The colorful Main Stage display just before the commencement of PleinAir Wars

Thousands of artists and plein air enthusiasts are living large in San Diego, California, this week for the 6th Annual PleinAir Convention & Expo, which opened with a spectacular celebration just a few nights ago.

Energy comes in a variety of forms. It travels through cables, the atmosphere, and more to power our homes and give life to our planet. It also comes in the form of excitement, passion, love, and friendship. It’s that type of energy that was nearly tangible during the Opening Ceremony and Cocktail party for the 6th Annual PleinAir Convention & Expo in San Diego, California, on Monday night.

Here’s the not-so-shocking statement of the century: PleinAir magazine and well over 1,000 artists and other attendees know how to have a good time.

The celebration kicked off on Monday evening at the Sheraton Marina with perhaps the most odd but fun plein air event in existence: Plein Air Wars. Donning a rainbow-splattered jacket and an afro wig, PleinAir Publisher Eric Rhoads hopped on stage to introduce six accomplished painters who would be competing for prizes worth over $7,000.

The three men (Chris Carradine, Mike Orwick, and Mike Simpson) and three women (Debbie Meyer, Hai-ou Hou, and Cynthia Rosen) were given an array of unusual paint colors, told not to use their dominant hands, and then asked paint a picture in 30 minutes based on suggestions from the raucous crowd. Subjects included chickens, dinosaurs, monkeys, mountains, and Ferris wheels. It was lighthearted and completely ridiculous; the winner was decided by a measurement of crowd noise when the painting was presented. Chris Carradine took the prize at 82 decibels (roughly equivalent to a plane at takeoff).

Is that Eric Rhoads in a coat of many saturated colors?
Is that Eric Rhoads in a coat of many saturated colors?

Another highlight of the ceremony was a presentation by award-winning artist Dena Peterson, who talked about her participation in the upcoming film “Loving Vincent.” The film probes the modern icon’s mysterious life and death. However, each of the film’s 65,000 frames is an individual oil painting on canvas created by one of a team of more than 115 painters — among them Peterson herself.

Finally, the ceremony concluded with the presentation of a Lifetime Achievement Award to prolific painter and signature artist of the California Art Club Karl Dempwolf. Before he came on stage, the crowd was dazzled with a short film that detailed Dempwolf’s childhood, adolescence, and adult life before highlighting his achievements as one of plein air’s most influential artists.

After dismissal from the Sheraton’s Grande Ballroom, the artists and attendees partied until the early morning hours with hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, and a lavish buffet.

That, folks, was only the beginning.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here