BAYPORT — With the sun in perfect position above her, Jenna Friedman takes note of the shadows falling over the treetops as she blends her oil paints onto a small canvas. For the Port Richey artist, the morning hours always bring the best light.
"Natural light brings a feeling to your painting that you really can't get any other way," said Friedman, 56. "Being outdoors allows artists to create in an atmosphere that enhances the true beauty of the scene they are painting."
Friedman was among about a half-dozen painters from the artist collective known as West Coast Florida Plein Air that showed up Friday morning on Bayou Drive in Bayport to capture on canvas the scenic beauty of the marshy landscape.
For the artists, it was a perfect spot to set up an easel.
"It's beautiful out here and so peaceful," said Lynn Vaughan, a Tarpon Springs artist who used pastel crayons to create an image of a twisted pine tree that captured her attention.
"For me, the idea is to bring nature to life in a way that can't be captured with a camera," she said. "You start with an idea and let the image create itself."
The group, which is made up of artists from Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties, has been meeting regularly for about two years. About once a month the artists gather to share their talents and techniques. Hernando County has a wealth of scenic vistas that are perfect for painting, says West Coast Plein Air member Jana Withers.
"We look for places that are not only pretty but are kind of out of the way," said Withers, who lives in Hernando Beach. "This area of the county has become a favorite because it's still fairly natural."
Plein air art takes its name from a French-derived expression that means "in the open air." Well-known impressionist painters such as Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir advocated plein air conditions because of natural lighting. Many of Florida's legendary Highwaymen artists also preferred the outdoors to create their works.
Hernando Beach artist Brenda Glenny said that although she creates most of her watercolor paintings in her home studio, nothing beats the outdoors for understanding the relationship of light and shadow in painting.
"You see colors and textures you wouldn't see otherwise," said Glenny as she worked on making sketches for a painting she will create later. "That's important to me as an artist. I want it to be realistic but I also want it to be my own."
Logan Neill can be reached at email@example.com or (352)848-1435.