Plein air landscape painting - Chuck Marshall -
Chuck Marshall, “An Ohio Valley,” 2015, oil, 16 x 20 in. Collection the artist, Plein air

When he creates art, especially en plein air, Ohio artist Chuck Marshall effectively separates himself from his daily routine and becomes more self-aware.

Chuck Marshall painting on location

From the time he was a child, Chuck Marshall considered drawing and painting a means to retreat from the cares of the day into a world of creativity, beauty, and challenge. That has been especially true since he shifted his focus to plein air painting and the multi-sensory experience of painting outdoors. “I grew up in a two-bedroom house with nine family members, so I’ve always needed to find my own space,” Marshall says with a chuckle. “As a kid, drawing was the best means of establishing that space, no matter what else was going on around me.”

After high school, Marshall pursued an education and career in graphic design and illustration, operating his own business in California, and then back in his home state of Ohio. “Like many of the people profiled in PleinAir, my first priority was to get a job that paid the bills,” he says. “I used my talents to create illustrations for advertising, greeting cards, magazines, books, and signage.”

Chuck Marshall, “Azaleas,” 2015, oil, 9 x 12 in. Collection the artist, Plein air
Chuck Marshall, “Azaleas,” 2015, oil, 9 x 12 in. Collection the artist, Plein air

While living in California, Marshall was within walking distance of the California Art Institute in Westlake Village, and he was able to take classes in drawing and painting around the time Jeremy Lipking and other promising young artists were also studying at the CAI. In addition to taking evening and weekend courses, Marshall carved out time to participate in a workshop with Skip Whitcomb. That left him “amazed at what Skip was doing as a painter and a full-time artist,” Marshall recalls. “I knew immediately that was what I wanted to achieve.”

Toward that end, Marshall attended workshops with Kenneth Backhaus and Quang Ho. “Those had a huge impact,” he says, “and the instructors opened my eyes to different approaches, and that helped me grow to become the artist I am today.”

After moving back to Ohio, Marshall had more time for his own studio artwork in part of the space he rented for his illustration business. He says, “I finally had a space I could dedicate to fine art painting, and I had time to get outdoors. That was a challenging time in my personal life, so going outside to focus exclusively on plein air painting was very beneficial. I needed the distraction of painting from daybreak till dark, and I benefited from thinking about improving my ability to work outdoors.”

Chuck Marshall, “Ohio Waterfall,” 2015, oil, 20 x 16 in. Private collection, Plein air
Chuck Marshall, “Ohio Waterfall,” 2015, oil, 20 x 16 in. Private collection, Plein air

Marshall maintained a friendship with Whitcomb and called the Colorado artist when he had questions about painting. For example, when he wanted advice about dealing with
all the greens in the Ohio landscape, he gave Whitcomb a call. “He advised me to stick with small 6 x 8 and 8 x 10-inch panels,” Marshall says. “That exercise had a tremendous positive impact on my understanding of art. Another activity that began about that time was teaching workshops. I had to define and redefine what I was doing so I could offer clear, helpful advice, and that helped me approach my own painting with a sharper focus and a more thoughtful plan.”

As he learned more about himself and the creative process, Marshall acknowledged that plein air was his first and strongest love as an artist. “I know I will always be a plein air painter,” he says emphatically. “It fulfills my need to have a private space and a solitary pursuit in the midst of the challenges of daily living. I certainly enjoy working in the studio, but outdoor painting is an important way to be present in the moment and to respond to what I see and feel in nature.

Chuck Marshall, “Back Light Cactus,” 2016, oil, 6 x 8 in. Collection the artist, Plein air
Chuck Marshall, “Back Light Cactus,” 2016, oil, 6 x 8 in. Collection the artist, Plein air

“I often use my plein air pieces as resources for studio work, but when I have more time to think and plan, I gravitate toward larger figurative paintings. The largest painting I have done outside was 36 x 48 inches, but I’ve gone way beyond that in the studio, with the only limitation being the ability to get large panels or canvases in and out of the room. I’ve been working on a commission to paint a series of religious images, with the largest, of a crucifixion, being 4 x 6 feet.

“In recent years, I have brought my plein air paintings closer to the look and content of my studio pieces by spending more time on location editing compositions, adding imaginative elements, and refining the details.”

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