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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Millard

Painting en Plein Air at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Kentucky

Updated: Jan 11

A visit to a Shaker Village provides inspiration now, just as it did 250 years ago

A colorful flower garden at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Kentucky
Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill's Flower Garden

Who Were the Shakers?


Shakers were a small religious sect with a few communes on the eastern half of the U.S. They existed in the 1700's-1800's and branched off from the Quakers. They don't exist anymore but some of their communities were preserved and made into locations you can visit, like this one outside of Lexington, Kentucky.


Shakers formed very successful communes. They were well-known throughout their area for selling high quality livestock, high quality seeds and crops and produced extremely well-made household items. They wasted nothing and viewed their land and livestock as gifts from God.


Shaker structure located at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Kentucky
Shaker Building at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill

Shakers loved nature and God. You can feel the peace of the land when you stand on top of the hills overlooking their ponds, meadows and lakes.


Kentucky Shakers stacked stones for fences that still stand today
Shaker stone fences were built almost 250 years ago

The men and women were ahead of their time with complex mechanical inventions. They were highly efficient farmers and craftspeople. They sold their crops and seeds at a higher price than other farms since their products were superior in quality. They worked very hard and took good care of their land, their animals, gardens and homes.


The flower garden I decided to paint at Shaker Village
A 250 year old Shaker flower garden

What Happened to the Shakers?


Shakers believed that men and women should be separated and should refrain from becoming intimate with one another, so they were unable to perpetuate the religion further without recruiting. Converts were given jobs to work the land together with them, to learn about God together and to share all they made with each other.


Eventually the religion lost all followers and the land was used for other purposes until it was restored into a living museum where visitors from all around the world can come and learn about past Shaker life.


Painting a Shaker Flower Garden


I chose to paint one of their 250 year-old flower gardens on one hot afternoon in August. Their flower garden was one of the largest I'd seen in a long time. It was bursting with color and vibrant with insect noise and movement. I was drawn to it immediately.


Notice the progression of the pastel painting below; starting with the basic sketch, adding the basic shapes and refining the final piece with details.


My chair and painting supplies under a shade tree
Where I sat in the shade to look upon the flower garden

Chalk pastel drawing in it's early stages
Used chalk pastel to get the basic shapes of the flower garden


Blocked in more color at the top of the page, worked my way down the page
Filled in the background first, worked my way down the page
Added the details of the wood building and lush flower bed
Added details of the building and flower garden

I absolutely adored spending my afternoon in such a peaceful, tranquil location. If you are ever able to visit the location, I highly recommend it. It was a fascinating part of Kentucky history. Visit ShakerVillageKy.org for more information.




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