Plein Air Grand Marais

From the organizers:

Fall color and September light were on spectacular display at the 2023 Plein Air Grand Marais event, which drew over 100 painters to this year’s Competition Week. Daily workshops, artist socials, and paint-outs kept painters busy, culminating in an Open Class reception, the Birney Quick Paint and hootenanny, and the final Competition Class reception. A hands-on workshop with juror Kim Casebeer was added this year. Top awards for “Paintings of Exceptional Merit,” or POEMs, increased with the addition of a POEM for Color & Light in memory of Cynthia S. Kath, a gifted painter and past PAGM instructor who passed away in July of this year.

In 2023, Plein Air Grand Marais drew painters from across the United States, as far away as Alaska, New Mexico, Kansas, and the East Coast. The event proudly welcomes painters with a wide range of experience, from those new to plein air to dedicated amateur and professional painters. The event also celebrates artists in the Arrowhead region with a North Shore Invitational class of the Competition.

Painters find an exhilarating range of painting locations and subject matter in Cook County, from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to the Superior Hiking Trail, Lake Superior, historic sites managed by the Cook County Historical Society, and scenes from downtown Grand Marais. A range of media are employed, from oil and pastel to watermedia including gouache, acrylic, and watercolor. The exhibit at Johnson Heritage Post Art Gallery is displayed through the second Sunday in October.

2023 awards for Plein Air Grand Marais:

Open Class Reception on Wednesday, September 20:

Best in Show ($200): Michael Zirbes, “Good Night,” Oil

Three top awards for Paintings of Exceptional Merit (POEMs) ($100):
– Kim Jore, “Boat Landing at Camp Menogyn,” Watercolor
– Jean Larson, “Temperance Gap,” Watercolor
– Kat Nottingham, “The Other Side,” Gouache

Three honorable mentions:
– Charlene Ridlon, “Solitude by the Onion River,” Pastel
– Jasmin Strevel, “Rolling Pigeon Bay,” Oil
– Susan Seaborn, “Early Dawn,” Watercolor

Kelly Schamberger, "Destination Unknown"
Kelly Schamberger, “Destination Unknown”

Birney Quick Paint on Thursday, September 21:

Grand Prize ($300): James Turner, Watercolor

Three POEMs ($200 each):
– David Becker, Watercolor
– Kami Mendlik, Oil
– Kathie Wheeler, Oil

Quick Paint POEM: Kathie Wheeler, "En Plein Air"
Quick Paint POEM: Kathie Wheeler, “En Plein Air”

Competition Class Reception on Friday, September 22:

Grand Prize for Best Body of Work ($1,000): Brock Larson, Oil

Six Top POEM Awards ($500 each):
– David R. Becker, Cynthia S. Kath Award for Exceptional Color & Light: “Morning Customs Check,” Watercolor
– David Pettibone, Nocturne: “Night View from Downtown,” Oil
– Carl Bretzke, “Being Bob,” Oil
– Kami Mendlik, “Wild North Shore,” Oil
– James Turner, “Heading Out,” Watercolor
– Kathie Wheeler, “Raven’s Call,” Oil

Special Categories ($250 each):
– Best Sense of Place: Renee St. Leger, “Sunlit Waters,” Oil
– Beauty of Watermedia: Julia Jaakola, “Love,” Watercolor
– Beauty of Oil: Kelly Schamberger, “Destination Unknown”
– Beauty of Pastel: Lisa Stauffer, “A Silvery Day”
– Best Historic Site: Mark Daehlin, “Echoes in Time,” Oil

Artists’ Choice Award for Best Body of Work: Kathie Wheeler, Oil

Honorable Mentions ($100 each):
– Logan Hudson, “Menogyn,” Oil
– Dan Mackerman, “90 Minutes,” Oil
– Christine Tierney, “Java Moose,” Oil
– Bob Upton, “Ready to Board,” Oil
– Stephen Wysocki, “Lake Superior Trail Giant,” Oil

Grand Prize for Best Body of Work: Brock Larson
Grand Prize for Best Body of Work: Brock Larson

2024 Plein Air Grand Marais is scheduled for September 6-14, 2024. The deadline for Competition and Invitational applicants to register is May 1, 2023. Interested artists and collectors can visit OPM’s website at

Plein Air Grand Marais is a joint enterprise of Outdoor Painters of Minnesota, which organizes the event, and JHP Art Gallery operated by the Cook County Historical Society, which mounts the Competition Exhibit. Sponsors include Visit Cook County, a tourism bureau in Grand Marais; Wet Paint, a locally owned art materials and framing store in Saint Paul; Joy & Co., a gift shop offering fine art supplies in Grand Marais; logo, banner, and print design by Kim Gordon’s Open Cupboard Designs; and featured advertising and magazine subscription awards from Streamline Publishing, the publisher of PleinAir® Magazine.


Join PleinAir Magazine in the Smokies for the 11th Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo! May 20-24, 2024 we’ll have five stages with over 80 instructors, and will be painting throughout The Great Smoky Mountains, including the Biltmore Estate.


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