Stepping into UW-Stout’s Furlong Gallery’s current exhibit is like stepping into the pages of a travel journal, with rock, prairie grass and mountain stream under foot. Children playing at a fountain, a street musician, riders on horseback – characters and landscapes capture the imagination and evoke a need to wander.
Award-winning plein air artist Marc Anderson's “Field to Finish” is showing at Furlong through Saturday, Oct. 29. Plein air refers to artists painting outdoors in natural light, surrounded by their selected landscape.
A 2010 UW-Stout studio art alum, Anderson believes each painting has its own story. When he chooses a subject, he thinks about lighting, texture and surfaces in a landscape.
“I try to pick out something unique about a setting. It’s all there waiting for you to paint,” he said. “Sometimes you have to work a little harder to find the right setting; sometimes the composition is just ready to go.”
Anderson, who grew up in Wild Rose, has participated in plein air festivals and prestigious shows across the country. In 2018, he opened the M. Anderson Gallery in Wauwatosa – a showroom, studio and home base for his workshops.
From cartoons to fine art
While at UW-Stout, Anderson studied to be a political cartoonist and was a caricature artist at Valley Fair, an amusement park in Shakopee, Minn. He later worked as a freelance illustrator for various publications.
“I had an opinion, and editorial cartoons created an outlet for me to let people know,” he said.
But a plein air workshop with artist Mark Boedges in Vermont led to a gradual shift in Anderson’s creative process and, eventually, his career. It was an abstract process of building his business around his fine art, as he began to understand the ins and outs of marketing and finances, he said.
“Plein air painting allows for a less specific voice, but it’s equally satisfying,” Anderson said. “I didn’t realize the possibility of becoming a full-time artist until I started.”
Now a winner of several Best in Shows, Anderson was named a Top 10 Artist to Collect Now by Plein Air Magazine in 2021.
When events and festivals closed during the pandemic, he turned to the comfort of his studio and focused on building frames for his artwork and to sell to other artists. Anderson’s grandfather was a woodworker, and he now has his grandfather’s tools.
“It was nice to do something else in the studio. It was gratifying to take total ownership of a piece,” he said, as he sets many of his paintings in his custom frames, including one of his favorite pieces, “The Staff Meeting,” a scene of anglers gathered on a wharf.
Anderson will lead a plein air workshop for advanced painting and drawing students on Saturday, Oct. 8, with a demonstration from about 10 a.m. to noon at the 9-11 Memorial in front of the Applied Arts Building. Students will paint from 1 to 4 p.m. near the same area. The community is invited to watch the artists in action.
UW-Stout’s homecoming week is Oct. 3, to Saturday, Oct. 8, with events for alumni, students, staff and Blue Devil supporters, complete with the return of the homecoming parade at 11 a.m. on Oct. 8. The homecoming football game will kick off at 1 p.m. when the Blue Devils face UW-La Crosse.
The School of Art and Design offers six Bachelor of Fine Arts programs, as well as a Master of Fine Arts in design, which was ranked No. 6 in the nation last spring for game design among public universities and colleges. The BFAs in animation and digital media and game design and development are ranked nationally by the Princeton Review and Animation Career Review.
SOAD also offers BFAs in graphic design and interactive media, industrial design, interior design and studio art, and Bachelor of Science programs in arts administration and entrepreneurship and video production.