Members of the Latimer Art Club gathered on the rooftop of the Nevada Museum of Art on a windy morning in early October.
They came toting easels, sketch pads, pencils, paints and brushes, which they set up in individual work stations overlooking downtown Reno.
The day’s goal: to paint “en plein air,” or in the open air, a French term referring to the technique of painting outdoors with the goal of capturing the mood and essence of a landscape. The event marked the culmination of a multi-year effort to bring the club’s signature so-called “paint out” event to the museum. Early members of the club helped form the Nevada Art Gallery in 1931, which eventually turned into the museum.
Lorenzo Latimer, the club’s namesake, was a San Francisco-based painter who specialized in watercolor landscapes at the turn of the century. Almost a hundred years before Bob Ross, he taught students across the West the joys of painting the outdoors. After students at one of his Lake Tahoe classes encouraged him to come to Reno, he became a regular visitor.
“One of the features of [Latimer’s] classes was whenever the weather was good, they were always outdoors,” said Eileen Fuller, a spokesperson for the club.“Not only up at the lake, but around the Reno area too.”
Since Latimer’s death in 1941, the club has continued to preserve his legacy. Latimer was known for showcasing his students' work alongside his own. In keeping with that tradition, the Nevada Museum of Art had club members' works briefly accompany their Latimer exhibition.
Artist Luverne Lightfoot was introduced to the club by a fellow artist in the 1980s. Though she was born in the South, Lightfoot said she fell in love with Nevada’s skies and mountains after she moved here in 1952 and has been painting them ever since.
“Painting outdoors is just the ultimate,” said Lightfoot, who has served in various board positions with the club, including president. “I've had numerous classes and workshops with different teachers and that's one founding thing: Get out of doors to see the light and color.”
Check out the video for more about Latimer, "en plein air" and why the club members love painting in Nevada: