Plein Air Portrayals:

By Scott Campbell

Carlisle Artist Studies the Familiar

‘Tis the season for plein air painters.

Counted among them is Patricia Walach Keough, likely to be found in some bucolic setting, oil paints and brushes at hand, producing an engaging representation of that which lies before her.

Economy of brushstroke and use of strong color characterize the Carlisle woman’s art.

Keough favors surfaces of modest dimensions, not uncommon for those who work on location.

She obtains Ampersand or Masonite boards and primes them with numerous layers of gesso.

“I don’t really count,” she quips. “I guess I apply about seven or eight coats. I want the surface to be very smooth.”

Once sufficiently primed, the artist’s boards are ready to accept paint. Keough keeps it basic and direct. “Colors are more brilliant if you don’t overpaint,” she says. “If I don’t like the colors that I’ve put down, I just wipe them off and begin again.”

The 63-year-old Rhode Island native is a landscape painter, but she includes people in her images as often as possible. There is a market scene from a village in Nicaragua; a baptism in the Delaware River at Lambertville, N.J.; a solitary fisherman in the Yellow Breeches; July Fourth celebrants along a street in Carlisle. Keough recognizes that placing people in artwork instinctively draws attention to it.

She has also tried her hand at nocturnes, paintings done at night.

“One would think that, without natural light, it would be very difficult to get the colors right,” she states. “And, I do occasionally touch up nocturnes when I get them back to the studio. But I find places where there is a source of light by which to work…light from shop windows, for example.”

Employing a universal medium that consists of five parts turpentine and one part each of stand oil and damar varnish, Keough manages to keep her pieces from drying too soon.

“I prefer to keep the painting wet the whole time I’m working on it,” she says. “Sometimes I don’t succeed. I add a couple drops of oil of clove to each tablespoon of my medium to retard drying time. Then I put the painting in a covered box and place the box in a plastic bag with twist tie.”

Keough likes to use soft bristle brushes with oils. She has a collection of nylons and watercolor brushes, most of them flats, which satisfy that requirement. It is consistent with her desire to maintain a smooth surface. Even the final varnish coat is applied with a soft-bristle brush in order to eliminate texture.

The artist’s printmaking background is handy for her monotype work. She has a series of them, each produced by the use of three Plexiglas plates.

“One plate is for blue, one for yellow and one for red,” she explains. “I draw the image on the back of each plate with a permanent marker, then the color is applied to the front. Arches 140-pound hot press paper is soaked and blotted, registered on the plate and then run through my etching press. Successive colors are printed on the first one in this manner.”

Keough’s two years at the Rhode Island School of Design provided a solid foundation for her career in the arts.

Since then, she has been active in competitions and gallery exhibitions, earning first place in the 2012 Camp Hill Plein Air juried competition.

Other recent honors have come from the Art Association of Harrisburg and the Art Center School and Galleries of Mechanicsburg. Corporate collections include Duke University Medical Center, Wachovia Bank, Reynolds Corporation, Hamilton Bank and AMP.