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Steve Beaubien; SDAA Featured Member Interview
by Stacey | Apr 27, 2016

Stacey Evangelista: Good Morning Steve! You’re a Charter Member of South Dakota Artists Alliance (SDAA), but you have also been a Member of Eastbank Art Gallery for sometime. Can you briefly tell me about your role at Eastbank Art Gallery and the rewards of being a member?
Steve Beaubien:
My role at EastBank Art Gallery has been much like the other members. We all share the work of operating the gallery. We all take turns working in the gallery, maintaining the gallery, and promoting the gallery. More recently we have worked hard to make the gallery more successful thru being better organized and establishing operating procedures. Many hours of discussion and brainstorming have allowed a consistent, and practical operation of daily procedures. Also, a number of new members have brought new and different mediums and styles of artwork increasing the diversity of the offerings.
I have had the opportunity to meet more artists and become friends with them as a result of my membership at EastBank. This has helped me to grow both as an artist and as a person. I am getting ready to move away from Sioux Falls and the gallery but I will always have those friendships to remember and that’s worth more than anything.

I hear Eastbank Art Gallery has been awarded 2016 Mayor’s Award for Organizational Achievement in the Arts, so congratulations to all of you and ‘praises’ for a job well done. Do you have any advice for small Art Organizations? Are there any key elements that have been instrumental to it’s success?
EastBank Art Gallery is an association of artist members. What has made us successful is everyone working together to get things done. For an arts organization to succeed and to continue to succeed every member needs to get involved and stay involved in the operations of the group to the best of their abilities as their time allows. Remain focused on the mission statement. Don’t digress and start trying to do things beyond your purpose. Don’t duplicate services already provided by other organizations.There are lots of good things that need to be done but remain focused and stay committed to your mission.

So Steve, you paint a lot of landscapes. What compels you to want to paint the environment around you? Is there anything special to you about South Dakota and it’s land that drives this desire?
I have always been drawn to nature. I’m not really sure why but I see the beauty of Creation in all the aspects of the natural environment. Even when I’m just driving someplace simple like the grocery store or down the road to town to buy something at the hardware store, I see things all along the route I drive that catch my eye, have a certain beauty or interest about them that makes me wonder how I would paint that view. I may get a special feeling looking at a view and I wonder how I could represent that feeling in a painting.  I want to encourage people to appreciate and value and protect the natural environment. I have always enjoyed nature and I like making the creation of a piece of art join with nature to work together to protect that environment that is so often taken for granted.
I enjoy the vastness of some of the vistas in South Dakota that I have painted. I like the intimacy of little pieces of nature, a short section of some trail, a cluster of rocks, an interesting tree. South Dakota has been good to me in offering unlimited opportunities to find things that call to me, “paint ‘me!” “PAINT me!”

Stacey:  How did you get into plein air painting?
About twenty-five years ago I started taking an interest in Painting. Before that I had done a lot of photography. When I started painting I worked in watercolors. Because I did not have a good place in my home where I could work on paintings the resulting progress for me as a watercolor painter was very slow. Sometime around 2002 or a little later I came across the concept of painting outdoors, painting plein air This was great for me because I was able to paint without needing a special place inside to do so.. In 2005 I switched to painting plein air with oil paints. For me it is much easier to manage oils outdoors than it is watercolors. I continue to paint outdoors because I feel a special closeness to the subjects I choose to paint outside in nature. Colors, smells, hot & cold, wet & dry, wind, bugs, the animals I encounter while painting peacefully in a location, all these things make painting plein air a special experience for me. As a result, though I have a small space available now for doing some painting inside I prefer to paint outside whenever I can. It is also true that painting while directly observing nature offers much more to work with. The light is better for observing the shadow areas of a scene. The colors are true versus what a person is able to determine in a photograph. Finally, in order to paint plein air the painter learns to edit the details of the scene. They choose what to include and what not to include in the painting. Most plein air artists will complete a painting in one session… before the light changes too much. Thus the painting process is learned in order to accomplish a painting more quickly than trying to be too detailed and working many hours on an individual painting.

