Every Saturday from May until October, Monroe County Courthouse Square visitors are greeted by happy produce vendors, brightly colored fruits, raw milk and a blonde-haired woman standing in front of an easel. Jill Swersie, the blonde lady in front of the easel, is a painter with an interest in the en Plein Air style of painting. En Plein Air is roughly translated as “in the open air.” En Plein Air painters, like Jill, embrace painting outdoors, often standing or sitting in front of an easel and painting what they see in front of them. For Jill and her fellow market artists, the stands, produce and people are the subjects of their Saturday morning painting session. While for the average person, the repetition might seem boring. The challenges of painting the Monroe County Farmers Market En Plein Air keep Jill and her fellow painters coming back week after week.
The market poses an interesting set of difficulties for painters. For example, the subjects at the market are more mobile than the scenic subjects of traditional En Plein Air painters. Even, the produce may be there one minute and on its way home for someone’s supper the next. When Jill sees something she wants to capture on her canvas, she has to quickly sketch or paint an outline of her subject before the person moves out of sight. Her depiction of the “Boy on the Bike” is an excellent example of this challenge. The boy stopped, surveyed the market and then started moving out of range. Jill captures the instant the bike is stationary in her composition and she had minutes to commit the pose to paper. After that, Jill painted from memory. Although that particular instance was extremely short, it demonstrates the difficulty artists face in en Plein air of the local market.
Painting people is a challenge of its own. The freeness of her model’s body language is one of the things Jill loves about painting people and relishes capturing their body language. Body language also one of the most important aspects of a people painting. The subject’s body language tells the story to the viewer. Even the slightest shift of a shoulder can change the meaning of what the subject’s body is saying. Jill’s favorite example is her painting of the three ladies on the park bench. The trio are eating pastries and drinking coffee. The trio was talking animatedly. Hands were moving. Voices were carrying. Jill tried to capture all of their conversation, and she relished the challenge of making these ladies’ conversation appear on paper on paper.
Jill’s work has been featured at galleries in Milford, New York City, Scranton, Skytop, and Aspen, Colorado. Interested in seeing or evening taking one of the farmers market paintings home? Jill’s and her fellow painters will display their paintings on September 26 and possibly a second date in October at the farmers market.
For more information about Jill Swersie, visit jillswersie.com