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The art of adventure

Noted artists to tell travel stories
during Madison event

Dawson, Hassard have painted
in India, other locales

By Lela Jane Bradshaw
Contributing Writer

(July 2008) – When artists Ray Hassard and Debra Joyce Dawson want to paint, they don’t always head to an isolated studio. Sometimes they work in tranquil Ohio parks or on quiet Indiana farms.

Debra Joyce Dawson and Ray HassardDebra Joyce Dawson and Ray HassardDebra Joyce Dawson and Ray Hassard

Photo provided

Debra Joyce Dawson and Ray Hassard
pose with an Indian leader during
a recent trip abroad.

Other times, they travel around the world to set up their easels on some of the busiest streets in India. Sitting down to paint here means being quickly surrounded by a crowd of onlookers avidly interested in watching them work. Hassard describes the experience of painting in India, “Like being on stage or in a circus.”
Hassard and Dawson will be speaking on plein air painting and their journey to India and Bhutan at a 6:30 p.m. forum Tuesday, July 15, at the Madison-Jefferson Public Library. Their talk will include slides of their paintings as well as pictures from their travels.
Larry Rudolech, Development Committee Chairman of the Madison Art Club, believes the talk will appeal to “anybody who enjoys art and traveling.” In addition to viewing the artists’ paintings, audience members will also hear stories ranging from visits to the Taj Mahal gardens to the practicalities of getting the finished paintings from India back to the United States.
The term “plein air painting” comes from the French phrase en plein air meaning “in the open air.” Plein air paintings are completed outdoors, generally in just a couple of hours so as to capture the impact of light on a scene. Artists are forced to work on a timetable before the movement of the sun changes the shadows and lighting on their subject.
Hassard, 59, of Cincinnati, explains that the brief window of opportunity allows the painter to capture a viewpoint “in a fresh, spontaneous sort of way.” Rudolech notes that plein air painting has “really become a hot little topic. There are a lot of collectors, especially in this area.”
Many plein air painters participate in paint outs where collectors and art enthusiasts can meet the artists and watch as the paintings grow to life. Such gatherings give the public a chance to, “see what the artists can accomplish in a few hours,” says Rudolech.
Dawson, 57, of Pataskala, Ohio, notes the personal appeal of plein air painting, “For me, a lot of it has to do with loving to be outside.” Working outdoors allows the artist to respond not only to the colors and shapes of nature, but also the sounds and scents of the open air.
“You’re out there talking to people and you see the quality of air, of light,” Dawson says. Hassard believes painting outdoors offers, “a number of good things – you don’t get in a studio. You have to deal with the sun moving and not fuss around with details and paint the essence of the scene.”
The outdoor painters found inspiration not only in the natural landscape of India and Bhutan but also in the flow of people and bustle of activity in the cities. “Life is lived in the street in India, not behind closed doors. Life is big there. It takes all of your attention to walk down the street,” Dawson recalls.
Hassard points out that to those not native to India, “It’s really exotic – makes it easy for an artist or photographer.”
The artists found themselves watching a kaleidoscope of lavishly painted buildings and people in beautifully dyed clothes. However, to those used to the constant play of colors and activity, the artists’ interest in these “everyday” sights came as a surprise. “People there ask why I’m painting this boring, everyday street,” Hassard says with a laugh.
Both artists share a contagious enthusiasm for India and are certain to delight audiences with their captivating art and stories of travel. “India is just a magical place,” Dawson says. “Things felt like a 24-hour slide show of things I thought I would never see.”
Hassard hopes that people “will learn some good things about India. Ever since my first trip I’ve been obsessed with the place.”
After hearing these artists speak, audience members should not be surprised to find themselves wanting to pick up a brush and pack their own bags for adventure.

• For more information visit: www.debrajoycedawson.com or www.rayhassard.com.

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