Gray skies moved into Jack Berkery's territory inside Blatnick Park.
Thunder rumbled. A summer thunderstorm was minutes away.
Berkery, under a dark blue tent atop a park hill, kept working. His eyes were on the Mohawk River, tall trees on both sides of the water. His hands worked a paint brush and put oil-based color into a canvas that measured 1 foot high and 3 feet wide.
While nature had decided to revise the scene a little bit, Berkery said he was not going to alter his blue sky.
"The sky is done," he said. "I'm not going to change that now."
The Latham resident and bunches of other local artists were in Blatnick Park this past weekend, painting in the eighth annual "Niskayuna Art Out." For the first time, artists worked with a theme: "What Does Niskayuna Mean to You?"
The exercise has always been a "plein air" event, a French term for open air.
"It's refreshing to get outside and do something live, instead of staring at the walls," said Berkery, 70, who also paints inside. And while awards were part of the event, Berkery said competition was secondary.
"They like the camaraderie," he said of the artists. "When it's over on Sunday, we'll all get together to meet other artists, just the sharing of ideas."
Berkery spent several hours on his landscape. "For me, it's an easier painting," Berkery said. "There are no details. If it's a portrait, you have to get every minute detail correct or it doesn't look like the person. You can't draw a tree wrong."
M. Edith "Edie" Cannizzo, recreation attendant for Niskayuna's community programs, has run the "Art Out" program since its inception.
"It's a chance for the artist community to enjoy painting together in the parks," she said, "just bringing the local artists together."
Artists worked with watercolors, pastel chalks, oils and acrylics. The 52-year-old Cannizzo, like Berkery, loves the idea of taking creativity into the outdoors. "It's better outside," she said, working on a butterfly and sunflower under the Blatnick pavilion. "Being with other artists, I think there's a great deal of learning, sharing."
Karen Woodin, 60, of Waterford, loves painting in the Niskayuna area.
"I'm not from the area, but what has impressed me the most about the area is the amount of parks you have and the pride that comes with it," said Woodin, who worked with canvas and easel and painted the Blatnick pond and fountain.
"I love the water," she said. "Most of the paintings I do are reflective of the water. I find it congregates people. You can walk around and it's a very relaxed feeling you get when you're around water."
Jennifer Politano, 48, of Clifton Park painted from a photograph — a bunch of flowers purchased from a town farm stand. She worked with yellows and purples and put the colors on used tea bags. "The tea bags kind of add an antique quality to it," she said. "I like to try a different medium."
Laurel-Le Lipski, 76. of Scotia, noticed a couple of soccer players in the park. She sketched the two boys as they checked out something on one of the boys' cellphones.
"Usually, I'll do a landscape, but I liked these two boys," Lipski said. "Their shirts were red, their shorts were navy blue. I'll use that and I'll put in some bushes. I've got an underneath painting of pink and orange, so some of that will come through."
Deb Carpenter, 62, of Guilderland, also had her eyes on the pond and fountain. For starters, she used plenty of green.
"I love all the parks," Carpenter said. "Niskayuna has the bike path, it's just incredible. I actually learned how to paint in Lions Park so it has a special place in my heart because of that.
"It's so relaxing and it's rewarding," Carpenter added. "I love to teach painting as well, to get other people involved in it. I think everybody should try painting, even those people who say they can't draw a straight line. Well, neither can I, without a ruler."
Carpenter likes the feeling she gets when she creates with color. She also likes the feelings art lovers get when they look at her paintings.
"When people look at them, they smile," she said. "They get this relaxed feeling. It kind of calms the soul."
The paintings will be on display at Niskayuna Town Hall.
Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected].