Among the dozens of tree-lined streets, historic buildings and charming homes, the residents of the greater Riverside and Brookfield areas undoubtedly know and appreciate the beauty and unique character of the neighborhoods in which they live.
One group of local artists also recognized that the allure and exquisite nature of Chicago’s near-west suburbs was too great to pass up. So they’ve been trying to capture it.
Those who wander the area early on Saturday mornings this summer may observe a small group of painters and sketchers working away at their canvases, immortalizing local landmarks and nature scenes.
The artists, who operate under the group title of “In Art Pursuit,” gather near parks and buildings on Saturdays between 6 and 10:30 a.m. to collectively select a focal point and create paintings or other artwork based on their individual perspectives.
Joe Abboreno, a graphic artist and illustrator originally from Oak Park, now living in Brookfield, decided to create the group after brainstorming with his childhood friend and fellow artist Ted Gordon, a professional animator and resident of Oak Park, about new avenues for creating local art.
“It’s the familiarity of the place,” Abboreno said, explaining how the group comes to select their weekly subject locations. “We know this is where a lot of people have fun.”
Gordon said the two decided that having a small group meet early on the weekends to create art would make for both local exploration and a flexible extension for their hobby.
“There are two main things I wanted to get out of creating this group,” Gordon said. “One was to discover new places to draw and paint. Anybody can suggest a place to go, so we end up painting in places I wouldn’t have thought of. The other thing is to work outside of the family schedule. We get our painting done and then can do all the family stuff. It’s been pretty successful.”
In Art Pursuit first began meeting last summer and now several artists come out to sketch and paint their weekly scenes.
Some of the most recent spots covered by the group include “Poor Phil’s” restaurant in Oak Park, Loca Mocha coffee shop in Brookfield and the Brookfield Historical Society Home, which is housed in the old Prairie Avenue railroad station.
“Eventually, we want to do some night scenes like the Lake Theatre [in Oak Park],” Abboreno said.
Oak Park artist Ginny Pitre-Hay spent her career designing art for publications and is now glad to be working as a full-time artist, all while learning more about the landscapes and people around her.
“I’ve always loved drawing since I was a kid,” she said. “There’s something about just capturing scenes of everyday life. You do it so well outside; you get the sun [and] people walking by. I like sketching people.”
New to the group is Chicago-based artist and IT consultant Satish Prabhu, who most recently served as the treasurer for the Oak Park Art League and learned about the group from Gordon’s interactions with the organization.
“The group is very friendly and I’m exploring parts of the city I had not known about,” Prabhu said. “It’s amazing exploring the history and beautiful buildings. You don’t have to go to different parts of the country to see famous monuments.”
While some artists have sold a few of their locally-inspired pieces, others have displayed their work with the Oak Park Art League.
Overall, while Abboreno and Gordon are professional artists, they say the group provides more than just practice for their work.
“My favorite part is being out in the morning and interacting with people,” Abboreno said. “I like capturing the scene and being outside and getting some fresh air. You learn something new every time you’re out here.”
Gordon echoes his sentiments.
“I’ve been painting and drawing my whole life,” he said. “It’s a way of working on skills that are related to work but are different enough that it’s like a second career. I get the social aspect of collaboration [but] the artwork we all make [is] individual.”
In Art Pursuit welcomes painters, sketchers and photographers of all talent levels to join them weekly. Those interested in learning more about the group and their meeting places are invited to search “In Art Pursuit” on Facebook and request to “join” the group.