For a lot of people, the warm sunshine and fresh breeze of the spring and summertime means jumping in the local pool or going to a bustling City event. For St. Peters Cultural Arts Instructor Daniel Fishback, it means getting out in the open air of nature, with a blank canvas and a paintbrush in hand.
“I have always enjoyed the outdoors, whether wading a stream with a fly rod, enjoying the rolling hills of ranches and farms, or hiking in the Rocky Mountains,” said Daniel. “Thus, plein air painting is my favorite way to paint. Being outdoors and painting with friends is so much fun.”
Plein air painting is as freeing of an experience as it sounds: going out into the open fields of nature and leaving the enclosure of the art studio behind. Daniel’s inspiration comes from the inherent artistic value of streams, mountains, forests, and other natural landscapes or subjects.
“Sunlight and shadow do magical things to both natural and inanimate objects, seeing them in real-time is the best,” said Daniel. “In the beginning, my favorite things to paint were landscape paintings. Later on, I expanded my subjects to include figurative, still-life, and animal paintings.”
Daniel’s been painting since 1999 and has been involved with the Arts Centre since early 2000, participating in exhibitions and competitions. He started with watercolors before moving to oil painting after 3 years. Art quickly grew from just a creative past-time into a serious profession. Daniel, now an award-winning artist, exited the corporate world and started painting full-time in 2008. He started teaching at the Cultural Arts Centre in 2018.
“I like to teach painting because it keeps me on my toes,” said Daniel. “I like to see students make progress with their painting and see them smile when they have accomplished something really nice.”
For any artist wanting to find an opportunity to learn different types of art, and to become a part of an open and friendly community, Daniel highly recommends taking a St. Peters Cultural Arts class.
“I like to keep things lighthearted and fun. Students will gain a better understanding about composition, the importance of values, mixing color, how to create dramatic light in their paintings, and more,” said Daniel. “It is really rewarding to see students learn, grow and like what they are creating. I find that students are very supportive of one another and friendly - which I encourage.”
Sometimes that extra insight or suggestion from another artist is all it takes to complete a piece. Daniel reminisced about a bad case of artist block while at an art competition at a winery in Augusta, Missouri. He was growing frustrated with painting some flowering shrubs and thought about scraping the work off the canvas. While discussing with other artists at the winery, someone mentioned painting a bee and asked if Daniel included one in his painting.
A half-dozen brush strokes later, the piece was finished with the addition of the honey-making insect.
“When other artists saw it they all thought it was funny, but said I should enter it in the competition,” said Daniel. “So just as a joke, I did.”
That same painting was awarded an honorable mention in the Augusta competition, and the painting sold to a beekeeper’s wife the following year.
Daniel’s story of surprising success through community and collaboration is what he hopes students find at his oil painting courses this year. Daniel aims to have his students branch out and learn from other artists and each other during their practice. Watching how others tackle a piece of art often reveals new techniques to a budding artist … or even to a seasoned professional.
“I’ve been helped along the way by a lot of artists I’ve gotten to know over the years from plein air painting competitions and workshops I’ve attended,” said Daniel. “Plus, I know from a purely selfish point of view that I’ll probably learn as much from the class as they will. And I always learn something from my students.”
Daniel’s five-week oil painting course at the Cultural Arts Centre begins Aug. 26, from 9:30 a.m.-noon on Thursdays. The cost of the course is $150. Another five-week session will also start on Oct. 7 with the same times and cost.
Learn more about the City of St. Peters' Cultural Arts Classes.