Ah, to paint en plein air, surrounded by trees kissed by the sun and the sounds of a gentle breeze. Problem is, it’s not always so delightful. The sun moves, or suddenly there’s a cloud cover, and the light on your subject changes completely. “It can be spontaneous and fun, but then all of a sudden you’re inundated with black flies,” says artist . Radiance: An exhibit of oil paintings by Maxine Shore is on view at Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville July 11 through August 2, with an opening reception July 11, 4 to 7 p.m.
When the outdoor elements make working impossible, Shore will do a sketch or take photos to work from in the studio. She knows that everything can be redone in the studio. Hers is attached to her East Windsor home, with a cathedral ceiling and a view to a garden – flowers and colors from the garden appear find their way into her paintings. Canvases begun outdoors are placed on her easel for fine-tuning, then arranged on a display wall where she can study them for further improvements.
The Tenafly native started painting as a child, working in watercolor because it was cheap and available and easy to clean up. Her father, Arthur Schlosser, had a commercial art business in New York City — clients included Columbia Records, Volkswagen and pharmaceutical firms. “The artists working for him did layouts and photos for ads just like in Mad Men. He knew most commercial artists wanted to be fine artists – my father was a Sunday painter — so he displayed their work on one wall.” Shore could smell the art materials from his studio.
Schlosser — Shore describes him as “a romantic” — took the family to Europe beginning when Maxine was 12. “We fell in love with everything French.” That love continued through her undergraduate years at Chatham College, where she majored in French, and then inspired her to pursue a master’s degree in French literature at Middlebury College, spending a year at the Sorbonne.
She still remembers what the director of the Middlebury program at the Sorbonne taught: If you have to choose between studying or taking a French lover, choose the lover — you’ll learn the language far better. “The NYU students were reading Proust and the Middlebury students were finding French lovers,” she recounts with a laugh.
In her junior year, Shore lived with a French family, babysitting the children, and while she’d learned all the formal words of politeness, she realized she had no vocabulary for when the children acted up. The message of her professor about experience over book learning was true. And while she didn’t have time to paint in France, she made sketches and absorbed the experience. Her painting of a café at night is unmistakably Parisian, with a sycamore tree in the foreground, overhanging umbrella-covered tables, patrons discoursing over a glass of wine into the wee hours.
Although she taught French and art for many years, Shore only began painting seriously, by her own account, 15 years ago. When she retired in 2008, “I really devoted myself to it. You can’t move along to where you want to be when you’re just working on something evenings and weekends.”
Now, painting every day and most hours of the day (“even when I’m folding laundry I’m thinking of how I’m going to improve a painting”), her colors have intensified. A beach scene painted in Truro, Massachusetts, for example, in 1990 has what she calls “local color.” The same scene painted more recently has more drama in the sky and the colors are more brilliant. “I use nature as a springboard,” she says. “I don’t copy it, I enhance it.”
Shore points out that there’s a lot of color in the world that we take for granted. Many people may see a shadow as gray, but she sees the purple in the shadow. She taught her students to look for the color. “Don’t assume, but really observe – that’s what an artist does. Proust said, the voyage of discovery is not in finding new landscapes but in seeing with new eyes.”
Shore says she’s always working toward a goal, and to keep herself on track she keeps a journal of inspirational quotes. From Matisse: “Each picture as I finish it seems like the best thing I have ever done… and yet after a while I am not so sure. It is like taking a train to Marseille. One knows where one wants to go. Each painting completed is like a station – just so much nearer the goal. The time comes when the painter is apt to feel he has at last arrived after all or that Marseille… is not where he wanted to go anyway, and he must push further on.”
Shore has won a handful of awards at Ellarslie, the Mercer County Artists Show and Artsbridge. She has had solo shows at Thomas Sweet Café in Montgomery, Small World Coffee in Princeton and Bell’s Tavern in Lambertville, and joined Artists’ Gallery in December.
“My philosophy is, everyone is an artist,” says Shore. “You have to find your medium, what inspires the imagination fully. Picasso advocated keeping the spirit of the child in you alive.”
The Artful Blogger is written by Ilene Dube and offers a look inside the art world of the greater Princeton area. Ilene Dube is an award-winning arts writer and editor, as well as an artist, curator and activist for the arts.