MGCCC art instructor's exhibit showcases a year of chasing the light

COURTESY MARC POOLEThe finished plein air painting of 'Mikey's On the Bayou' by Marc Poole.
COURTESY MARC POOLEThe finished plein air painting of 'Mikey's On the Bayou' by Marc Poole.

MGCCC fine arts instructor Marc Poole spent a year capturing the fleeting, elusive beauty of the play of light.

"Chasing Light: A Year En Plein Air" is an exhibit featuring the resulting work. The show will open to the public at 1 p.m. Thursday at the MGCCC Jackson County Fine Arts Gallery.

The exhibit features more than 40 original paintings created "en plein air," the term used for artwork created outdoors on location.

Plein air painting was popularized in the 19th century with the development of paint in tubes. Previously, artists would grind their own pigments and mix their paint. The portable nature of the paint tubes made painting outdoors more convenient. Artists sought to capture what their eyes actually saw at the moment they were painting, instead of the more traditional method of developing the work in the studio based on traditional artistic conventions. The challenges are of the quickly changing conditions of light, shadow and atmosphere, necessitating that the artist work quickly.

"One of my 2015 New Year's resolutions was to paint at least one plein air painting a week for the year," Poole said. "I've always been a studio artist and have relied heavily on my own photography as reference for many of the things I paint. I felt like I'd hit a wall with the limitations of the camera and decided to spend some time studying the subtleties of color and light that a camera has difficulty in capturing accurately. A camera tends to exaggerate the contrasts of light and shadow, sacrificing the range of more neutral colors and values.

"The human eye is much more sensitive to those nuances, and a well-executed plein air painting can capture a moment as your eyes would naturally see it," he said. "I typically have only one to three hours to complete a piece on-site, as the light and shadows are constantly changing. The pieces tend to be small, but I've begun using the smaller works as studies for more developed, larger studio pieces. It was a fun year. I painted here on the coast, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Louisiana, Key West and Costa Rica. I'm still very much a student at plein air, but it's been a very enlightening experience that has transformed the way I approach my studio pieces. I've learned much through the experience, and it's become part of who I am as an artist."

"Chasing Light: A Year En Plein Air" will run from March 24 to April 21. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday. For more information, contact Poole at 497-7684 or