At Plein Air Live, we welcomed artists from all over the world and from a variety of artistic backgrounds. From painting demonstrations with live Q&As to mini Zoom rooms for getting to know each other better, the week was filled with educational moments and a feeling of community. Keep scrolling to see more from this historic event.
Beginner’s Day Highlights
During the Plein Air Live after party (above), we made new friends and even got bonus tips from the day’s teachers. For example, Nancie King Mertz reminded us to practice drawing: “Always be sketching, and your painting will immediately improve.”
With characteristic wit and charm Jean Stern introduced us to some lesser-known plein air painters while expanding our knowledge of renowned masters as he walked us through the history of plein air painting.
PleinAir Magazine Publisher Eric Rhoads taught us that our gear can be our best friend or our worst enemy. His mantra: If it doesn’t fit on your back, you don’t need it.
Laurel Daniel discussed “the serendipity of painting outside,” where you never know what you’re going to face. Her advice: When you have 360-degree beautiful views, it can be overwhelming. Just know, you can’t have it all. If there’s too much you want to capture in one painting, make two smaller paintings in the same time frame or plan to go back another day.
In her oil painting demo, Laurel showed four stages of a painting. “Things tend to grow when we’re painting outside, so it helps to contain shapes with a framework in your sketch or block-in.”
In “Basics of Gouache Painting,” Mike Hernandez shared why his favorite canvas size is 6 x 9 inches, and the importance of using a paintbrush that’s “uncomfortably large.” During the live chat Q&A he explained that while there are several methods to varnishing gouache, he chooses not to because it changes the colors and tones of the painting.
Carrie Curran began her plein air acrylic painting demonstration with a quick explanation of how to use a viewfinder and choose a composition, as well as how to create a sketch that will help your overall painting come together. Bonus info: Carrie did her demo on a Raymar 23SC Smooth Cotton for Acrylics canvas and used a Golden Gloss Glazing Medium.
“Balancing convenience and portability is key,” said Andy Evansen, who taught a session on painting outdoors with watercolor for beginners. Andy explained the benefits of using blocks of watercolor paper and single sheets, practical advice for setting up a plein air easel, and more.
Pastel artist Nancie King Mertz explained the basics of using pastels outdoors (Note: In the pastel world it’s called mark-making instead of brushwork). One of her tips is that when you’re a drawing a tree in the landscape, it will look more natural if you don’t put branches directly opposite of each other on the trunk.
Day 1 Highlights
There’s one thing that all Plein Air events have in common at Streamline – we have fun, even – especially – while wearing masks! We also got our feet moving during the opening session of Plein Air Live, which included a Zoom dance party.
Jill Carver explained in depth the four tools to have on hand when you create your next landscape: Motif, notan, separation of light and shadow, and freedom/limitation.
(Listen to Jill’s recent PleinAir Podcast interview here.)
Roos Schuring had her easel set up on a beautiful beach in Holland for an educational split-screen plein air painting demonstration. One participant had this to say about the demo: “Watching you paint so boldly is liberating.” We couldn’t agree more!
For Scott Christensen, making studies in plein air is a chance to ask, “What i?.” On using gouache, he says, “I can’t do anything the same way I do with oil, and it makes me try things that I normally wouldn’t.”
In his presentation, John MacDonald shared the importance of spending time identifying values before you start to paint. “I’ve trained myself to take just six gray-scale markers into the field,” he says. “I know I can knock in the values very quickly for several compositions. Keeping the studies simple forces me to ignore detail, and yet I can still capture plenty of information for a painting.”
“If you have problems cleaning your brush, you’re going to have problems with your painting,” said Albert Handell during his engaging live demo. He also advised that “if you fall in love with a specific brush, buy three of them – one for the lights, the darks, and the midtones.”
After the demo, Eric Rhoads moderated an audience Q&A with Albert in the studio (at least six feet apart, of course).
Richard Demato, Diane Waterhouse, J. Ben Whiteside, and Eric Rhoads presented a virtual roundtable discussion about how artists get into galleries, and what the ideal artist/gallery relationship looks like.
“The Plein Air Live is an amazing event!” Annie Fue (@anniefuart) and many more are sharing their #PleinAirLive experiences on Instagram, including moments from the evening Happy Hour Paint Along. Here’s what else Annie shared: “Thank you Eric, the whole team and teachers for having this during the pandemic. It was covered with so much great information, I love every lecture today! It was fun to paint the iceberg together – my first time painting an iceberg.”
Day 2 Highlights
In addition to our morning dance party at Plein Air Live, hundreds of us enjoyed more informational (and fun!) sessions from some of today’s top artists and teachers. Just scroll down for a taste of some of our favorite moments from Day 2, including a guest appearance from an unlikely visitor.
What makes an iconic painting such as this one by Homer? According to Joe Paquet, “it’s finding the universal in the particular; it’s all in how the artist selects, dissects, and distills their vision.”
