• Susan Paino

Painting Outdoors in Boston

When I was planning an outdoor summer arts program, I thought it would be fun to include painting activities. Not knowing much about painting, I asked some visual artist friends why it's not common to see artists painting outdoors in Boston. Most cited the problems of uncooperative weather and the hassle of bringing all the equipment back and forth. Still, I thought, we've definitely got to try painting outdoors.

The name of the event became Dabble! Doodle! Dance! and every Saturday in July, we painted, doodled, and danced alongside Fort Point Channel in Boston. The area was arranged like a creative arts playground, and even though people joined in on all of the activities, painting was surely the favorite.

One traditional easel with a canvass was set up, plus many makeshift easels and other objects for painting upon like parasols, blocks, egg cartons, etc.

And all the painting surfaces were for sharing. Nobody took home a painting of their own. People were allowed to paint anywhere they wanted and paintings evolved and changed over time. One painting began as a boat (or maybe a house?) and ended up being three faces. Another started as a lone flower on a hill, which later turned into a rainbow-filled countryside.

Some children were leery about sharing their canvasses saying, "What do you mean? I don't get to take it home?"

A few people wanted to know what we would do with all the paintings after the summer. Some made requests for certain paintings if we ended up giving them away.

I'm not certain yet what we'll do with the artwork. We may display it somewhere and give certain paintings away. Or we might whitewash them and reuse the easels. Or maybe we'll bring them to another community, repeat the events, and see how the paintings change.

If I had my wish, every community playground would have an expressive arts corner where people could paint, draw, sketch anytime. Not so simple to make happen, but wouldn't it be cool?