Traverse City Record-Eagle

Northern Living

March 23, 2014

Artist creates painting a week for a year — without leaving property

TRAVERSE CITY — Sherry McNamara’s usual canvas is a wide-open space, like the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore or Historic Barns Park.

But last year the plein air painter decided to challenge herself by dramatically reducing the size of that canvas — and creating a painting every Sunday for a year without setting foot beyond her property.

“I thought this will push me not only to paint every week, which I normally do, but to paint it and finish it in a day and to paint subjects I would not normally not paint,” said McNamara, 58, a member of the prestigious Oil Painters of America. “That’s why I decided to do it within the boundaries of my property” three-quarters of an acre with a 2,000-square-foot home overlooking Silver Lake.

She embarked on her plan Feb. 10, 2013, with a painting of the oak trees outside her kitchen window on a “glorious” day — and the optimistic log book comment, “I don’t think this is going to be as hard as I feared.”

During the next few months she painted everything from the nuthatches that visited her backyard feeder to the ice shanties scattered on the lake beyond her living room window. The landscape artist even turned to still lifes, which she hadn’t practiced in 30 years.

The challenge got harder as the gray, gloomy days dragged on. Ideas came fewer and farther between and she began to think of her “commitment paintings” as “commitment painting,” as in maybe she needed to be committed for coming up with the idea. During week nine she came down with a novovirus infection, hitting her lowest point in the year-long project.

Still she persisted, noting in her log: “I am enjoying this exercise in creativity even though some Sundays I have awoken with a minimal feeling of dread that within hours I will have to produce something or I will have failed on my commitment.”

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