How to move a college painting class outdoors

'We're trying to paint and react more quickly than we might in the studio'

With indoor art studios feeling a little too close for comfort during COVID, Eastern Michigan University professor Amy Sacksteder is for the first time teaching oil painting outdoors.

Students have been provided with plein-air kits to guide them in the French tradition of painting outdoors, Sacksteder says.

Students, who have also supplied themselves with smocks and blankets to sit on, are painting more campus landscapes than they would have in the past.

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“We’re keeping things portable, and trying to paint and react more quickly than we might in the studio,” Sacksteder says. “How soothing to be outside.”

Some students are participating in the class remotely, thanks to Zoom lectures and videos Sacksteder made with a grad student, Sonia Kraftson, over the summer.

As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, more students will likely shift online.

The students are producing more, smaller paintings than they would normally and Sacksteder has encouraged them to create galleries at home.

“We usually do about three paintings in the course of a semester. Now they’re building portfolios with five to 10 paintings,” she says.

Sacksteder has also stopped using solvents and harmful varnishes. This prevents students who are working inside from being exposed to harmful chemicals.

UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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