Painting into the Distance with Mary Jane Volkmann

Mary Jane Volkmann is one of our long-standing Folk School instructors and we are so excited to get to interview her for her upcoming class, “Painting into the Distance” on September 22-28, 2024.

In her in plein air (outdoor) painting class, students will learn to create an expanded sense of depth in their work! Using limited palettes in acrylics or oils, they will observe and paint cues of scale and the colors of nature as they transition across long-distance views of the landscape. Students will get to explore the campus and will have endless possibilities within the Folk Schools beautiful landscape. 

Read more about Mary Jane Volkmann and her class in our interview below! View her website to get a taste of her style. Interested in her class? Register today to secure your spot.

JCCFS: Tell us a little more about yourself for those who are unfamiliar. What’s your background in your medium? How did you get started?

MJV: I started painting when I was a child. My parents were most encouraging as they knew that I dreamed of being an artist. I’ve painted and taught painting around the world, and love sharing what I know with others and learning from them as well. Visit my website to learn more about my travels and painting that I have done in my lifetime.

JCCFS: Tell us more about your class’s specific technique or process? What will student get to learn and experience? 

MJV: Have you ever noticed how a very green tree in front of you doesn’t even look like the same tree in the distance? How the colors of the mountains, lakes and streams change as you look at them from different angles and distances or under varying weather conditions? Have you ever wondered how to create a painting which conveys that same breathtaking space that you see when you stand on a mountain and look far into the distance? In this outdoor (plein air) painting class we will be exploring all of these things, learning how to use interesting compositions and to see and mix those fascinating colors with limited palettes. The techniques you will learn can be used in any type and style of painting. While some drawing and painting experience is helpful, in reality anyone is welcome to take this class. It will be great fun ~ and there will be plenty of time for discussion and help.

Example of Mary Janes work

A student in one of  her previous plein air outdoor painting classes!

Mary Jane’s Italian meadow painting

JCCFS: What can students expect to leave with? 

MJV: During this class you will learn more about the practicalities of painting outdoors on location. You’ll learn about changing light and how to capture the essence of a painting quickly. You’ll learn what colors you are actually seeing rather than what you think you are seeing, and you’ll learn how to mix and use those colors. You’ll learn how to create interesting compositions. You’ll learn how to create a sense of space in your paintings. You’ll laugh, enjoy the company of other painters, ask questions as they arise and go home with a couple of finished paintings and plenty of stories!

JJCFS: What’s one piece or craft object you’ve made recently that you are proud of, and why?

MJV: I’m actually working on a large painting commission of a beautiful Italian meadow in the mountains in the late afternoon light. It’s a special place where one can see far into the distance and become mesmerized by the magic of it. I’m using bright colors, toning them to create that sense of distance, and I’m quite delighted by what is coming to life on canvas.

JCCFS: You’ve taught at the Folk School many times. What is your favorite part about coming back each year?

MJV: The Folk School is such a happy place. I love that it brings all kinds of people together to enjoy and learn so many different kinds of arts and crafts, and that we all go home having made new skills and new friendships.

JCCFS: What tips would you give an aspiring painter? Anything you wish you knew earlier in your career?

MJV: Keep on showing up! When a new idea presents itself, run with it and let yourself be delighted by it.There are so many interesting ways to create and paint. Keep exploring!

The Folk School campus

Plein Air painting

JCCFS: Where do you draw inspiration from for your work?

MJV: I draw inspiration for my paintings from exploring the world around me wherever I am. I carry my easel and camera with me when I travel because each new setting provides a wealth of fascinating subjects. The Folk School is a great place to paint because of there is such a richness of subject matter!

JCCFS: Anything else we should know about your, your class, or your practice? And where can folks stay up to date on your work?

MJV: This class is listed as intermediate, but if you’ve at least dabbled a bit in painting and would like to further your skills you are most welcome! You can view my portfolio of work on my website at

JCCFS: Thanks for sharing your story Mary Jane, we look forward to seeing you at the Folk School!

Upcoming Class with Mary Jane

Painting into the Distance

September 22-28, 2024

Learn to create an expanded sense of depth in your work in this plein air (outdoor) painting class! Using limited palettes in acrylics or oils, we will observe and paint cues of scale and the colors of nature as they transition across long-distance views of the landscape. Expect plenty of time for discussion and feedback.

About Mary Jane Volkmann

Mary Jane Volkmann is a landscape and figurative painter working in acrylics, oils, casein, and watercolors. Widely traveled, she lived in Africa for 28 years, and has undertaken commissions as varied as portraits of a king, book and greeting card illustrations, coin and postage stamp designs (several of which have won world awards), as well as a published book of 30 of her paintings. She is a past recipient of the Georgia Artist in Residence award and has been part of invitational plein air painting events including ten years at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival’s Art in the Gardens special event. In 2022 her painting “The Pout of a Hundred Possible Meanings” was chosen for the cover of “The Great American Paint-In” book, a collection of paintings from around the country depicting life during the pandemic. Mary Jane teaches private workshops and continues to paint “en plein air” as well as in the studio. Her paintings are in private and corporate collections overseas and in the U.S.

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