From Burgundy, France, Antonin Passemard demonstrated his use of angles to create perspective when painting on location. He follows Monet’s advice to close your eyes, open them, and paint what you see — shapes, not objects.
Kathryn Stats wowed us with her rural landscape, especially as she painted in the clouds above the receding mountains. One participant said, “Watching artists paint is the main reason I attend! That, combined with listening to their reasons for doing what they do is essential.” Another said, “This is priceless as I felt courage like an IV into my artistic bloodstream from watching this.”
John Pototschnik led us through “Color Relationships,” an in-depth session dedicated to the art of using a limited palette to paint a landscape, inspired by his lessons in “Limited Palette, Unlimited Color.”
Have you ever used an app to help you with your color mixing? In his live demo, Qiang Huang explained how to mix like a pro using software. (Insider bonus: He lists several options for color mixing apps for artists here on his website.)
Charlie Hunter educated us with critiques of paintings submitted by the Plein Air Live audience. “His enthusiasm for painters and painting comes through regardless of the style, medium, or subject of the work,” said Kelly Kane.
Enlightening and entertaining, Charlie closed with this heartwarming message about our community of artists during this time: “We have one another, and we have one another’s ways of seeing the world.”
At the Happy Hour Paint Along, many of us painted a waterfall scene during the after party, where even Julia Minis’s horse stopped in to say “hay!” In addition to surprise appearances from pets, together we enjoyed incredible plein air stories, serendipitous moments of connection, and a feeling of unity through art.
Day 3 Highlights
As we head into the Day 3 highlights, we’d like thank you to our sponsors and to all of our wonderful attendees, who have this to say:
“I am so enjoying Plein Air Live. My heart is full and my mind is in overload.” ~ Tricia L.
“It’s been amazing so far!! A big thank you to you and your team for this much needed inspiration in these strange times.” ~ David M.
“There are not enough positive words in the dictionary to express my feelings on how sensational this program has been.” ~ Kathy P.
Drawing a connection between what we do today with the great artists of the past, Jean Stern walked us through the concepts of light, color, perspective, and composition (below).
Haidee-Jo Summers battled the wind before a rainstorm to paint Basham Quay in Sussex, England. “I think painting clouds benefits from a sense of urgency, forcing you to put down a determined stroke quite quickly,” she said.
Ned Mueller began his session by sharing a variety of value studies and advice on the importance of taking your time when finding the right place to paint: “If we can’t get excited about it, how the heck can we expect somebody else to?”
He also left us with this food for thought: “If it’s wrong, but it looks right, it’s right. If it’s right, but it looks wrong, it’s wrong.”
Jim Wodark started his session with a sneak peek inside his sketchbook of thumbnail images, then went to his painting demo with excellent advice on composition and color.
Taking a fencer’s stance, Lyn Boyer approaches her canvas without fear. “I virtually never touch a stroke twice in one pass. I call that ‘petting the kitty.’ It can be a nervous habit akin to saying ‘um’ in a conversation and is the quickest way to kill freshness in your painting.”
Acknowledging the bravery of those who submitted their work to be critiqued, Kim Casebeer explored what worked and what didn’t in a variety of paintings.
In the Happy Hour Paint Along, we painted a scene from San Francisco and learned even more from Jean Stern, who talked about how to make your signature legible on your paintings for long into the future. We had families coming on from different locations, and we hung out with artists from New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, and even Egypt.
Day 4 Highlights:
As Plein Air Live came to an end, attendees continued to revel in the fact that so many came together to share our common love of art.
“I am just blown away by the amazing perfectly balanced gamut of knowledge, variety, and talent,” said Karyn G. “You’ve hit ALL of the areas I could have possibly wanted to learn about.” Here’s more of what you may have missed…
“The landscape calls the poet out me.” Rose Frantzen took us behind the scenes of her poetic paintings in a moving presentation, during which she reminded us, “Plein air is anywhere and everywhere if you bring your gear.”
Australian artist Leon Holmes took us through an on-location painting demo of two color studies. As with the majority of the sessions, Leon joined us in the chat section for a live Q&A, answering questions about his color choices, brushes, and more.
We learned how unlikely things like heart-shaped rocks, patio floors, and children’s paintings inspire Kevin Macpherson. Kevin said he works in an opposite way from most watercolorists, by laying in his shadows and darks first and leaving the white paper for the lights to come in later. That said, his session focused on topics that transcend mediums, like understanding lights, shadows, and values.
In “Simplify Your Painting,” Paul Kratter gave us a demonstration of a ranch featuring a grand eucalyptus tree, using a warm palette. Paul used the tip of his brush to draw through the paint in areas as needed: “You paid for the brush, you might as well use the whole thing.”
Suzie Baker, Vice-President of the Oil Painters of America, led us through an in-studio painting demonstration of a still life with a live audience Q&A.
In a much-anticipated roundtable titled “Art-Life Balance,” artists Jane Hunt, Kathleen Hudson, and Sherrie McGraw talked with Eric Rhoads about the issues women artists face.