Finding inspiration in nature — and each other: Deerfield painting group celebrates 30th anniversary with new exhibit

  • Artist Valerie Bassett hangs one of her paintings at Hosmer Gallery in Forbes Library as part of the “Thirty Years in Old Deerfield” exhibit. Photo by Chris Goudreau 

  • Old Deerfield Painting Group leader David Sund adjusts one of his paintings at Hosmer Gallery at Forbes Library in Northampton.  Photo by Chris Goudreau 

  • Harry Ruddock III explains that his painting “Paul’s Barn,” at left, was inspired by a farm in his hometown of South Deerfield.  Photo by Chris Goudreau 

  • Seen here are two paintings inspired by rural life by artist Valerie Bassett of Florence. Bassett, a nurse, says the “stillness of painting” helps her cope with the stress of her job. Photo by Chris Goudreau 

  • A painting by Helen Hodges. Submitted image

  • “The Harvest is Plenty” by Valerie Bassett. Submitted image

  • A rural scene by Old Deerfield Painting Group member Carol Walker. Submitted image

Staff Writer
Published: 12/12/2018 4:02:15 PM

For nearly three decades, painters with the Old Deerfield Painting Group have been meeting on a weekly basis to hone their craft and create a community that celebrates artistic growth — something members say can be challenging to find, given that painting is often a solitary art form.

Now, in anticipation of their upcoming 30th anniversary in 2019, the 15 members, who come from across the Valley, have come together to present a group exhibit at Hosmer Gallery at Forbes Library in Northampton. The show, “Thirty Years in Old Deerfield,” runs through Dec. 29.

The group was started in Historic Deerfield in 1989 by artist Elice Davis Pieropan and now is under the direction of local artist David Sund. Members meet weekly at the White Church Community Center in Old Deerfield to paint or for a group critique, with each artist bringing his or her style to the table, from watercolor paintings to oil and pastel pieces.

Members come from different walks of life — some are retired and took up painting as a way to explore the visual arts, while some are professional full-time painters.  

“We don’t paint together, we paint close to each other,” Sund, a full-time artist, said with a laugh. “But the group is very useful in that some of us need the discipline of saying, ‘Okay, I have to be there every Tuesday and I have to be in the head space to paint.’ ” 

On a recent Saturday morning at Forbes Library, artists were preparing to hang their work in the gallery. Local ukulele group AEIO Ukes was rehearsing a cover of “Nowhere Man” by The Beatles in a room next door while the painters adjusted frames and chose some of their best work for display.

Sund said the exhibit features work that is partially inspired by the group’s weekly meetings. There are many still life paintings on display, but the exhibit also features architecturally inspired pieces, paintings of animals, and en plein air depictions of local towns.

Valerie Bassett of Florence, as one example, offers a still-life tableau of pumpkins, eggplants, and other seasonal vegetables arranged together with expressive colors; the vibrant orange and yellow pumpkins contrast with the deep purple of the eggplant, all of which is seen through a reflection on the dark background. Another of her paintings focuses on a picturesque New England barn, with rolling white clouds and a light blue sky overhead.

Bassett, who’s been part of Old Deerfield Painting Group for seven years, says painting is her means for relaxing from her stressful job: In addition to having a masters of fine arts, she’s a registered nurse. 

“The stillness of painting, it focuses you,” she said. “It’s a health promoting practice.”

Harry Ruddock III, a resident of South Deerfield, has been with the group for two and a half years. He became a member because it gives him the opportunity to paint with other artists.

“You pick up a few pointers here and there, and it’s just a good group to paint with,” he said. “There’s all kind of different styles and mediums, and I don’t get that by myself in my studio.”

Ruddock III said he works primarily with watercolors, which he’s been involved with for the past 30 years. He’s also a member of the New England Watercolor Society based in Duxbury, which he joined this year.

One of his pieces, “Paul’s Barn,” depicts a barn in winter, a scene inspired by a particular farm in South Deerfield.

“I’ve seen this barn numerous times and just happened to catch it in a light,” he said. “I was out on a walk actually. I always knew there was a painting somewhere in this barn. I took a snapshot and I did a studio piece based on that.”

John Tomasetti of Shutesbury has been part of the painting group for the past seven years. His works at Hosmer Gallery include New England landscapes, watercolors, and paintings of flora.

A former first-grade teacher from Erving — he taught for 34 years — Tomasetti said he had to wait a number of years to join the group after he retired in 2004 because so many people want to be part of it.

“I just enjoy being around other artists,” he said. “I live alone and it gives me a chance to talk with other artists.”

Helen Hodges of Ashfield has been with the Old Deerfield Painting Group for almost 20 years. Her work is impressionist and colorist, a style in which she uses vivid colors in her watercolor paintings. One of her muses is her hometown of Ashfield: She’s painted at least 20 pieces inspired by locales in the bucolic hilltown.

She said she most enjoys the weekly Tuesday meetings and getting to know other local artists.

“It’s just a comfortable warm feeling to be there,” she said.  

Chris Goudreau can be reached at

“Thirty Years in Old Deerfield” will be on display at Hosmer Gallery at Forbes Library, 20 West St., Northampton, through Dec. 29. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday and Wednesday; 1-5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday

 For more information about the Deerfield Painting Group, visit  

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