Open Air Artist Captures The Moment

July 24, 2018

By Julie Allen

Meet Spencer Meagher, plein air artist. The French phrase plein air means “open air” and is used to describe artists who do their work on location instead of inside a studio.

Meagher has called Southern Illinois his home for thirty years. For the past decade, he has painted scenes in our local communities and sold them through his website and art events. On the day of this interview, the subject of his painting was Dancing Girl by Alexander Zeitin, a sculpture of a leaping woman on the grounds of Cedarhurst Center for the Arts. “We don’t want to create a photograph of her,” Meagher explained. “We want to create an impression. We want to capture the moment.” He rinsed his brush and proceeded to paint and chat.

His interest in plein air art began when he attended an art show in Indiana, where he was surprised to find more than 120 artists displaying this type of work. Meagher was captivated and started setting up his easel in the throb of everyday life. “You get to see someone’s community with fresh eyes,” he said. “People are amazed at what we see that they had never thought of as being beautiful.”

People are amazed, and interested in learning the technique. He currently teaches weekly classes in Mt. Vernon, but he has also been approached by artists in Italy and Croatia, inviting him to teach workshops abroad.

At one point during our conversation, the sun peeked from behind a cloud and Meagher seized a teaching opportunity. “See how the light is making that area behind the woman bright, now? We want to capture that light, embellish it.” Minutes later, the sky was again overcast, and the statue had settled to her original greenish hue. But Meagher had brought the sun down to his canvas, capturing the moment right here in Mt. Vernon, Illinois.