JOLIET – Joliet artist Maggie Capettini paints en plein air, but there’s nothing “plein” about her artwork.
Inspired by the changing seasons and the vibrant and rustic environment of the area park of the same name, Capettini’s work, “Hadley Valley: A Year in Seasons,” will be displayed through October at three Forest Preserve District of Will County visitor centers on a rotating basis.
“It’s a beautiful area – there’s a wonderful stretch of wilderness between Joliet and Homer Glen, there are paths for joggers and horses and all sorts of types of plants and scenery,” Capettini said. “I was interested in getting back into painting, and the idea of painting the outdoors was appealing to me because of the beautiful colors and because there’s always something new to see every time you return to the park. I would drive down Route 6 and just be in awe of it, and it inspired me.”
That also inspired her to paint in a style rarely used – en plein air, which means, roughly translated from the French, that her works are painted outdoors. An advantage to working in this style was that Capettini could take her children – Flynn, 6 and Lilah, 4 – with her.
Capettini would paint; her children would play. They enjoyed the scenery as much as she did.
“Once I started painting, I couldn’t stop,” Capettini said. “There are so many beautiful things in the valley. I just kept finding new and interesting things to try to capture.”
The exhibit contains 30 pieces; 25 are en plein air works. The remaining are based on photographs Capettini took for paintings later done in her home studio. Capettini will discuss her work and the plein air technique from 2 to 4:30 p.m. April 18 at the Sugar Creek Administration Center in Joliet.
Capettini said she hopes her works inspire people to check out Hadley Valley for themselves. Cindy Cain, public information officer for the Forest Preserve District of Will County, believes Capettini and her works are inspiring.
“It’s really amazing that she spent so much time outdoors in our preserve soaking up not only the nature but also interacting with other preserve visitors while she produced her oil paintings,” Cain said. “It’s a wonderful mixture of nature, people and art.”
Capettini began painting when she was 5. She has pursued her muse throughout her life.
“I always loved doing it, but I never thought it would lead me to something so serious,” Capettini said. “I always just liked making things and appreciated doing them.”
A graduate of Batavia High School who got her bachelor’s degree in art from Augustana College in 2001, Capettini, now 35, didn’t consider exhibiting her works while she was painting them. She merely wanted to capture the beauty she enjoyed during those nature walks with her kids.
It was the first time in a long time Capettini had painted, she said, partly because she never really had discovered her niche. That changed in 2011, when Capettini took a landscaping class with a Chicago artist, James Swanson.
“It really clicked for me,” Capettini said. “I loved painting landscapes because there’s always something new to them. Every day and moment to moment, things change within them, and sometimes that’s overlooked if you just see them and go right by. But if you really stop and look, you can capture these small changes, and over time you see they’re actually pretty big and significant.”
Although Capettini participated in several juried exhibits in the Chicago area, this is her first solo project. In addition to the thrill of sharing her work with others, Capettini has enjoyed the escape into the creative process.
“My husband [Matt Poplawski] is a really big runner. He’s really into fitness and loves exercising and jogging – and that’s his escape, that’s how he gets away from it all,” Capettini said. “With me, it’s painting. It gives me the ability to just sort of shut life off for a while and turn inwards.”
Capettini hopes to keep painting, with different elements as her muse.
“I’m exploring painting architecture, older houses and buildings,” Capettini said. “And water, bodies of water. Like the outdoors, it’s something that you don’t think changes much, but it actually does. And it’s all those small changes that add up to something special if you take the time to notice.”
IF YOU GO
• April 1 through May 15 – 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, Sugar Creek Administration Center, 17540 W. Laraway Road, Joliet.
• June 2 through July 12 – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays, Isle a la Cache Museum, 501 E. 135th St., Romeoville.
• Sept. 5 through Oct. 18 – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays, Plum Creek Nature Center, 27064 S. Dutton Road, Beecher.