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Charu Colorado: Pleinairist Inside and out

Plein-air (playn-air), adj. &

Designating or pertaining to certain schools of painting devoted especially to representing effects of outdoor life done outdoors on location.

For the Tidings

During 60 years of making art I have experienced and enjoyed the use of many visual media and creative modalities. My art education consisted of eight scattered years of art schools and private classes starting at age 18 and continuing on through age 42. My favored expression has always been drawing and outdoor sketching. My range over the years: absolute realism to figurative abstract expressionism to mixed media to — dimensional fiber and found object sculpture to my current plein air moon scape watercolors.

I am naturally curious and adventurous. I&

m never bored and enjoy seeing other people's art as much as my own. When I see others experimenting and being inventive and free, I feel inspired. As I look back over my art experience I see two dominant subjects that have appeared in different media, forms and styles: people, in all their diverse mental states and relationships, and the natural world with it's landscapes, byproducts and species.

In the early years, up to the age of 40, I did realistic and impressionistic oil paintings and drawings of people, animals, landscape and still life. Although my work was shown in galleries occasionally and sometimes accepted in competitive exhibits, I thought of myself more as a student than a professional artist. The work was quite conventional and neat except for some loose plein-air oil sketches that foretold the possibility of the expressive artist yet to emerge.

At 39 I became interested in the abstract expressionism that was emerging in the art world. I loved the sense of freedom from the demands of realistic subject matter and the possibilities for expressing feelings on large canvases. At 40 I went back to art school. At Chouinard Art institute in Los Angeles I studied with painter Richard Rubens. My work took a 180 degree turn. The experience not only changed my art, but my attitude toward myself as an artist and a creative person. A new self burst forth in a torrent of expression. Suddenly gallery, museum shows and possibilities for teaching and showing became reality.

In the past 12 years my work has become more three dimensional . I use a mixture of media: acrylic paint, found objects, fiber, nature materials, branches, insects and leaves to create collages , assemblages, paintings and sculpture. I wrap branches, bamboo roots, leaves and sometimes berries and feathers in pantyhose or cheese cloth to become hanging mobiles or stabiles. Another current area of work is my return to plein air painting, this time mostly at night. I'm doing moonscapes in watercolor and pastels. In order to paint outdoors at night, I've devised a way of shining light on my palette and painting while keeping it out of my eyes so I can see my subject.

I'm 86 now and am planning to slow down a bit in my teaching so I can do more of my art experiments and, as the weather warms up, more plein air moonscapes