(Above: A detail from “Mistral Sur Callian,” a large acrylic-on-plywood work that dates to the late 1970s, reflects Eugene artist Marco Elliott’s attachment to the Provence region of France, where he was born and spent nearly 35 years before relocating to the United States; photos by Paul Carter)
By Randi Bjornstad
The sight of a painter sitting quietly near the ocean with a canvas on the easel and palette and brush in hand might strike most people as a serene and relaxing scene, but artist Marco Elliott has a different point of view.
Elliott considers “plein air” painting as something more like a sport, challenging the artist to capture fleeting changes of light and movement with an adrenaline rush akin to a batter waiting for a perfect pitch or a kayaker fighting through rapids.
As he writes in his artist’s statement that accompanies a show of his work now on display at the downtown Eugene Public Library, after nearly 40 years of painting Elliott still gets a thrill from “tackling mano a mano the complex emotions conveyed by our human perception of the Great Cosmic Outdoors and attempting to translate them, brush in hand, in a state of astonished contemplation.”
He has a great deal to show for his efforts, dozens if not hundreds of plein air landscapes painted in France, where he was born and lived for nearly 35 years, followed by a new body of work created at the Oregon Coast since he moved to Eugene with his wife and fellow artist, Joanna Carrabbio, in 2009.
In between, after he had met Carrabbio, a teacher and mural painter in southern California, Elliott taught art in the Los Angeles School District for 22 years and also carried out several mural commissions that incorporated student work.
His new show, titled “Plein Air Paintings by Marco Elliott,” will be on display in the library’s second-floor reading room through October. He will change part of the exhibit in October, bringing in work he has done that relates to the ancient Mexican tradition of Dia de Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.
What’s on the walls now are landscapes of Provence, where he lived in southeastern France, some completed as early as 1979, as well as many works from the Oregon Coast, some completed just this year. Most are gouache — opaque watercolor — a medium Elliott finds particularly pleasing.
Three of the works are originals, and the rest are giclée, fine art prints created on an inkjet printer.
“But even though the prints are giclée, they are nonetheless unique,” Elliott said. “After I complete each print, I touch it up with a brush to make it different from all the others, before I sign it.”
His affinity for the central Oregon coast — especially Sutton Beach just north of Florence — is obvious in the number of paintings he has devoted to capturing the area between Florence and Yachats in all weathers and seasons.
“I like to think of it as an emotional, visual diary of sorts, attempting to record (its) changing moods,” Elliott said.
The titles of the paintings tell the tale: Washburne in Spring, Sutton Creek, Strawberry Hill #2, Muriel O. Ponsler, Bridge on Big Creek, Dunes at Sutton; plus a few from farther south such as Near Cape Arago and Storm on the Move at Sunset Bay.
Several paintings in Elliott’s show depict the French village of Callian, identified by the inclusion of the town’s turreted medieval castle.
The largest is “Mistral Sur Callian,” an acrylic-on-plywood piece that offers a semi-abstract view of the town during the fabled Mistral, a strong, cold northwesterly wind that blows through France, usually as winter turns into spring.
Like the other works in the show, “Mistral Sur Callian” is available as a giclée print. Elliott said he plans to donate a percentage of sales from the show to Planned Parenthood.
Plein Air paintings by Marco Elliott
When: Through October
Where: Second floor reading room, downtown Eugene Public Library, 100 W. 10th Ave.
Contact the artist: 541-515-6485 or firstname.lastname@example.org