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CHAMPAIGN — Parkland art instructor Melinda McIntosh paints quickly and carefully while she watches the sun pass over the skies and the shadows lengthen.

McIntosh’s work is on display at the Giertz Gallery at Parkland College’s 2019 Art and Design Faculty Exhibition through Sept. 21, with works by 14 artists.

Exhibiting faculty members include Chris Berti, Shawn Fairchild, Stacey Gross, Bryan Heaton, Paula McCarty, Laura O’Donnell, Denise Seif, Peggy Shaw, Sheila Schneider, Joan Stolz, Matthew Watt, Kelly White and Liza Wynette.

For McIntosh, whose painting technique is called plein air, French for fresh air, the challenge is one the Impressionists faced more than a century ago.

She must “work quickly and map in lights and shadows, or I end up ‘chasing the light,’” she said.

“It’s not unusual for me to go back to the outdoor location at the same time and same lighting conditions to finish up a painting or drawing,” she said.

It’s a difficult but long-standing process.

“The Impressionists moved their creative efforts out of the studio and into the landscape with the development of portable tubes of oil paints and easels,” she said.

Claude Monet would paint the same scene over and over to capture the changing of light and the seasons, famously at Giverny. Pierre-Auguste Renoir would sometimes work next to him.

McIntosh can work to a strict schedule.

“Since the light source is constantly changing, typically I work in two- to three-hour increments. Unless it is a cloudy day, longer than that presents problems with changing light, shadows and colors,” she said, adding that she enjoys the challenge.

She prefers working in oils at this time.

“I’ve been painting on and off for several years,” McIntosh said. She lives in Monticello but enjoys the challenges of other landscapes.

“What really got me into the plein air painting was when I visited the Garden of the Gods and Old Stone Face in southern Illinois. I was thrilled when I had to hike up the side of Old Stone Face to reach the top and the majestic vistas,” she said.

McIntosh started her art education as a Parkland student.

After finishing graduate school at the University of Illinois years later, she joined the faculty at her first school.

She has attended workshops in printmaking and bookmaking at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Columbia College and the Chicago Center for the Book and Arts, among others.

She attends plein art events, which she calls a great way to hone your craft and to continue your education.”

McIntosh also occasionally teaches workshops of her own on printmaking, bookmaking and Suminagashi (marbling plain paper with water and ink).

McIntosh also works with drawings and printmaking, but this year she’s only exhibiting paintings at the faculty show.

Locally, you can find her work at the Cinema Gallery in Urbana and Prairie Fire Glass in Monticello.

She has works in collections at Eastern Illinois University and the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, among others.

Internationally, McIntosh’s work has also been exhibited at the Seoul Space International Print Biennial in Korea.


Paul Wood is a reporter at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@pvawood).