Portfolio: Plein-Air Painting | D. LaRue Mahlke

On Location: Six artists hooked on painting outdoors

D. LaRue Mahlke, Signs of Spring, pastel, 8 x 6.

D. LaRue Mahlke, Signs of Spring, pastel, 8 x 6.

By Gussie Fauntleroy

Texas painter D. LaRue Mahlke drove to a spot near her home north of Austin one day and took out her pastels to paint a stream in the sunshine. Then she turned around. She breathed an “ah!” and set up her easel in that direction instead. The scene, a grassy river bottom and pecan trees in winter colors, had the serene, intimate feeling for which her richly hued work is known.

As a child, Mahlke often drew outdoors. Through high school and into her 20s (while studying fine art in Corpus Christi, TX) she painted portraits. Then about ten years ago she returned to landscapes. These days the 53-year-old artist is especially drawn to certain regions in her home state: gently rolling prairies and farmland east of Austin; the oak trees and rock outcroppings of the Hill Country; and West Texas, with its subtleties of color and form.

For Mahlke, working in the studio hones her sense of design and adds thoughtfulness to her paintings, while painting on location engages all her senses, infusing the experience with freshness, gratitude, and joy. “Painting on location is really where you connect,” she reflects. “I get recharged and back to my roots. It’s a renewal. It’s my anchor.”

InSight Gallery, Fredericksburg, TX; Bingham Gallery, Mt. Carmel, UT; www.dlaruemahlke.com.
Featured in “Portfolio: On Location” June 2010