Barbara McCleary remembers hearing a rustling, and all of a sudden, heavy breathing on her neck. McCleary, an artist on an outdoor painting expedition with friends, had wandered by herself down a path into an open field and set up her easel and art supplies when she found herself not alone.
“I looked around and all of these cows had come up really slowly, and they were like right there, all breathing at me,” she said, with a laugh. “They were so beautiful, they were red with big brown eyes, and for some reason, they lick everything.
“They were licking my easel, and the box with my paint stuff in it, and me, and I was going, ‘Girls, back off,’ and talking to them, trying to get them to move off my painting. These colors are hard enough to mix without you sniffing at them. I looked up and all my friends were hanging on the fence, just laughing their heads off.”McCleary, 69, has encountered many adventures through her en plein air (French for “in open air”) painting.
“All the paintings become like journals,” she said. “Everything has a story that it reminds me of, of some goofy thing that happened while I was out painting. It enriches the painting because of the feeling that comes from it.”
McCleary will host an art show April 24 and 25. A portion of the proceeds will go to benefit the Ingham County Animal Control. Last year, she donated $1,400 to the Capital Area Humane Society. McCleary loves animals, and has two shelter dogs, Max and Trisket.
McCleary has taught community education art classes and student workshops in local schools. She said she loves to stress that anyone of any age can get excited about painting.
“One of the best things about being a teacher was when finally, all of a sudden, you would see that they were catching on,” she said. “People begin to look at things differently, and that’s what happens. All of a sudden you start seeing things you never saw before.”
McCleary’s charitable nature is one of the things that makes Roy Saper, curator of Saper Galleries where her work is shown, glad to have her as part of his family of artists. Saper said his first interaction with McCleary came when he was judging an art competition in which he gave her work high marks.
“Today, our world is filled with such strife and conflict and ugliness and hurt, and her paintings are like looking out a window at this beautiful garden,” he said. “Her works rest the pulse rate.”
McCleary uses oil paints to depict landscapes from all over the world, although Michigan has remained her favorite subject.
“We have a beautiful state,” she said. “And I loved going to France more than I can tell you. Going to California, Mexico, Colorado — those were all great experiences, but when I come back here, that’s where I really love the scenery the most.”
p.m. Saturday, April 24 and Sunday, April 25
3537 Ponderosa Drive,
Email email@example.com or visit barbaramcclearystudio.com