Jeff Markowsky spent about three months on the road, painting America and attending the Plein Air Convention & Expo. Here’s what it did for him. 

 The Georgia artist, who teaches at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), painted at Canyonlands National Park in Utah; Yosemite National Park in California; Andrew Molera State Park near Monterey; and Mt. Hood National Forest/Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. His takeaway from the trip is this: momentum, confidence, and speed.

“Hurricane Ridge,” by Jeff Markowsky, 2014, oil


“Everything was a surprise to a certain extent,” says Markowsky. “I gained a little confidence and speed just through the sheer quantity of paintings and the number of days I was away doing it. Now I am able to approach a painting with a little more decisiveness. I’m still not where I want to be, but I’m further along. But what’s great is the overflow and the ripple effect. It is energizing and exciting.”

El Capitan,” by Jeff Markowsky, 2014, oil


The artist says his colleagues and artist friends were inspired by his trip, too, and a plein air group and event is coalescing in the Savannah area in part because of Markowsky’s momentum. 

“The Slot at Point Lobos,” by Jeff Markowsky, 2014, oil


Markowsky said that at first he had to shake off the cobwebs and “get my teacher’s mind out of the equation,” then he learned to paint faster and simplify. Lessons learned at the Plein Air Convention and Expo (PACE) put him on a good track, and then he arrived in Yosemite.

“Camp Mosier,” by Jeff Markowsky, 2014, oil


“When I was in Yosemite I was in such awe of the beauty there,” he says. “It was so captivating, and so challenging to get anything worthwhile down that I was seeing.” He wasn’t pleased with his paintings, but he could sense where he wanted to go with them. Then, on his birthday, he was cold, it was snowy, and he woke up with a view of a painting, of El Capitan, an iconic rock formation. “I worked quickly and captured what I wanted to do in under 20 minutes, and I just left it,” says Markowsky. “The one that came after that had a similar freshness. They both sold.”

“Windows at Arches,” by Jeff Markowsky, 2014, oil


Markowsky also took to heart the lessons he learned in the Eric Rhoads’ Art Marketing Boot Camp presentation and DVDs, implementing concepts on marketing and the use of social media. The trip culminated in a show at Oglethorpe Gallery in Savannah, Georgia. Markowsky showed 39 of the 70 paintings he completed on his trip. “It was good closure to the whole wild adventure,” he says. But the word “closure” may be misleading, as the aftereffects of Markowsky’s three months of plein air painting on the road will likely be felt for years.


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