An Interview with the Artist – Jeff Markowsky, En Plein Air

“Ingrid at Rest” by Jeff Markowsky

If you’ve been to the St. Augustine Art Association gallery this month, you’ll recall seeing the oil painting above. Jeff Markowsky of Savannah, Georgia, won the $1,000 Clark & Alice Alger Best in Show Award for Ingrid at Rest, a piece that illustrates the hidden beauty of a local boatyard. Markowsky also received the PleinAir Magazine Advertising Award from the national publication for plein air painters. Markowsky worked from dawn to dusk during the 3rd Annual St. Augustine Plein Air Paint Out, producing an impressive body of work that celebrates the nation’s oldest city. Visitors can see Ingrid at Rest, along with Markowsky’s other works, in the plein air exhibit, Where Art Meets Historyon display through May 26, 2019.

We asked the artist to share insight about his art career, his experience during the local Plein Air Paint Out, and advice for emerging artists.

St. Augustine Mayor Tracy Upchurch presents Jeff Markowsky with an award during the Plein Air Quick Draw

How was your experience participating in the 3rd Annual St. Augustine Plein Air Paint Out? 

I had a fantastic time! Saint Augustine is a truly beautiful city with incredible historic architecture. It is visually stunning. The event was very well organized and everyone was so pleasant and enthusiastic. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend all of the events since I was teaching in Savannah on two days during the event, but the Quick Draw at the Lightner Museum was truly a highlight set in a such a beautiful courtyard with classical music playing. I really enjoyed that!

What did you find most inspiring in the City of St. Augustine?

I love the water and being near boats. I find it very soothing and calm to wake early before the sun rises and watch the workers at the docks start their day. I was very inspired by the scenes of early morning and late evening shrimp boats at the docks.

In the works that you created, what would you like your viewers to take away — specifically those featured in the current Plein Air exhibit?

I am drawn to the dynamic interplay of shapes created by light. It’s less about the subject matter for me than it is about the formal interplay of shape. I try to capture the impression of light and its emotive content felt at that time.

What are some of your most memorable experiences throughout your entire Plein Air career?

There are so many. I take extended trips across the country, up to 5 months sometimes, and paint in favorite locations. Here is an excerpt from my Blog of one experience:

“The wind felt hurricane force, strong enough to push me back a couple of steps, and that’s when I was leaning into it. Holding my 16 by 20 panel with my left arm, painting with my right, I was right at home with the windsurfers and kite boarders that speckled the river below. The evening sun was setting in an ethereal glow through a haze of smoke from forest fires that had settled in the gorge. I was about four feet from the edge of the cliff, a 1500 foot drop to the highway below. It was the second day on a painting that I was ready to abandon for numerous reasons. The winds were nearing unmanageability and the smoke was silently asphyxiating. So I started scraping it down with my palette knife thinking I could better use my time in a different location. Then something happened. The painting from the day before peeked through and it brought some harmony and a newfound sense of excitement which lured me forward in the painting.”

You can find that Blog entry here.

What advice would you give to emerging Plein Air artists?

  • The fundamentals are important. Learn the principles of Drawing, Color and Design.
  • Take workshops with people you admire.
  • Paint A LOT. It’s through our own process and practice that we develop a library of information which in turn creates our visual voice.
  • Have FUN! Stay Positive!!