From expansive farmlands to lush mountain forests, from clear limestone streams to tree-lined neighborhoods, Happy Valley is rich in scenery. Local pastel artist Jennifer Shuey’s work is synonymous with the natural beauty of Happy Valley, capturing its scenic and agricultural lands and waters in a way that is both delicate and vibrant. We tapped into her deep appreciation for the area and her talent to gain insights into what she does best, plein air painting.
As a plein air painter, Jennifer chooses locations that are both beautiful and meaningful to her.
“Some of my all-time favorite plein air painting spots are Millbrook Marsh, Talleyrand Park in Bellefonte, Spring Creek Canyon, and Rhoneymeade. I added a new favorite this summer, too—the grounds of the Boal Mansion,” she said. “For me, choosing these locations goes beyond that they are beautiful and accessible. They are special to me because of my history with them, and how and why I’ve connected with them over time.”
While rural spots are common for plein air artwork, Jennifer said Happy Valley has some more central locations that lend themselves quite well. “Plein air painters who love capturing the sense of place in town can’t go wrong with downtown Bellefonte. The Victorian architecture and streetscapes are just as inspiring as our region’s forests, farmlands, streams, and skies,” she said. “To me, plein air painting is less about finding a majestic scene than discovering and conveying the beauty in something easily missed, right before my eyes.”
Jennifer’s love for Happy Valley’s landscapes extends beyond the canvas to her work benefiting local conservation efforts. Prior to her current role as Director of Development for the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, she served as Executive Director of ClearWater Conservancy for 15 years and is a long-time volunteer for the Centre County Farmland Trust.
“Plein air painting combines my passions for conservation and creating art, and somewhat ironically, it motivates me to spend more time outside where my spirit can be restored. It is an antidote to spending too much of my time inside at the computer,” she said.
For painters and artists thinking about trying plein air creating, Jennifer has a few favorite tips.
Pack as few art supplies as you can get away with. A lighter backpack is appreciated with each step farther afield. This takes practice, and you will shed gear several times as you start plein air painting.
Keep your plein air backpack in your car, so you are always ready if the mood to create strikes and you have some time.
Take along a little sketchbook to test compositions and do some quick value studies before you commit to a certain idea. It is too easy to take lots of photos and then stand outside staring at your phone—busted!—instead of immersing yourself in the experience and arranging the elements that you see and feel into a good painting.
Work quickly to capture the light and shadow, the colors behind the color, and the mood. See how much you can say with just a few strokes. Lay down a stroke, and then leave it alone!
It is more important to pick a spot where you can be comfortable than to find what you imagine to be the perfect painting subject.
This summer, Jennifer weaved together her passion for painting and conservation into an art project to benefit ClearWater Conservancy called “Centering Myself, Outdoors”.
“I created an artistic body of work to raise money and awareness for conserving more of our central Pennsylvania landscapes. I hiked along as an artist-in-residence with ClearWater’s Centred Outdoors program. My new collection of twelve pastel paintings highlights some of my favorite places we visited,” she shared. It can be found on her website: jennifershueyart.com.
Jennifer has also donated countless pieces to local charitable organizations, including Millbrook Marsh Nature Center, Mount Nittany Conservancy, the Centre County Youth Service Bureau, the Bellefonte Art Museum for Centre County, the Art Alliance of Central Pennsylvania, the Spring Creek Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Penn State’s Palmer Museum of Art, WPSU, and more.