Get to know plein air artist Dina Gregory

Melissa Holmes|@LissaCHolmes Staff Writer

GLEN ROSE - Plein air painting derives it name for the French equivalent “En plein air,” which means open air. Artist who explore this form of painting, paint outdoors and recreate the visual elements they see at the time of the painting.

Artist, Dina Gregory is one of the many artists that works in this art form.

As a child Gregory loved art, unfortunately the school she attended did not offer art classes for her to explore her love. Finally two teachers from the Art Institute of Chicago retired to her hometown and she began her studies under them. They introduced her to working with pastels and charcoal. Over the years her passion for art increased and she received her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts at the University of North Texas.

Working as an artist, Gregory has tried other mediums of paintings, but in the end she came back to her first love, pastels. The availability of the natural landscape is what drew Gregory to plein air painting.

“God just gives us this to paint so I figured I needed to get outside and do it,” she added, “I draw my inspiration from my spirit and my soul. “[...] There was this little tiny wild plum [on my property] and it was the most beautiful colors and it was as if God said ‘get out and paint that’ so I sat out on my porch and painted it.”

Listening to that voice in that moment paid off for Gregory. The painting of the tree won second place at show in Amarillo. To this day the painting remains in the guest bedroom of her home.

In addition to nature, Gregory said that the way that light bounces off of surfaces and creates shadows and variations draws her to plein air. Simply by looking at her works, which are filled with vibrant colors, you would think that color is the first thing she sees when she paints. However, that is not the case.

“I see nature through a black and white lens. If you look at my work online you will see that I do a lot of color, but it’s always after I first establish the light and the dark first,” she said.

Being a native Texan, some of the places that she likes to paint the most are Big Bend, Palo Doro, the hill country, in and around Glen Rose and Bosque County. The rocks, water and vegetation is what attracts Gregory to these areas. One of her favorite times of year to paint is Fall. Since there is a wide variety of hues she can work with.

The unpredictable force of nature can be a challenge for plein air artists when they are trying to reproduce what is in front of them. Gregory recounted how she was painting on the Paluxy River one time and a horrible rain came through. She stayed and finished the painting as best as she could. When she returned the next day everything that she had witnessed before was gone. The rain had come and washed away the entire scene. Occasions like this one has helped Gregory realize that the moments she captures are fleeting.

“I realize that not only are plein air artist painting nature, but it’s also a documentation of something that may not exist anymore,” she said. “I’m really in the moment of what is alive there. [...] People ask me sometimes why don’t you just take a photo of it. Photos are wonderful but you hope that your painting could be better than a photo.”

When someone buys her work, she first off hopes that they will enjoy, but mostly she wants it to remind them of good memories of a place in nature they’ve been to before that might not exist anymore.

While she doesn’t like to work from a photo, Gregory always takes one for reference just in case the scene is no longer the same.

Not only is the ever changing scenery a battle, the sun, wind and bugs also pose problems. Gregory said that it takes practice learning how to establish yourself in the sun. She always carries rocks with her just in case she needs to stabilize her easel in the wind.

Once all's said and done the time spent fighting the elements for the perfect painting pays off for Gregory. Her work has been featured in “Plein Air Magazine”, “Southwest Art”, “American Art Collector”, and “Art of the West.” She was featured in the November 2015 issue of “Plein Air Collector.”

Since 2005 she has had collections of her work juried in national exhibitions throughout the country. In 2014, she won the People’s Choice Award at Plein Air Southwest Salon.

One of the best things about going to national shows is that she can interact and meet other plein air artist. Just recently she spent a week in San Angelo, with artist from all over the world.

There were 36 artists picked for the event and Gregory said she was honored to be among some of the best plein air artists. Some her favorite pastel artists include Lorenzo Chavez, Nicolai Fechin, Kim Lordier, and Mary Cassatt. One of Gregory’s favorite moments as an artist was the time she got to spend a week studying under Chavez at a ranch owned by Fechin.

The tables have turned in a sense and Gregory is the one doing the teaching now. She teaches pastel classes at different locations around Texas and has taught everyone from beginners to advanced students. Granted she is a plein air artist, Gregory prefers to teach indoors. According to her “outdoor painting is a whole different lesson.”

Even though, she teaches Gregory is showing no signs of slowing down with her art. Coming up she will be having a one-woman show at the Dora Lee Langdon Cultural and Educational Center in Granbury May 28- June 22.

You can view and purchase Gregory’s work at The White Buffalo Gallery at 200 NE Barnard St. Glen Rose, Texas, 76043.