In late September, 98 painters descended on Ghost Ranch near Abiquiu, New Mexico for a week of painting with Plein Air Magazine publisher Eric Rhoads. The annual Publisher’s Invitational event, which is called Fall Color Week, is held in different locations each year and is designed to offer artists a chance to paint together, experience plein air painting, make new friends, and learn from one another.
This year the event was held on the ranch that was home to Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) and a frequent location set for Western films such as City Slickers, Wild Wild West, Indiana Jones, Wyatt Earp, No Country for Old Men, and many others. The scenery was a big draw to the event, featuring distant purple mountains made famous by O’Keeffe and the brilliantly lit red rock walls and mesas.
“We had a mixture of artists this year, ranging from beginners to experienced pros,” said Rhoads. “Many studio painters came to experience plein air painting for the first time and several did their very first plein air painting at the event.”
Rhoads created Fall Color Week for artists who often don’t get a chance to paint with others, who want to meet other painters, and who want a solid week of painting in a beautiful place to enhance their skills and get a feel for the plein air movement. ”It’s about fall color,” Rhoads said. “We always pick places where the trees are due to be turning during peak week, but this year heavy rains kept the trees from changing colors as expected.”
“This has been a wonderful week, more than I expected. I was looking forward to someone else feeding me while I got to do nothing but paint, but it’s been a completely unique experience because being here with other artists is really a wonderful opportunity to learn about techniques and what inspires other people. It has been a really great resource as far as workshops, so I’d recommend it to anybody.” ~ Chris Vinifroff (Sedona, Arizona)
Painting Tips and the 5-Minute Talks
Though there is no workshop or training that takes place, the event does have guest-led “5 minute talks” at meal times. This year the guests offered tips on water-soluble oils, painting with egg tempera, painting at events, and other art-related topics. In the field painters often help other painters and offer tips and assistance.
“It was a big decision to come here because my husband has Alzheimer’s, and I questioned – do I take time for myself or not? With family encouragement I did. It was a huge leap for me and huge confirmation that yes, I need time for myself and this has been a joy. I made many contacts with people who have been through life experiences similar to mine, many opportunities for deep conversations, and learning from people and their life choices as much as I have grown in my painting and finding a life of my own. This was an amazing beginning with supportive, loving people.” ~ Elizabeth Dahlgren (Washa Lake, Ontario, Canada)
Provided with a map, instructions, and a daily agenda, artists were out painting twice and sometimes more each day. Though each day was spent in and around Ghost Ranch, the group also ventured out along the roads nearby. Some ventured as far as Santa Fe or Taos. This year several people in the group visited the Fechin Museum, the 1,000-year old Taos Pueblo, and the Taos home and studio of world renowned artist Kevin Macpherson, who painted alongside Eric Rhoads and who offered critiques to the group.
Related Article > PleinAir Podcast: Kevin Macpherson on Art Travels and More
The Publisher’s Invitational, which provides all meals and lodging for one price, starts with breakfast and announcements daily, then the group packs a sack lunch so no painting time is wasted. They cap the day with dinner, then enjoy cocktails and simply hanging around together. This year featured a nightly campfire ring, where artists sang along to the music of artist Rick Wilson and others, including Rhoads.
Painting Nocturnes and Portraits
Evenings were also used for nocturne painting and portrait painting. “I try to push people to get out of their comfort zone to try new things,” said Rhoads. “For instance, we had several people do their first nocturne painting or their first portrait or figure model from life. And on the only cold and wet day we had, many who would normally have stayed inside went out and painted. It was a way to show that some of the best atmosphere paintings come from the worst days. Most people would have stayed inside had they not been nudged, and everyone had a great time.”
“We also had some accidental magic,” said Rhoads. “One day were were out painting and a tribe of Native Americans came to the riverside where we were painting. They were in costume and performed an ancient ritual to bless the waters. They do it once a year and it happened to be when we were there painting. And in another first, artist Gary Alsum sculpted a bust of me while I was painting portraits.”
Though the event had almost 100 people, everyone became close after painting together for a week and spending time after hours. Hugs and tears were seen by all at the end of the event.
The next Publisher’s Invitational painting event will be in the Adirondacks of Upstate, New York, June 7-14, 2020, where Eric Rhoads will celebrate the 10th annual event and reunion of past attendees. Learn more and save your spot now at www.publishersinvitational.com.
What Other Artists Had to Say About Fall Color Week:
“I think I found my lost family, so for sure I’m going to be around future events.” ~ Richie Voss, watercolor artist
“I could forget all my problems at home, have meals and everything taken care of, and I just follow along and I end up in some many beautiful places where I get to grow as a painter. I see the progression in my art throughout the week, because I never get this much time in a row to produce painting after painting and just focus on my art. I made a lot of friends too!” ~Mitch Neto (California)
“I’ve had the best time. I’ve grown so much as a painter, I’ve gotten into my groove during the week, and the best part is that I’ve painted every single day in the most beautiful spots. I have wonderful friends that I’ve made that will still be friends after this.” ~Kaylee Mayfield (Arkansas)
“This is my fourth event with Plein Air Magazine and every time I come to one of these events I make new friends, I grow as a painter and it just opens my heart to something new every time. It’s really quite amazing.” ~Calina Franzosa (California)