NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Nature has inspired some of the world’s most famous artists of all backgrounds, from Claude Monet and Winslow Homer to John Singer Sargent. Some of their best-known paintings try to capture the beauty and power of nature. Debora Thedinga, a painter based in Berkeley Heights, does the same every time she heads outside to try to capture the world around her.
“I love it, you’re outside with the bugs, but you’re in the woods, in the elements, and you’re painting exactly what you see," said Thedinga. "You can see the shadows better and you can see the colors better.” She is a devotee of en plein air painting, which is merely the French translation of painting outdoors, on site and immersing yourself in the natural world.
Thedinga is in the midst of her first solo show, “New Jersey and Beyond,” presently on display at the New Providence Memorial Library. More than 50 of her paintings will be on display, and for sale, through the end of August.
Thedinga graduated from New Providence High School in 1975, she went on to study art at Glassboro State College, but ultimately her life changed course and she has been at Governor Livingston High School for the past 20 years as an Education Interpreter. She assists the deaf and hard of hearing students through sign language to communicate with the class and the teacher.
Over the past five years, she returned to her art background and began to paint. “This is a labor of love,” said Thedinga, standing amidst her paintings at the New Providence Library, “Plein air is very hard to do, there are times when I’ve had more bugs on a canvas than paint, I’ve had the wind blow my whole set-up over and my painting face down on the grass, but if you walk away at the end of the day with a great painting or a painting you can use as a study for a bigger piece then it’s a win, and you had a great day outside.” She has clearly hit her stride and loves this new chapter of her life; she will be devoting even more time to painting as she plans to retire from Governor Livingston next year.
She paints on different supports: stretched canvas, wood panels, masonite and canvas boards as well as using both oil and acrylic, with oil being her preferred medium. She belongs to a group of New Jersey based Plein Air painters and studies painting at the Visual Art Center of New Jersey in Summit. Her paintings depict the Delaware River, Barnegat Lighthouse, Tewksbury, Lambertville, Stanhope, the Watchung Reservation and of course Berkeley Heights. But she is well travelled too; there are paintings of Nantucket, the Napa Valley and Italy.
She has captured a few awards in the last two years, a Best in Show at the 2017 Cranford Paint Out and an Honorable Mention at the 2016 Pascack Tri-state Juried Exhibition.
After August, her paintings will move on to the Lundt-Glover Gallery in Chatham, where they will remain through November.
The New Providence Memorial Library is located at 377 Elkwood Avenue in New Providence. Hours of operation are 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.,Monday Tuesday and Thursday and 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. They are closed on Sunday.