Doug Clarke paints a scene on Duke of Gloucester Street across from Bruton Parish Church (Hannah S. Ostroff/WYDaily)

Plein Air Painters Capture the Sights Along Duke of Gloucester Street

As children, tourists and dogs bounded down Duke of Gloucester Street on Saturday, a dozen artists took in the scene not through the lens of a camera, but through the touch of paintbrush to paper.

For the fourth annual Plein Air Show, presented by Williamsburg Celebrates as part of Williamsburg Fall Arts, painters took to the street to create works of art. They could paint en plein air — French for “in the open air” — prior to the event and display their pieces at a festival tent, or set up an easel at 7 a.m. Saturday and work until the 3 p.m. judging for cash prizes.

Doug Clarke, a painter from Virginia Beach, loves taking his work outdoors. Painting outside combines pleasure and training for him, as he fights the challenge of changing light and gradually shifting landscapes.

“It’s like drag racing with paint to some degree,” Clarke said.



When he started his “Williamsburg Morning,” the sun was barely peeking from behind the gardens across from Bruton Parish Church. By mid-morning, it was beating overhead from an azure sky.

Clarke said he does not aim for the precision of a photograph, but rather tries to capture the essence of a setting in his art. It is a vision that won him first place and a $1,500 cash prize at the end of the day.

Kay Krapfl, painting in the gardens off Duke of Gloucester Street a block away, said painting outside adds an element to art that cannot be created when working from a still snapshot.

“When you copy from a photograph, it loses its depth and feeling,” she said.

She will paint from a photo in the winter, but as soon as the weather gets warm, she longs to be creating outside.

This is her second year participating in Williamsburg Celebrates’ event and — a lover of impressionist painters of nature — she chose her spot for its colorful flowers.

Artist Ginny Fisher scoped out a location prior to setting up her easel Saturday morning. Tucked in the garden behind the plant shop on Duke of Gloucester Street, she wanted to depict the shadows and intricacies of a wheelbarrow, pots and bricks.

She hoped the little details would spark a connection with a viewer, bringing a smile to someone’s face who remembers the old farm of a relative.

“Picket fences – it means home,” Fisher said of her paintings background.

She appreciated the Plein Air Show was tied with the Contemporary Artisans Show in tents up Duke of Gloucester Street, just off Merchants Square. While she painted in a quieter spot away from the heavy foot traffic at the show, Fisher said the two events gave artists a platform for connecting with the community.

All proceeds from the event went to Housing Partnerships Inc., a nonprofit that serves the Historic Triangle with emergency home repairs and installation of indoor plumbing.

Also earning honors for their painting of the day were Bob Carlson, in second place for his piece of the Robert Carter House, and Bob Oller winning third place for “Pomegranate Garden.” They received $1,000 and $500 respectively.