Painters on the Monterey Peninsula in California, for the 2015 Plein Air Convention & Expo

Event organizers were calling the Plein Air Convention & Expo (PACE) the “Woodstock of plein air painting,” and while the vibe was certainly a groovy one, it might more accurately be called the Lollapalooza of plein air. Participants explain why. 

Kim Lordier demonstrating at PACE

Woodstock had only one stage; Lollapalooza festivals had as many as three stages for headliners. PACE had areas devoted to pastelists, watercolorists, demos, and talks on the main stage, as well as demos on a more intimate stage. “I felt like I was drinking out of a firehose,” says David Thibault, a participant from Irvine, California. “Everyone is very friendly and supportive, but it is a lot to take in. The caliber of the artists is insane.”

Brad Holt may have paint on his face. His painting may have blown off his canvas and hit him in the face.

Elizabeth Mowry discussed her method of self-critique during a session in the Pastel Room.

Albert Handell is a master pastelist and a popular workshop instructor, but if you wanted to see his demonstration, it meant missing T. Allen Lawson’s Main Stage talk that had people talking for days. And seeing either of them meant missing watercolorist Eric Wiegardt present “Secrets of Painting Loose.” Another day, participants were bouncing from Carolyn Anderson’s demo to watercolor master Michael Reardon’s presentation to Kim Casebeer’s pastel-intensive lesson to Brian Blood’s advice on how to “Keep It Simple.” 

Terri Ford paints a demo.

Michelle Darvis was both a participant and an exhibitor at PACE. This is her second year as a full-time artist, and it was her first time at the convention. And she says she was “wowed” even before the convention began: She had taken C.W. Mundy’s pre-convention workshop. “I learned more in two days than I did from any course in college,” says Darvis. “It kind of blew my mind. I’m just on cloud nine.”

Terri Ford’s palette

Artists painted along the dramatic coast on Monterey Peninsula, and they talked shop deep into the night at the Portola Resort and Monterey Conference Center, at nearby pubs, and on benches in quaint plazas just outside the ballrooms and expo space. Presentations in the conference center ranged from business-oriented topics to pure explorations of color and inspiration. 

Painters face the wind and surf at Asilomar State Beach.

Kathy Anderson presents a demo on the Main Stage at PACE.

It started on April 13, with PleinAir magazine publisher Eric Rhoads donning a pilot’s outfit (more on that next week), and ended with a free painting day outside in Monterey on April 17. Smiles were abundant and excitement was keeping the energy level very high on days that for some started with a 6:30 a.m. Art Marketing Boot Camp session and ended after 9 p.m. when critiques by such respected artists as Quang Ho and Carolyn Anderson wrapped up. 

Joe Gyurcsak offers an interesting talk on color during a lunch session.

Even veterans such as Elizabeth Mowry were impressed. Mowry has been to a convention or two — she is in the Pastel Society of America’s Hall of Fame, and she sits on the board of the International Association of Pastel Societies. She says, “I found the convention to be a wonderful, rewarding experience. The size of it! It’s just so astounding to me. To witness the camaraderie, people finding each other at their easels … the excellence of the work of the plein air painters and what they’d done in the field.” 

Jim McVicker was prepared for the wind.

But what could a master pastelist like Mowry possibly gain from something like PACE? “I have never felt that I’m finished learning,” she says. “There’s just so much to learn. You have to be open to things or you become static. I’ve had to solve many problems myself because I’m self-taught, so I understand the struggle some are going through. But there’s so much to offer here. I would come back to this convention in a minute.”


  1. I put my oil tubes in a clear plastic box with Artist’s Colours written on top and my name, etc written inside. Then I place the box in a large ziplock bag. They still get opened sometimes and the tops not put back on correctly, but at least they are not left out with my clothes. I did have to leave a tripod behind in the Milan airport- it was a weapon after all!

  2. Metal tripods are considered hollow tubes for Drugs? etc etc. Had a terrible time getting it through and ended with the security person running to the plane as the doors were closing! years ago so probably worse now.

  3. I’m interested in knowing what backpack and tripod (brands/model) that are shown in the photo of Kersey and Bloods painting trip to Italy. They look shorter than anything I have and that would be welcome.

  4. I’ve traveled a lot with my pastels and easels, domestic and international, and always allow a little extra time to be searched. I was told that on the XRay machines, pastels look like either batteries or bullets–either one is liable to raise red flags. That means opening up the case for the inspectors, but I’ve never had any trouble they see them.

  5. Thanks for the tips. I actually find traveling from a foreign country (almost any in Europe) more difficult than going through TSA. Will be aware of anything that looks/could be a weapon–such as tripod, palette knives & put that in checked luggage. Durinda–like your idea of a clear plastic box inside of a ziplock. Will try that next time.

  6. Thanks for the tips. I actually find traveling from a foreign country (almost any in Europe) more difficult than going through TSA. Will be aware of anything that looks/could be a weapon–such as tripod, palette knives & put that in checked luggage. Durinda–like your idea of a clear plastic box inside of a ziplock. Will try that next time.

