Eric Rhoads and John MacDonald plein air painting -
Eric Rhoads and John MacDonald at the 2018 Publisher's Invitational plein air event

Painters at all levels from pro to beginner gathered last week for the 8th annual PleinAir Magazine Publisher’s Invitational artists paint camp. Designed to be summer camp for artists, and spring training to help artists fine-tune their painting for the summer season, the event was held at Paul Smith’s College, inside the pristine and protected Adirondack Park of upstate New York. Eighty-three painters were in attendance at the event, hosted by PleinAir publisher Eric Rhoads, who developed the event as an outlet for artists who wanted to practice painting outdoors with friends without the pressures of a competition, sale, or show.

Painting waterfalls in the Adirondacks -
Brady Rhoads, Will Moss, Nancy Haley, and Rhonda McCayand during a plein air painting session at a waterfall in the Adirondacks

Starting with Sunday night orientation where painters gathered for dinner and drinks, Rhoads showed images of Hudson River School paintings done in the Adirondacks and took painters to those locations to paint throughout the week. Painters, who stayed in dorms at the college, met for breakfast and dinner each day, and Rhoads and others laid out that day’s painting locations around the stunning scenery of the Adirondacks. Most painters joined one of two painting groups, while some went off on their own to favorite spots.

According to Rhoads, the event was designed to bring people together, to help them make new friends, and renew old acquaintances. “By sharing dorm suites for four, painters become very close friends after a week together. We’ve had lifetime friendships developed as a result of this event, and painters keep returning to renew those friendships and paint together,” said Rhoads.

“I found this fascinating,” said Mike Monahan, a first-time plein air painter who attended the event and experienced painting outdoors for the first time there. “I had no feel for the world of plein air painting or the process. By being with others and observing, I learned a tremendous amount about painting, and others were so generous to help me out. Some gave me lessons, some worked with me. Just seeing how others painted the same subject differently helped me learn a lot about different approaches to composition too. Most of all, not once did I feel out of place or unwelcome. Everyone was very generous to embrace me.”

Plein Air Publisher's Invitational -
Plein air painters of the 2018 Publisher’s Invitational art event

“I come here because of nostalgia,” says Mary Burkett of Ridgefield, CT. This place reminds me of childhood trips with my family. It’s the only place in America I’ve seen that is so pristine and protected. The beauty here is unlike anything else in America.”

Unlike other events held by PleinAir Magazine, this event has no formal instruction and no focus on individual painters as instructors. “What I like about this is that there are no stars. Everybody here is equal, which puts the rest of us at ease. Though there are always some very well-known painters in attendance, no one is singled out and treated differently. For instance, this year I painted beside John MacDonald, Erik Koeppel, and Cynthia Rosen, all pretty well-known, yet here they are just part of the family. There is something comforting about that,” said John McNally.

According to Rhoads, who first discovered the Adirondacks for himself in 1989, “most people don’t even know that Adirondack Park exists. I certainly didn’t know. It’s one of the best-kept secrets in America. It’s bigger than several national parks combined and very well protected to keep it pristine.” Rhoads continued, “People keep coming back, not just for friendships, but because there is so much to paint here. I think we painted six different waterfalls, and several scenes with endless layers of purple mountains in the distance.”

Each day, after painting outdoors in two locations led by Rhoads and Sandra Hildreth of Saranac Lake, painters brought their paintings into a room where their works for the day were displayed, which is an opportunity for everyone to see what others had painted. By the end of the week there were over 700 Adirondack paintings.

Plein Air Publisher's Invitational -
Musicians hard at work after a day of painting outdoors

After placing paintings for display, everyone gathered for dinner, evening announcements, and evening activities, which included portrait painting every night with a live model for those interested, and music by Rick Wilson, Erik Koeppel, Artie Lowe, Joe Stewart, and Thomas Zangerle in the lounge.

To celebrate the week, “campers” were treated to a closing party at the Rhoads summer home on a nearby lake followed by a morning breakfast of tearful goodbyes and farewell to another successful paint camp.

The 9th annual event will take place in June 2019, and no invitation is required. Registration is open, and payment plans are available. People wishing to attend can register at

Join Eric Rhoads for Fall Color Week, the next Publisher’s Invitational plein air event in the Canadian Rockies, including the town of Banff and Lake Louise. You’ll paint some of the most spectacular scenery on Earth. Fall Color Week is October 5-12, 2018. To learn more, visit

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