– Bob Bahr reporting, Editor PleinAir Today –

Jack Hannula has been painting in Washington, D.C., for 23 years. He and his friend Besnik “Nik” Ajazi have fallen into a routine that has resulted in much artwork and, recently, a high-profile show.

Lead Image: Jack Hannula painting the Capitol Building

“Weather permitting, Nik and I try to paint at least once a week in D.C., and have been doing this for a year,” says Hannula. “We have been focusing on highly scenic landscapes. The above photo is from when we painted the Capitol, and we plan to return to do other scenes of the building and the grounds. I believe we are the only plein air painters who paint D.C. on a regular basis.”

“View From My Rooftop, DC,” by Jack Hannula, oil on linen, 38 x 64 in. Collection the City of Washington
“View From My Rooftop, DC,” by Jack Hannula, oil on linen, 38 x 64 in. Collection the City of Washington

An exhibition on view last month at the Spilsbury Gallery in the Arts Club of Washington, “Painting DC,” represents “the beginning a long-term collaboration to fully depict the beauty of D.C. in paint, maps and multi-media, with the emphasis on painting en plein air as creative alchemy. The multi-media focuses on the experience of our combined artistry,” according to Hannula. (He is also a landscape architect, and Ajazi is also a filmmaker.) “Our paintings strive to evoke awareness of Washington’s exceptional beauty expressed in its diverse environments and settings, from natural to architectural — and their surprising juxtapositions. In this time of electronic media, we wish to swim against the tide of art’s digital saturation by portraying D.C. with fresh strokes of vivid paint on canvas — paint that is tactile, casts actual shadows … paint that emits an authentic scent of linseed oil. This is art’s fast-fading alchemy.”

“Sunset, FDR Memorial Park,” by Besnik Ajazi, oil
“Sunset, FDR Memorial Park,” by Besnik Ajazi, oil

The pieces in the show depicted “both common and much overlooked areas of the city: from the off-the-beaten-path Meridian Park, Spanish Steps, and Rock Creek Park, to the White House on Lafayette Park, the Smithsonian Castle on the National Mall and the National Cathedral,” says Hannula. “The places and spaces depicted in the paintings portray D.C.’s distinct visual identity, now abundantly photographed, but rarely captured in paint in this day of digital media and virtual experiencing.”

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