  7. I had to have a physician’s letter re my airline approved/carry-on oxygen & they took my 4 oz of hairspray (3 oz is all they allow – don’t know what I could have done with that extra 1 oz), but I am prepared to have a letter signed from Brian Blood that I am traveling to take his class!

  8. I was stopped in SFrancisco airport with my paint box. The box tested positive for ‘explosives’ and I did too. I think it has something to do with the lead in some of my paints. Never had a problem with tripod on plane though.

  9. btw, your turp can looks like a bomb no matter whether its in your carry on or you checked luggage. When I check it, my luggage gets trashed by TSA. If I carry it on, I need to leave extra time b/c they are going to open my bag and waste my time. There must be a plastic type container that can be used for turp when you get to your destination, right?

  10. Susie, and everyone, don’t feel too bad. I’m a 747 Captain for United Airlines and the TSA regularly confiscates my bottles of Frank’s Hot Sauce. In my opinion airline food (what’s left of it) is inedible without vast quantities of hot sauce. As bad as it is for those who travel occasionally, it’s terrible for those of us who do it for a living.


  11. My wife and I travel with our oil painting gear to France, Italy and Germany. We check everything. Paint medium is OK if it is walnut oil, linseed oil or similar (in plastic containers)–of course not the petroleum-based mediums–Liquin, etc. I had a tube of paint made in France confiscated and destroyed–did not have the required ASTM labeling. Used to take Liquin but that came to an abrupt end years ago. I also label everything and agree that transparent containers and baggies are great.

  12. I always scrape the old paint off my palette before the trip so I don’t alarm the sniffer machines. Watercolor & gouache can go in that 1 qt ziploc, but I check my suitcase when I bring oils. The oils I put in a tupperware, put that in a baggie, and wrap the whole thing in bubble, then tape my card on the outside. Never a problem. Very small Manfroto tripod in a large tripod bag which can hold lots of other stuff: guerilla painter brush washer for thinner, brushes in a bamboo rollup, cruddy painting pants, as well a shoes and whatever else won’t fit in the 22″ checked suitcase. I have never had tripod problems but I always ask at the counter when I am checking my suitcase, “ok if I carry on the tripod?” They always say it’s the best thing to do and also do NOT count it as one of the carry on bags! Open box M 8×12 goes easily in a rolling carryon. Thinner can be bought at the destination. It is always available in France in the market on the cleaning products shelf. Look for “white spirit” in a 1 liter bottle. Anything “suspicious” looking (like a metal brush washer) should go in a carryon where you can explain it but those things really use up a lot of space. Less is more when traveling.

  13. I shipped a box full of oil paints to Italy for a workshop a few years ago. They were held up in Italian Customs because I labeled the box “my own goods”. I think they wanted me to pay duty on the contents of the box before allowing delivery by Fedex. Nearly ruined my workshop experience, but I was able to get them to release and deliver my package. It took some doing, but I finally got them just in time for the workshop. Not sure I’d go that route again! I’ll pack them in a suitcase instead next time.

  14. Another thing to consider: you may not be able to buy turpentine in Mexico or South America. Unless things have changed in the past few years, it was next to impossible to buy turpentine in Mexico or Peru. The stuff they sold in paint or hardware stores that they called “thinner” actually dissolved the paint. I finally found an artist supply store in Panama, where 8 oz. of turpentine was $16 (and this was about 5 years ago). Maybe you’d want to consider “water-soluable oils” for these areas.

  15. Just traveled to Italy to paint and after checking the Gamblin website, I came up with the following message which I included in BOLD type, in my bag of paints in my checked luggage. The most important thing, I think, is never to mention the word “PAINT”! Also made sure that my checked, empty turp can had been washed well and even sprayed with air freshener! No problems getting through the sceeners for any of us on the trip.Hope this helps!



  16. Whenever I fly domestically on a painting trip I always send my oilpaints, mediums, easel, tripod and as many canvas on foamcore panels as will fit into a perfectly sized box (which I use over and over again) via Fedex Ground. It costs about $30 each way, it takes 5 days, so I send it the week before and it’s waiting for mae at the hotel. No hassle and no overweight. I do keep my brushes with me.

  17. In October we went to Kauai. I shipped all my painting suppies general delivery via the US Mail’s “If it fits, it ships” boxes. $10.00 each + Ins. When we arrived everything was waiting at the post office. Show an ID & pick it up. Shipped back the wet pannels the same way. Allow 5 – 7 days. I made my own pachade box to fit the largest box they had. Carried on the tripod. Had a great time & no hassels on my painting supplies!!!

  18. I Just returned from Spain and checked water base oils and medium. Had no problems but labeled all my supplies and placed everything in ziplock bags. had a great trip but missed my regular oils.

  19. Those of you who have trouble locating turnpentine in foreign countries might want to try vegetable oil to clean your brushes. I use it all the time–works great and you can buy it in a grocery store.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here