“Affordable Roofing” by Christina Body

The northern Chicago suburb of Northbrook, Illinois, hosted its first Plein Air Painting Festival this fall for an enthusiastic community and 30 Midwest artists. For a festival planned in a short, four-month period, they knocked it out of the park.

It’s amazing to see that dedicated and passionate people can pull together in a relatively short time. The proof lay in the recent Plein Air Painting Festival October 6-8 in Northbrook, Illinois. The first ever event was judged by Brian Sindler, a longtime Northbrook resident. Artist Craig Blietz, along with Sindler, served as advisers for the event organized by the Northbrook Arts Commission (NAC).

Artist Christina Body with her Best of Show painting, “Affordable Roofing”
Artist Wendie Thompson with her Third Place painting, “Bells and Whistles”

Among the artists in this year’s event were Christina Body, Lee Radtke, Wendie Thompson, Steve Puttrich, Errol Jacobson, and DK Palacek, along with many others. “Immediately following the opening ‘Meet and Greet’ event,” the NAC reports, “several painters went out to paint nocturnes. Lee Radtke set up outside the local bar and restaurant and quickly attracted a crowd of nearly 30 spectators who expressed that watching him paint was better than watching the hockey game. Over the next two days, artists painted many of the local landmarks, but also found more obscure locations. One of the great things about an event like this is that the artists discover beauty in things ‘right under our nose’ that we take for granted. The Best of Show painting, by Christina Body, was of some pink trucks and a warehouse called ‘Affordable Roofing.’

“Bells and Whistles” by Wendie Thompson

“According to Event Chair Bruce Bondy, the key to the success of the event involved three key factors: Consulting with experienced artists (and organizers) to design an inaugural event that would work within our community, reaching out to quality plein air painters, and making a strong effort to publicize the event to bring buyers to the festival. ‘Connecting with the artists was the fun part,’ said Bondy. They had many great suggestions along the way, such as a preprinted card with our event logo on the front and the event schedule on the back, along with a space for the artists’ name, notes, and a definition of plein air painting for the novice spectator.

“Landmark Nocturne” by Lee Radtke

“The publicity and advertising took considerable effort and he was assisted by Village of Northbrook Communications Director Cheryl Fayne. We advertised in local media, through facebook ads, banners, and a poster campaign with support from the Arts Commissioners and the participating artists. ‘I even had my mother-in-law out hanging posters,’ said Bondy.

Artist Shar Coulson with her Second Place painting
By Loraine Yolles (Honorable Mention), watercolor

“Our festival was modeled on the Cedarburg Wisconsin event, albeit at a smaller scale. We offered generous prize money, included a quick paint event, and a final day festival with live music, BBQ, and a painting demonstration by Steve Puttrich. Of the 98 submitted paintings we sold 20 over the brief five-hour time period we had to sell artwork.”

Steve Puttrich during his demonstration

As mentioned above, artist Christina Body received Best of Show honors. Shar Coulson took Second Place and Wendie Thompson Third Place. Honorable Mentions included Errol Jacobson and Loraine Yolles. During the Quick Paint event, Shar Coulson took First, Wendie Thompson Second and Loraine Yolles Third.

This article was featured in PleinAir Today, a weekly e-newsletter from PleinAir magazine. To start receiving PleinAir Today for free, click here.


  1. We at Dixie Watercolor Society in St George, Utah are hoping to offer an all media, open to all, plein
    Air event in the fall of 2018. Any advice on pulling one off? Where did you display your art and sell it? In a building? What was the building generally used for? Outside? How did you display the art?


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