tends to be quiet, with visitors there for same reason as you—love of nature and landscape, or fishing in the lake. During the week it is usually pretty empty, so it makes for a great uninterrupted all-day painting venue. http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/58915.html