Hyde festival draws artists to paint region’s beauty

Hyde festival

George Van Hook (American b.1954) ‘Spring in Vermont,’ 24 x 30 inches. Image courtesy of The Hyde Collection

GLENS FALLS, N.Y. – George Van Hook is a man who moves quickly. He thinks fast, jumps from idea to idea, and throws out adjectives like “beautiful, “rich,” “important” and “blessed” generously – sometimes in rapid-fire succession. But one look at one of his paintings and you realize that he is also a man who takes the time to stop and smell the roses – then paints them.

“Life is good,” the Cambridge artist said. “I just paint it.”

The award-winning plein air artist is juror of the Hyde Collection’s Plein Air Festival, which runs Aug. 7 to 11, throughout downtown Glens Falls and the surrounding area.

“En plein air” is a French term for painting outdoors. Artists who paint en plein air focus on light and its changing qualities. Most paint on site, highlighting the importance of composition, brushstroke, and color to capture the essence of a scene.

More than 35 artists applied to participate in the festival; Van Hook selected 17, including Deborah Bayly of Poestenkill, Matt Chinian of Cambridge, Eden Compton of Saratoga Springs, James Cramer of Athens, Lisa David of Ballston Lake, Marilyn Fairman of Johnstown, Elissa Gore of New York City, Frederick Holman of Brant Lake, Rumara Jewett of Saratoga Springs, Elizabeth Krebs of Lake George, Ann Larsen of Northville, Diane Leifheit of Paul Smiths, Jeanne Plekon of Holmes, Tom Ryan of Queensbury, Susan Whiting of Argyle, Janet Marie Yeates of Northville, and Grace Yu of Glens Falls.

“We have an exciting group participating in this year’s festival,” said Jenny Hutchinson, curator of museum education and programming at The Hyde. “These are artists who are selected for plein air competitions throughout the country; the lineup really highlights the incredible concentration of talent we have in this region.”

Van Hook himself has painted around the world. He grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, an area with “a vibrant artistic culture” that fueled his early love of art. In high school, he made movies throughout France and England. After college, he spent a year in Paris, copying paintings at the Louvre, then painting en plein air in France, Italy, and Holland.

He moved to California, where he continued painting, focusing on landscapes. “It was just booming with creativity there,” he said.

Ultimately, though, the sheer beauty of this region drew him eastward, where he settled in Cambridge (Washington County).

“I looked around, and thought, ‘This is the most beautiful part of the East Coast,’” he said. “I have been strongly influenced by Impressionist traditions and the landscape here is not dissimilar to that.”

His love of the region is part of why he signed on to the Plein Air Festival, one of about a dozen shows for which he has served as juror. “All of upstate is suffering, but I’d love to see it come back with the arts as an important cornerstone of the revitalization,” he said. “Glens Falls is a really cool town, the architecture is beautiful, there’s access to the mountains, and I’m just really impressed by the way Glens Falls is using that art scene to showcase its other assets. Art makes our living very much a richer experience.”

The Hyde’s Plein Air Festival includes a special event at 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 9, with “The Practice of Plein Air,” a demonstration of plein air painting by Van Hook. Learn about art en plein air, as the artist demonstrates the basic concepts by producing a plein air artwork live. Admission is $5 for members of The Hyde and $8 for nonmembers. RSVP by calling 518-792-1761, ext. 310, or emailing adminassist@hydecollection.org.

The festival runs Wednesday, Aug. 7, through Saturday, Aug. 10, with participating artists creating works throughout the Glens Falls region. Passers-by are encouraged to watch the artists, ask questions about painting en plein air, and snap a photo of them at work or a selfie with them, and post it to social media with the hashtag #hydepleinair.

The artists are competing in categories including Best in Show, Nocturne, Water, and Structure. Prizes will be awarded at 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 11, during The Hyde Collection’s annual Community Day event, when art created throughout the festival will be exhibited. Click here to learn more about Community Day.