Uschi Niner spends her summers painting flowers in a field in France and the rest of the year sitting with brush and canvas gazing over a Lowcountry marsh, golf course or beach.
The Hilton Head Island artist has spent her life painting around the world. She was born in Germany, but raised in the Middle East due to her father's job with the United Nations. She married her husband, Marsh, an American Foreign Service officer, and they continued to travel. All the while, Niner was producing portraits of the natives -- colorfully dressed women in Morocco, villagers in rural Guatemala.
These days, she splits her time between the island and her home in France. In either place, she's always sure to bring her paints.
A collection of Niner's en plein air paintings will be shown at the Art League of Hilton Head's gallery through April 27.
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Niner describes how she went from faces to flowers.
Question. Your exhibit is oil paintings of flowers. Why flowers?
Answer. They're beautiful. ... We spend five months in France. When we come there we pluck up all the weeds. Our barn is right in the fields. It's a five acre lot. There's the barn, and all around are flowers. The flowers are already starting to bloom when we get there.
Q. How long have you been painting?
A. I've been painting all the time. I originally started painting portraits. When I got here to the island I started painting lagoons and beaches and golf courses. And in the summers I go and paint flowers and old villages and barns in France.
Q. Only en plein air?
A. I am only an en plein air (painter). I never copy photos.
Q. What appeals to you about en plein air painting?
A. That is the real thing. It is what the eye sees, not the camera.
Q. Do you still paint portraits?
A. I do when I get a commission. That was one way I painted portraits. There was another way, too. I would stop people and give them money for sitting. Usually it was just on the road or on a street corner. I started this in Egypt and did it until we ended up in Guatemala. Back then I paid 80 cents up to $3 or so. I usually just kept these paintings myself.