We interviewed plein air artist Amy R. Peterson via email (below) and in person (in the video above). Her work is on display at the TVMA from April 16-May 21, 2021 as part of our Light & Air exhibition, featuring Peterson, Benny Melton, and Amy P. Collins. Peterson is also teaching a Plein Air Workshop on May 1.
Amy R. Peterson resides in Trussville, AL, near her native Birmingham, AL. She is known for her Birmingham city scenes and historic interiors; plein air and still life work; and private commissions including pet portraits and wedding bouquets. Amy graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2005. She is a member of the Oil Painters of America; the American Impressionist Society; the Alabama Plein Air Artists; the Mountain Brook Art Association; and the Cahawba Art Association.
What draws you to plein air painting?
I love being outdoors. Also the focus that is required to paint en plein air makes me forget anything else for a little while and just be present (and feel very grateful, since I’m outside and probably somewhere I’m finding joy and beauty)! I am more often happier with paintings that are not overworked and have a fresh feeling about them, and my impressionistic approach to plein air usually means I get in, get out, and don’t overwork a painting.
What are your favorite subjects to portray?
Lately, it’s domestic subjects: home and garden subjects. No matter what the subject, it’s usually light and shadow and how those affect color and edges, that compels me to paint a subject.
I want to convey a moment in time. I aim to capture that moment like a memory (not a photograph), a little hazy in places perhaps, but an overall impression of that moment in a place in time. –Amy R. Peterson
What has plein air painting taught you as an artist?
To paint what I love, to narrow down my subject and define my “why” for the painting. It has honed my color mixing skills and confident brush work.
What do you find the most difficult to capture in your paintings?
I think certain effects (like fog or mist) are hard to capture if you want to use thick application of paint. Reflective surfaces like metal and water can also be tricky to paint en plein air, because glaring reflections can make it difficult to gauge value relationships.
Is there a location or subject that you haven’t explored in plein air painting but want to?
I want to work on a twilight series here in my neighborhood. When the blue sky darkens just enough that interior lamplight and porch lights begin to glow. I especially love this time of day as winter transitions to spring, when the trees are still bare enough to see the sky color through bare branches. One obstacle to this series is family demands with young children, but I hope to pursue that series soon.
What advice/thoughts would you offer a young artist?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. View art not just online, but in publications and certainly in person! Go check out local galleries and museums and big and small art shows, and when you find an artist whose work clicks with you, be respectful of his/her time but ask questions! Get involved with local art groups, and ask questions. Those are great ways to discover more opportunities to learn, grow, and show your work.
Is there anything you think would be interesting for the viewers to know or think about while viewing your work?
I want to convey a moment in time. I aim to capture that moment like a memory (not a photograph), a little hazy in places perhaps, but an overall impression of that moment in a place in time.
Amy R. Peterson talks about the Plein Air Workshop she’ll be teaching on Saturday, May 1, 2021.