By Phyl Newbeck
On Oct. 19, Shelburne artist Mark Boedges will highlight his hometown in an exhibit called “Scenes from Shelburne” at the Mark Boedges Fine Art Gallery in Burlington. Boedges only recently moved to Shelburne, motivated in part by a desire to be closer to some of his favorite painting venues.
Boedges had painted all his life when, armed with a degree in philosophy from the University of Kansas, he returned to school at the University of Colorado to pursue a graduate degree in fine art. Along the way, he realized that what he really enjoyed was plein air painting – a French term for painting outdoors. He left school and began working almost exclusively outdoors and taking workshops from other plein air painters. Boedges believes his philosophy background has helped his art. “It’s a contemplative bent that I’ve always had,” he said.
Boedges gravitated towards plein air because he enjoys painting landscapes, but the allure was greater than that. “It’s about being outside for a purpose,” he said. “I love skiing, but I was looking for a more contemplative outdoor activity.” Boedges often finishes his paintings in the studio, working from memory or a photograph, but he feels strongly about beginning his work outside.
Boedges began painting professionally in 2000 and had his first exhibit three years later. In November of 2011, prodded by his wife Rebecca (whom he refers to as the entrepreneur of the family), he opened his gallery in Burlington. Boedges was nervous about the endeavor but thinks it has gotten off to a good start. “It’s more successful than I would have guessed,” he said. Although the gallery has displayed the work of other artists, 80 to 90 percent of the artwork for the quarterly shows was created by Boedges.
Only 39 years of age, Boedges has already been the recipient of a number of awards. He received the Grand Prize for Landscape from International Artist magazine, the Joseph Hartley Memorial Award from New York’s Salmagundi Club, and Best of Show at the 2013 Door County Plein Air Festival in Wisconsin. Thanks to the latter award, he was a featured artist in the November issue of Plein Air magazine.
The new exhibit, “Scenes from Shelburne,” is devoted to Boedges’ paintings of his new hometown. “I love the LaPlatte River and the falls,” he said. “I love not having to drive far to paint great subject matter.” Boedges gravitates towards landscapes with rocks, streams and water, but he is not averse to the built landscape or other outdoor scenes. He enjoys winter painting because the snow creates high contrast and he wishes autumn lasted longer because of the variety of colors. Lately he has been gravitating towards overcast skies which create a cool light. An added advantage is that the light doesn’t change and the heat doesn’t drive him indoors.
Boedges paints outdoors in all seasons and noted that winter has its challenges. He dons long underwear and overalls and puts heat packets in his shoes, but his hands are the limiting factor. Since thick gloves limit fine motor coordination, Boedges wears gardening gloves over rubber gloves and works as quickly as possible. In the winter, he also prefers smaller canvases which can be painted before he loses feeling in his fingers. “You just don’t get the same spirit from a photograph,” he said.
The opening reception for “Scenes from Shelburne” will be from 5 to 9 pm on Saturday Oct. 19 at the Mark Boedges Fine Art Gallery on 196 Battery Street in Burlington.