Last year, Jo-Ann Osnoe reconvened the watercolor class she was teaching outside. Each week, the Yardley artist and her students would meet at a local park, usually Washington Crossing Historic Park, to paint onsite.
“There are endless amounts of inspiration and subject matter there,” Osnoe says. “And during the pandemic, it was a lifesaver. We could spread out and paint on our own. Then we’d come together at the end, wearing masks, to discuss our work.”
Osnoe has long favored painting outdoors – a style called plein air painting – and at the park, particularly, because of the historic nature of the buildings and the close proximity to the river, which she describes as a “never-ending source of inspiration.”
“I like being a part of nature, listening to all the sounds and seeing how everything changes over the course of the seasons,” she says. “The gardens at the Hibbs House are one of my favorite places to paint for that reason; I love seeing the different flowers that bloom there.”
Osnoe studied graphic design at the Parsons School of Design in New York City. Over the next decade, she worked as an art director at several magazines. She took up painting – watercolors at first, then oils several years later – shortly after she moved to Bucks County in the mid-1990s.
Initially, she painted strictly for her own enjoyment. As she grew more serious about it, she enrolled in some classes. Soon after, she began exhibiting at Canal Frame-Crafts Gallery next to the park. A selection of her watercolor and oil paintings are featured there today. The Chapman Gallery in Doylestown also exhibits some of her oil paintings.
A couple years ago, Osnoe felt that her creativity had stagnated, and she was no longer enjoying the process of making art. She saw a video online of artists adding cold wax to oil paints and applying the mixture to canvases using plastic spatulas and palette knives. She was immediately intrigued.
“It lends itself to a less-detailed approach. It becomes more intuitive,” she says. “There’s no preconceived idea of how the painting should turn out. I start with a limited palette of colors, then allow the painting to develop with each successive layer. It’s actually the most challenging process of painting I have attempted.
“I never set out to be an abstract painter,” Osnoe adds, “but these new paintings have evolved naturally to be more abstract.”
The experimentation seems to have reinvigorated her creativity all the way around. Lately, she’s also been working on a series of small nature studies, which are inspiring new ideas for her abstract paintings.
“They’re definitely feeding off of each other,” Osnoe says of the interplay between her representational watercolors and oils and her abstract paintings. “Right now, I’m just enjoying the exploration of it all.”