The Editor’s Letter from PleinAir Magazine, August / September 2023 (out 8/1/23)
This year’s Plein Air Convention & Expo (PACE) was filled with magical moments — from the jaw-dropping final brushstrokes that brought demo paintings to life to the stunning views at the daily paint-out sites, not to mention the actual magician who entertained the crowd at the opening ceremony! But some of the most powerful moments for me happened behind the scenes. Like when an attendee stopped me in a back hallway to let me know that this was her first conference and that although she’d come alone, she immediately felt welcomed into the tribe.
She told me that she struggles with anxiety and had spent the first paint-out in tears. They started when she couldn’t get her tripod set up, and continued as she spent the rest of the day trying to hide from the roaming faculty who were there to offer guidance because she didn’t want anyone to look at her work or see how upset she was.
But at PACE, no artist gets left behind. She said a fellow attendee had seen her struggling with her tripod and helped her set it up, patiently walking her through the steps and encouraging her to practice putting it together and tearing it down that night in her hotel room so she’d be less stressed the next day. “We’ve all been there,” he said.
The next evening, I ran into her again and was anxious to hear if day two had gone any better. Surrounded by a group of new friends, she told me that even though she once again tried to hide away, faculty member Barbara Tapp had found her.
Despite her protestations, Barbara recognized that she needed support and took her under her wing. The two painted together that afternoon and had just exhibited their work side by side that evening on easels in the gallery space. A breakthrough! No doubt just one of many that happened that week.
Yet another of my favorite moments happened far from the main stage when PleinAir Magazine publisher Eric Rhoads and I had retreated after the opening ceremony to get our picture taken with Kimball Geisler, the newly announced Grand Prize winner of the Annual PleinAir Salon.
As I approached the photo booth, I spotted the awestruck Kimball surrounded by a group of faculty — all pros who had been in competition with him for the $15,000 prize. They were thrilled with the young artist’s success and wanted to share in the moment with him. The joy was infectious.
Even when it’s a struggle, there’s a joy in what we do. What could be better than spending a couple of hours in a beautiful spot engaged in an activity we love?
When you’re out and about painting, don’t be afraid to share that joy. Don’t hide away or be afraid to celebrate your success. Engage with the curious bystander, tell them what you’re doing and why, encourage them to give it a try. There’s always room in the tribe for one more.