When Lynne Oakes moved to Germantown three decades ago, she had trouble finding other artists to connect with.
“It was a lot of cows, a lot of deer and not a lot of people,” Oakes said. “It felt kind of lonely.”
After placing an ad in the newspaper, Oakes got in touch with a dozen other artists in the area. The group that she formed as a result — The Art League of Germantown, or ALOG — is now celebrating its 30th anniversary with an art show and sale in early April at the BlackRock Center for the Arts.
Since 1983, the group’s membership has grown as high as 90 people, and now stands at about 80 artists from all over the county, Oakes said.
An open, supportive atmosphere has been crucial to the league’s success, Oakes said. Two ALOG gallery shows per year are held at BlackRock — one in the fall and one in the spring. Any member can participate in the shows — unlike juried shows, in which artists must submit their work for approval, she said.
“People who have art in them can be easily intimidated,” Oakes said. “I don’t think art is a competition.”
The show, Shades of Spring 2013, will run April 3 through 7, two days longer than the league’s usual shows. Work from 47 different artists will be featured, displaying a variety of styles and media.
An opening reception will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on April 3. A second reception, where attendees can meet the artists, will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. April 7.
BlackRock Center for the Arts is at 12901 Town Commons Road in Germantown.
The quality of work in the shows remains high because members take it seriously and rise to the occasion, Oakes said.
The league meets once per month, from the fall through the spring, at BlackRock. Each meeting features a talk on a different topic, such as techniques for working with various media or strategies for promoting one’s work.
Members say the friendly, welcoming tone of the league has encouraged them to create.
“That’s been a core premise of the league,” said Bill Mapes of Gaithersburg, a portrait painter who joined the group about eight years ago. “Artists willingly share their knowledge and opinions.”
Mapes sought a group of artists as he was preparing to retire from his career as a graphic illustrator and take up painting again. Mapes found ALOG online. He was pleased to find that at every meeting, the members introduce themselves and describe the media they work in, he said. He immediately knew which artists he needed to talk to about his own work.
“It’s a subtle way to get people a little more comfortable,” Mapes said.
Since joining ALOG, Mapes also has joined the Maryland Society of Portrait Painters and his work has been shown around the state, he said.
John Duke of Myersville first joined the league as a Montgomery College student in 1989, but didn’t stay.
After finishing college and becoming a Gaithersburg police officer, he decided to rejoin the group in 2006 after years of painting “in a vacuum” and not getting feedback on his work, he said.
“Everyone accepts you,” Duke said. “You can show at the shows, or just hang out with other artists.”
A few years ago, Duke was asked do a portrait of the department’s new K-9 officer. He’s been doing a lot of animal portraits since then.
Before, his work was “surrealistic,” and often incorporated imagery he encountered while on patrol, he said.
Works by both Mapes and Duke will be on display during the show. Mapes will conduct an oil-painting demonstration during Sunday’s reception.
Oakes, who primarily works in oil paint, won’t have any of her work on display. “I’ll enjoy being a guest and a spectator this time,” she said.