Plein Air Painting at Quarry Farm

EDITOR’S NOTE: We occasionally feature testimonials from recent Quarry Farm Fellows and Residents, which combine conversational illustrations of their research and writing process with personal reflections on their experiences as Twain scholars, teachers, artists, writers, and fellows. Applications for Quarry Farm Fellowships are due each Winter. Find more information here.

Bridget Bossart van Otterloo paints and teaches in Corning, New York. Her artwork is about the beauty in nature. She has a degree in Studio Art from Houghton College and has studied in Florence, Italy. Bridget moved to Corning in 2002 to work as an apprentice and studio assistant for the late Thomas S. Buechner. She currently works from her light-filled home studio, where her subjects include still life, flowers, plants, portraits and landscapes painted in oils and watercolor. Bridget teaches painting workshops from her home studio. She has also has taught art classes at local youth centers, museums, libraries, Corning Community College, and public schools. Bridget has been on the faculty of 171 Cedar Arts Center teaching oil painting and watercolor painting classes since 2002. Bridget’s work can be viewed at several venues in New York State including The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes in Corning, The North Star Gallery in Ithaca, Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, Oxford Gallery in Rochester, Gallery 54 in Skaneateles, and The Franklin Street Gallery in Watkins Glen.

You can see more of her work and read her artist’s blog at

I thoroughly enjoyed my week at Quarry Farm as an Artist in Residence. I could see why Mark Twain and his family loved it here, the view and breeze from the valley is heavenly. Over my five-day stay at Quarry Farm I completed five paintings, one painting a day! I set for myself this goal at the beginning of the week, and was happy to achieve it. My work feels like play (most of the time) and the right environment can help me stay in that flow state needed to create work. Quarry Farm is an ideal place for inspired concentration. There is a peacefulness accompanied by bird song that made the perfect background for plein air painting.

What I enjoy about plein air painting is the time pressure and challenge of finishing a painting in about 4-5 hours. It forces me to loosen up, to not be too tight or get caught up in too many details. You have to stand back from your subject and think, what is most important here? What should I focus on, and what can be left out? Then you can only stand out on the lawn for so long with the flies sticking in your paint, and the spongy moth caterpillars parachuting down from the trees – you have to get right to the heart of the painting.

“Quarry Farm” 11×14 oil painting by Bridget Bossart van Otterloo

When I wasn’t painting, I enjoyed exploring the historic house, checking out all the books in the library and study, and walking around the grounds.

Quarry Farm Parlor. Photograph by Bridget Bossart van Otterloo

I spent most of my time out on the front porch painting and observing. The light was best here for painting, and the view was always inspiring.

View from the Quarry Farm Porch. Photograph by Bridget Bossart van Otterloo

Spending the week out on the porch and in the historic house made me feel like I was stepping back in time. I could imagine all the time Mark Twain, his family, and friends spent here. Susan Crane really achieved her goal of making Quarry Farm a place people wanted to be, enjoying their own company, and the company of others.

“But we are housed here on top of the hill, now, where it is always cool, & still, & reposeful & bewitching.”

Samuel Clemens to William Dean Howells, 14 June, 1877, Elmira NY
Painting “Housed on a Hill” 11×14 oil painting by Bridget Bossart van Otterloo

Even on rainy days, the landscape was inspiring, and the porch was my shelter from the elements. I had to complete this painting, “Rainy Day View” in about two hours, as the rain and wind started coming in sideways on the porch. I really like the freshness and sense of atmosphere in this painting.

“Rainy Day View” 8×10 oil by Bridget Bossart van Otterloo

Here is a view of the Chemung River Valley on a clear day. I’m sure one could see the river and valley below even more clearly back in Mark Twain’s day.

“Chemung Valley View” 10×14 watercolor by Bridget Bossart van Otterloo

The porch lattice work and circular windows silhouetted the gardens surrounding the house perfectly. I tried to capture the feeling of the bright light beyond the shelter of the porch here in this watercolor painting.

“Garden View” 10×14 watercolor by Bridget Bossart van Otterloo
Quarry Farm Gardens. Photograph by Bridget Bossart can Otterloo

Two paintings from my residency, “Quarry Farm” 11×14 oil, and “Rainy Day View” 8×10 oil, will be framed and join the Quarry Farm Collection.

Thank you Elmira College and Joseph Lemak for this opportunity.