New York Botanical Gardens: Plein Air Invitational

I’m just back from a fair bit of travel: a week in Rockport followed by a workshop in the Boston area, and in the middle of that the Plein Air Invitational at the New York Botanical Gardens. Lots of driving, lots of painting and now a pile of scanning to do.

It was a highlight of my summer to be invited to paint amongst a world-class group of painters at the Botanical Gardens. There were about two dozen of us scattered around the grounds, painting in the rose garden,the family garden, the native plants area and around the conservatory. In a week or so, I’ll post a link to all the paintings completed during the course of the day by this fabulous group of artists. In the meantime, here’s what I did.


My morning location was the rock garden — a quiet hideaway on the grounds with a waterfall, a pond and in a far corner an explosion of colour — the last of the azaleas in bloom. It was a perfect shady spot with hardly anyone walking by, but by lunchtime I started to think it might be a little too quiet. Mingling with visitors and having them watch us paint was the purpose of the event, after all.


In the afternoon I moved my painting gear to the family garden and found a shady spot under a grape arbour. From that location I had a view of a dark corner blooming with allium. With a picnic table behind me, it turned out to be the ideal place for visitors to stop by and chat. I guess after so many urban sketching outings, I am used to talking and painting at the same time, and I met some wonderful families who kept me company for a time.

Thanks to artist-in-residence James Gurney and everyone at NYBG for organizing the event and welcoming us to these spectacular gardens.


42 Comments on “New York Botanical Gardens: Plein Air Invitational”

  1. Julana says:

    What a wonderful event. Would have loved to come and see you all.


  2. zuzala says:

    Lovely work, and a pleasure to meet you


  3. Bernie Russ says:

    Thank you for sharing such glorious works. It is such a pleasure to view your weekly posts and adventures. Thank you again for sharing. I appreciate it much! Bernadette


  4. Lisa Daniels says:

    Shari- I am blown away by your sketches/paintings — they are amazing!!! I wish you could do a live session just so I could ask the many how to questions– you are an inspiration


  5. monique says: must be such a wonderful feeling to excel at do:) Beautiful!


  6. Gerry says:

    It all sounds so utterly satisfying – a privilege for the onlookers and confirmation for yourself – perfect.


  7. Liliane Partikian says:

    Wow… rendered all that green so beautifully…..can’t wait to see your holiday paintings


  8. Beautiful event Shari and your watercolors are great and so vibrant! 😉 Carolina


  9. Snehal Kank says:

    Excellent! 🙂


  10. Donna Thibodeau says:

    I have bought both of your Craftsy classes and learned a lot about simplifying landscape vistas and architecture. I am also a plein air painter and often choose floral subjects as you did in this blog. I am impressed by the depth and variation of your flower beds and your use of shapes and masses. Please consider another class of flowers in nature and in a vase. Thank you for sharing.


    • Hi Donna, Thanks so much for writing. I would love to do a painting class on Craftsy, but they are more interested in different types of sketching classes. I’m hoping to do another one soon though.


  11. rosjenke says:

    Spectacular paintings too. 👍👍 What a treat for the families to be able to watch while you painted.


  12. Dottie Aiken says:

    Love you paintings. Can’t believe you got this much done. Did you draw in pencil first or just jump in with paints? Plein aire to me is so hard, only complicated with all the other stuff you have to take care of. I’ve learned so much from you and your Craftsy class. Thank you.


    • HI Dottie,
      I was surprised that I was able to complete two paintings as well. I guess the first one was quicker because I was hidden away. I did start both of these with pencil first although not much of it. If you zoom in on the image you can still see some of the pencil lines. Glad you like the Craftsy classes too!


  13. Both of your paintings are beautiful! It was such a pleasure meeting you and watching you work on the second painting. You and James Gurney were so good at sharing your time with people who stopped by. Thanks for taking the time to share your work.


  14. Tim Mancusi says:

    Wow. Very nice. Your skills are unreal.
    Thanks for sharing.


  15. Judy Sopher says:

    Lovely paintings and a great hat.


  16. Donna Thibodeau says:

    I enjoyed your classes on Craftsy about landscapes and architecture. Would you comsider doing one on florals? Your use of simple shapes and color add so much depth and detail. I often pick these subjects for plein air and diddle them to death!


    • I would love to do a class on flowers Donna. I will suggest it to Craftsy and see what they say but they seem to be more interested in sketching classes than traditional watercolour painting. Fingers crossed, because I’d love to do a flower class.


  17. Trevor Travis says:

    Two really beautiful paintings with restrained mastery and yet full of exciting things to look at


  18. oh Shari just beautiful, I’d love to see what you do with the tropical splendor of our gardens here in Hawaii. What would it take to get you here?


    • Ah, I’ve never been to Hawaii. I would love to paint there one of these days. Can you email at the link on my “about” page? It would be a pleasure to continue the conversation from there.


  19. Tony says:

    Great to see these two lovely paintings Shari – all that wonderful ‘negative’ painting. Sounds like a day that will live long in your memory and so glad it went well for you.


    • Thanks Tony. I loved the day there and it was worth the long drive there and back from Rockport and all the traffic delays. Wish I would have had more time to see the gardens and exhibition but that always happens at these events. I never get to be a spectator.


  20. bissky says:

    You’re a great ambassador for watercolour painting AND Canada. Wish I could have been there. One day maybe.


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