Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Plein Air Event

Though I paint on location a fair amount I had never participated in an official plein air event until last weekend.  I entered one in Georgetown, SC that was part of the annual Pawleys Island Music and Art Festival.  Almost 30 artists were there painting for a competition and wet paint sale at the end of the day.  The entry was non-juried so anyone could sign up.  We were allowed to pick our painting sites and could paint as many paintings as we wanted, but only one could be entered in the competition.  Our blank canvases were stamped at 9:00 a.m. and the painting time concluded at 3:30. We were expected to have our wet panel framed and ready for display and were asked to bring display easels for the reception which was outdoors.

This was an enjoyable way to stretch myself and I'm glad I gave it a try.  I painted 2 paintings and took a short lunch break to cool off in the shade.  It was very hot but fortunately not buggy.  That said, it was stressful knowing that the pressure was on to have something framable within a specific time frame for a competition.  There was a considerable crowd and painting without interruption was not an option.  The press was there interviewing us while we painted.  By the end of the day I was exhausted, more so than after any other day of plein air painting or workshop I have ever done.

This experience caused me to have an epiphany.  I follow many artists on Facebook and frequently see posts about prestigious plein air events all over the country.  I have attended the one in Door County, WI as a spectator.  I never thought it would be easy, but after just one day of the experience I gained a huge amount of respect for the pros who go to these events, produce 2-4 paintings/day for up to a week (sometimes even adding a nocturne when the day is done) and framing them for a big show at the end of the week- all while competing against their friends/peers.

I recommend this to any outdoor painter who wants a challenge.  Before committing consider the following-

1.  Keep your set up as light and compact as possible and use the most limited palette you are comfortable with- paint is heavy!

2.  Be sure that all of your equipment is in good working order and that you can set up without assistance.  Take a careful inventory of all supplies when you pack and don't forget extra consumables such as paper towels and mineral spirits (in case of a spill).

3.  Bring frames that are already wired and ready to hang and the tools to finish the job, such as a point driver if you use panels.  I used 9 x 12 panels and brought 2 frames- one wired for a vertical format and one for a horizontal so I would have that flexibility.

4.  If possible, visit the site(s) beforehand.  Take photos and do some sketches to see what feels right for you.

5.  The more you paint out before the event the better.  It's like going to the gym- you want to be in shape!

For fun, read the hilarious article by Scott Freeman-  "The Perils of Peeving a Plein Air Painter". https://artandlifenotes.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/the-perils-of-peeving-a-plein-air-painter/
Link is to the right on my blog site.

Next time I'll show my outdoor set up which I have refined over a period of several years. I think I have it about right, that is until the next "must have"easel comes along...

Thanks, and get out there!


  1. Your blog is a delight to read. Thank you for all the useful information and links. Your paintings are lovely.

  2. Thanks for reading Carole! Glad you are finding it useful. Much to my surprise I am really enjoying being a blogger- never thought I would. Happy painting.