Plein Air Convention - OutdoorPainter.com
A scene from one of the paint-outs during the 8th Annual Plein Air Convention, held this year in San Francisco

As you read this, many of us are still feeling the thrill of being part of the world’s largest plein air event, the Plein Air Convention & Expo (PACE). This year we welcomed artists from all over the world, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and two new countries for PACE: Taiwan and Iceland! We hope you enjoy this recap of some of our favorite moments, and that you’ll join us next year in Denver, Colorado!

Pre-Convention – The Day Before

Plein air painters began pouring into San Francisco for the Plein Air Convention & Expo on Tuesday, April 23, when we kicked off with Joseph McGurl, one of the most sought-after and influential landscape artists currently working in America. As McGurl’s workshop took place, attendees, faculty, and exhibitors continued to sign in for their first, second — up to their eighth PACE! There were many hugs as friends reunited for another week of painting and learning together in this, a supportive atmosphere with the best of the best.

Plein Air Convention - OutdoorPainter.com
Joe McGurl, kicking off PACE 2019 with a popular pre-convention workshop
Plein Air Convention - OutdoorPainter.com
A close-up from Joseph McGurl’s pre-convention workshop
Plein Air Convention - OutdoorPainter.com
A streetcar sighting in San Francisco, just outside of our host hotel! There are some beautiful city scenes here, and we’ve loved seeing everyone’s paintings from this year’s PACE! (View some here – many us used the hashtag #PACE19 throughout the week.)

Day 1: Wednesday Highlights

Artists were still streaming in from all over the world as we celebrated Day 1 of PACE. The morning began with a new version of the Plein Air Basics Course for those who are new to painting outdoors, and a special workshop from Joseph Zbukvic, who came from Australia to teach an engaged audience (he is fascinating to watch).

In two moving tributes, Zbukvic and pastelist Albert Handell received Lifetime Achievement Awards (watch these on our Facebook Live feed here).

Keynote speaker Joseph Paquet spoke about finding your authentic vision in a lecture that inspired us all. And to keep the energy up, Eric had us dancing — yes, dancing! — in the aisles and on stage, including a very lucky handful of folks who won our raffle and had reason to celebrate … one attendee won a painting trip to Fall Color Week at Ghost Ranch this year!

Plein Air Convention - OutdoorPainter.com
Albert Handell receiving his Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition to being a master pastelist, we learned that Albert also loves ballroom dancing.
Plein Air Convention - OutdoorPainter.com
Joseph Zbukvic Lifetime Achievement Award. Afterward Zbukvic gave a demonstration that was fascinating to watch. He also kept us entertained with his insights: “I have to remember that when I paint here, I have to put the cars on the wrong side of the road.”
Plein Air Convention - OutdoorPainter.com
Nancie King Mertz agreed to be one of our guides for new plein air painters this week, along with Cindy Baron, Carrie Curran, Jed Dorsey, and Paul Kratter, as part of the newly designed Pre-Convention Basics Course.
Plein Air Convention - OutdoorPainter.com
Above: A scene from the ever-popular Expo Hall (a.k.a. candy store)

Over 100 people, most of whom are attending PACE for the first time, gathered for the Newcomers Orientation & Friend Finder. It was amazing to see how many people traveled to PACE by themselves. They all immediately recognized the one really cool thing they had in common with their soon-to-be new friends — they all love to paint! Instant friendships, ride sharing, a run-through of how things work at the convention, and BOOM, it was off to the Grand Opening Ceremony! At PACE, there is no need to worry that you’ll feel lonely!

Plein Air Convention - OutdoorPainter.com
The 8th Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo kicked off big! Eric opened by recognizing the convention attendees who are first-timers to the convention this year, all the way up to those who are celebrating their eighth time attending PACE!
PleinAir Salon - OutdoorPainter.com
The PleinAir Salon winners were announced, and Tom Hughes won the $15,000 cash Grand Prize!
Plein Air Convention - OutdoorPainter.com
Five highly talented painters working on one painting? YES! Charlie Hunter, Cynthia Rosen, Shelby Keefe, Paul Kratter, and Larry Moore (above) shared the stage for a dynamic showdown, working from a video of the Golden Gate Bridge. We were all on the edge of our seats as it came to life in front of us, with the help of Charlie Hunter’s hilarious ad libbing. After the artists’ painting time was up, the painting was auctioned off to one very lucky PACE attendee, with proceeds going to a future PACE scholarship!
A fun scene from the dance party during the Opening Ceremony — we wish you were there!

Day 2: Thursday Highlights

Thursday brought us two dozen seminars, demos, and painting sessions! It was a whirlwind of education, inspiration, and shopping in the Expo Hall (one of the benefits of being here is being able to talk directly with the manufacturers of some of your favorite painting tools).

A favorite quote from Thursday: “There’s no such thing as cheating in watercolor — it’s OK to use white paint! It’s about making great art.” — Brenda Swenson (thank you, Matthew Bird, for sharing this one with us!)

Plein Air Convention - OutdoorPainter.com
Last year’s PleinAir Salon winner, Jim Wodark, gave a painting demonstration in the Expo Hall. Jim’s first love was cartooning, but he has painted every day for the last 15 years, either in plein air or in the studio.

 

Plein Air Convention - OutdoorPainter.com
Eric took time to sign copies of his #1 Amazon bestseller, Make More Money Selling Your Art, at the PleinAir Store during lunch. And because we’ve heard that PACE seminar rooms can be on the cooler side, artists can also pick up their own PleinAir Blanket at the store (makes a nice souvenir, too!).

Additional Highlight: Artist and Google manager Suma CM joined us at PACE to lead a seminar on urban sketching, which is a fun way to quickly capture a scene, typically in ink and watercolor (colored pencils and other drawing tools often find their way into the mix). She advises us to take our sketchbooks everywhere and find hidden moments to draw, such as when waiting in line or during a meal. Suma even sketches while her husband tows her in a kayak! She says you’ll never run out of water when doing this — but don’t take a brush you’re afraid to lose!

Plein Air Convention - OutdoorPainter.com

Plein Air Convention - OutdoorPainter.com
Scenes from some of our indoor painting sessions, where we had demonstrations from Kathleen Dunphy (“Becoming Your Own Instructor”), Jean Stern (“Historic Artists of Northern California” lecture), Brian Blood (“Simplify the City”), and many more. Here, a photo from Aimee Erickson’s demo, “You Glow Girl!!”

Additional Highlight: During a Q&A in Cynthia Rosen’s palette knife painting demo, “More Than What Meets the Eye,” she explained why she paints with so much color: “Well, I’ve lived a very beige, conservative life, but now I’m FREE!” Cynthia went to a chocolate festival in Arizona and brought a folding stool, a gallon of water, and a little canvas when she first began painting in plein air. She tells us, “I painted and then I got to eat chocolate. Oh, THIS is plein air — chocolate and painting outdoors!” Sounds great to us, Cynthia!

Plein Air Convention - OutdoorPainter.com

Plein Air Convention - OutdoorPainter.com
For the afternoon, many of us ventured to historic Crissy Field, which is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco. It was breezy for sure, but worth it! New this year: For those who didn’t want to leave the convention center, we offered a new Indoor Painting Session, where artists painted a projected scene of Crissy Field together from the comfort of the hotel.

Stay tuned for more highlights coming soon!

And if you joined us this year, share some of your favorite moments below!

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