Painting outside and/or in public can be daunting for many reasons, especially if it is
your first time. How did you overcome such obstacles?
Actually, this is something that has never really bothered me. I enjoy painting, that’s why I paint in the first place. I also enjoy sharing with others my excitement and the pleasure I get from painting. I think years of working in sales conditioned me to being able to interact with others while I am painting. I know this can be a problem or obstacle for others but not for me.. My suggestion to them is to try and find other artists to paint with outside. A group can make it easier to deal with interruptions and questions from the public. If you are feeling like you are too much on display that will get easier to handle as you have more plein air experience and have more confidence in your ability to paint plein air.

Stacey:  I see you paint in oils. Are there any tips you can offer that aid you as an oil painter
when working plein air? Do you have any favorite materials? Do you prefer to paint in the sun/shade? Do you wear a hat?
An important thing in painting outdoors, regardless of the medium you are using, is to learn to work with a limited palette. By that I mean a limited number of different colors. There are many, many different palette combinations thatt artists have found work for them. Each person needs to try different colors to find what works best for them. I will use a warm and cool of each color: red, yellow and blue. Then a white. There are a number of colors called white. A popular one and one that I sometimes use is Titanium White but most often I like to use Gamblin’s Flake White Replacement. It is a little bit warmer white than the Titanium and I like the warmer colors more when I paint.
I use a painting medium that has a drying effect on the paint. This helps the paint to firm up quicker and lets me paint over a section sooner. I will use M. Graham Walnut Alkyd Oil or either Gamblin Galkyd Lite or Galkyd Gel painting mediums.
I have to say I prefer to paint on a sunny day but whether I am standing in the sun or the shade depends on the place where I am painting. It is best if I can keep my palette and painting surface shaded but sometimes that is just not possible. If that is the case I try to mentally adjust the color saturation of my painting so it looks correct when viewed indoors. The bright sunlight on the painting when it is being painted makes the color look brighter than it will look when viewed normally inside. Painting in the bright sunlight requires the colors to be forced brighter or more “saturated.” Painting in the shade lets me choose color more naturally. Using an umbrella can eliminate the bright sun issue. Considering the wind that is often “normal” here in South Dakota I usually choose to not use an umbrella when painting.
Do I wear a hat when painting? You bet I do. Wearing a hat shades my eyes and prevents glare. It helps me to analize the scene, highlights, shadows, colors, shapes. My hat also protects me from harmful rays from the sun. Spending a lot of time outside can be damaging to a person’s skin and of course, we all need to be careful to avoid skin cancer. I always wear a “hat,” not a “cap.” The hat shades my eyes but also the tops of my ears and helps shade my neck. Let me add that sun screen should be part of every plein air artist’s equipment list.

What brand of easel do you use when you venture outdoors to paint? Is there an easel of your dreams that you might buy in the future?
For about the last twelve years I have primarily been using a Guerrilla Painter Pochade Box. I got this from Judson’s Art Outfitters. It is a very dependable and rugged painting box and I have been able to do a lot of painting with this. In fact, one time when it was in my backpack I actually backed over it with my van, dragged it for several feet, and it survived without any problems. The Guerrilla Box is strong like a tank. I paint different sizes of paintings. A lot of 8X10 and 11X14 size paintings.Now I am ready to start painting larger sizes too. I have studied specifications for several different plein air painting easels and after comparing all of them I have decided to order a Prolific Painter palette and panel holder. I think it will allow me to advance my painting skills and use any variety of standard and special panel sizes without using any attachments or special pieces of additional equipment. I am excited to embark on this next phase of my artistic career.

Are there any locations on your bucket list that you dream of painting in the open air?

Steve: Just about anyplace is somewhere I would like to paint but specifically I would some day like to be able to spend time painting in the Southwestern states. New Mexico in particular. After that the Maine coast would be on the top of my list too. For sure, if it is someplace with water I would like painting there.

I really appreciate the time you took to answer my questions! If you are at SDAA’s event  this June (Pointers Ridge), I just might be
painting along side you en plein air (or watching – ha).