– Bob Bahr reporting, Editor PleinAir Today –

Many artists make a piece in the studio based on plein air sketches. But St. Louis painter Melissa Bauer followed a different thread.

Lead Image: From left, National Park Ranger Kevin Peppard, Melissa Bauer, and Ranger Miguel Marquez

Bauer made some sketches of the landscape while serving as an artist-in-residence at Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas, and turned it into a quilt. The change in medium was a challenge, but the result was a success.

“I am a landscape painter by trade, but I wanted to challenge myself to create one of my plein air paintings into an unexpected medium,” Bauer says. “I have made other quilts, but this was my first landscape quilt. I used a sketch I did of some trees at Gulpha Gorge campground, where I was staying during my art residency at Hot Springs National Park. The process of simplifying light and shadow into flat shapes was challenging but necessary. I took several trips back to the fabric store because the fabric I had purchased wasn’t exactly right. It really made me stop taking the mixing of my own colors for granted!”

As part of the residency, the superintendent of the park chooses one of the artist’s pieces for the park’s permanent collection. Bauer had done seven oil paintings and five watercolors, but guess which piece the parks department chose?

“I was delighted that she chose the quilt,” Bauer says. The residency paid off in other ways, too. Bauer sold six paintings “before I even left the park.” She is a big fan of National Park Services artist-in-residencies. “I encourage everyone to apply,” says the artist. “It provided endless inspiration and plenty of time to create work.”

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