“Take a Chance”

Highlights from Day 3 of the Plein Air Convention & Expo in Cherokee, North Carolina

After another full morning and afternoon of painting demonstrations across five stages, we headed outdoors for another opportunity to put into practice everything – or at least something! – we learned. Charter buses took many artists to the charming Darnell Farms, and others headed to the Oconaluftee Indian Village & Cherokee Botanical Gardens to paint.

Plein Air Convention paint-out
Painters at Darnell Farms, a 100-acre, second-generation farm in Bryson City, North Carolina
Some lined up along the banks of the Tuckasegee River at Darnell Farms
Some lined up along the banks of the Tuckasegee River at Darnell Farms.
Our host and CEO, Eric Rhoads also set up an easel to paint at Darnell Farms.
Our host and CEO, Eric Rhoads also set up an easel to paint at Darnell Farms.
Oconaluftee Indian Village & Cherokee Botanical Gardens
The Oconaluftee Indian Village & Cherokee Botanical Gardens offered two distinct sections for artists to choose from.
Oconaluftee Indian Village & Cherokee Botanical Gardens
In a unique opportunity for painters, Native Americans from the Oconaluftee Indian Village modeled throughout the site.

Friendships, top artists, and simply painting with other people outside are a few of the things that have brought Wendy Fleury back to PACE for her fourth time. She added that this year’s highlights included learning from some of her favorite artists, such as Kathie Odom, Lon Brauer, and Efran Gonzalez. “Take a chance,” she advises those on the fence about coming to PACE. “People are very friendly and easy to get along with. It’s like Christmas morning when you enter the Expo hall, with all the art supplies and top paints and brushes. And, it’s a chance to make lifelong friends.”

Dreamliners at PACE
In Day 3’s Homeroom Session, we welcomed the Dreamliners to the Main Stage. Dreamliners are a group of artists who gathered when Eric Rhoads, CEO of Streamline Publishing, began the “Art School Live” program in 2020.

Highlights from Indoor Sessions of the Plein Air Convention, Day 3

Time is of the essence when executing a successful plein air painting. As the sun moves, so do the shadows, and it is all too common to “chase the light” and overwork your painting. Anne Blair Brown showed us how to use the quick drying time of acrylics to our advantage and still maintain the paint viscosity for a painterly result. She says acrylic paint is a flexible and versatile medium that allows easy portability, quick error recovery, and just plein fun!

Just painting a scene isn’t enough, says Larry Moore. Viewers want to see how you think, what is important to you, and what makes you different from everyone else. He explained how to make more compelling creative decisions in the field and studio, and how to create more dynamic designs without rules and templates.

Donald Demers led a coastal landscape demo, where he gave humble advice while he painted a simply incredible scene before our eyes. “Most of what I know is because I’ve been wrong so many times,” he said, adding that it’s not fair to your art to try to shortcut it, and to be sure to not neglect one inch of your work.

In another special session on the main stage, Eric Rhoads welcomed guest artist Jill Carver for a live-audience recording of the PleinAir Podcast. Originally from London, England, Jill Carver moved to the United States in 2002. Before becoming a full-time professional artist, she was a curatorial research assistant at the National Portrait Gallery in London for twelve years. Stay tuned for the podcast episode, coming soon!

PACE painting in art gallery
In addition to the five stages of scheduled programming, it’s not unusual to find faculty finishing their demo paintings for a more intimate crowd throughout the Plein Air Convention. 

In her demonstration, Kami Mendlik distilled color relativity into a simple yet transformative step-by-step strategy that will imbue your paintings with radiant light and atmosphere. The process of creating this illusion is more strategic than one might think, she says. By realizing that a color only appears a certain way because of the color next to it, you unlock a whole new world. No color stands alone, whether in real life or on canvas.

In his “Alpine Splendor” demo, Aaron Schuerr revisited one of his favorite spots — a mountain meadow high in the Spanish Peaks of Montana. He demonstrated how to juxtapose simplified forms to create pleasing relationships, how to carefully rearrange a scene to emphasize scale and distance, and how to contrast a warmly lit peak with a shadowy foreground to create the drama of a moment.

From “How to Paint Dramatic Skies in Pastel” with Albert Handell
From “How to Paint Dramatic Skies in Pastel” with Albert Handell, one of many Plein Air Convention favorites

Every pastel color has more than one color to it, and in plein air, lighter pastel colors will look darker, and dark colors will look lighter (and you will have at least twice that number of colors in your plein air box). Albert Handell demonstrates how to apply this using a dramatic desert sky as a subject.

William A. Schneider showed how a few simple strokes can make your paintings sing! By incorporating impressionistic figures into your landscape or cityscape, you will add movement, scale, narrative, and drama. William demonstrated several “hacks” to create believable figures. He also showed how to avoid the three errors artists often make when first trying to integrate figures into their paintings.

Whether painting en plein air or in studio, incorporating the wildlife of a place will bring your painting to life. Lisa Egeli demonstrated her approach to incorporating birds into a shoreline scene — in this case, pelicans flying along breaking surf.

From “Mastering Complexity: Illusion in Painting” with Harsh Agrawal
From “Mastering Complexity: Illusion in Painting” with Harsh Agrawal

We learn the art of keeping focal areas intricate, drawing the viewer’s gaze to the heart of your composition with Harsh Agrawal. But that’s not all — we discovered how to strategically loosen up areas to invite curiosity without stealing the spotlight. This session revolutionized the approach to “complex” subjects by creating a composition that leaves a lasting impression.

We joined Pierre Guidetti for a presentation in two parts. After opening with a preview of a witty new play that will be premiering in Paris in the fall, Pierre seamlessly segued into a lively demo presentation about gouache with special guest Barbara Tapp.

Richard Russell Sneary taught us how to simplify shapes, lines, and color. He says to balance and change the emphasis of lights and darks to create movement and interest in your composition and direct the eye through it, and bring harmony to your paintings. It’s all about learning!

A nocturne is a challenging subject to paint, especially in watercolor. However, Richie Vios has developed a system for nocturnal painting that makes it easier to paint at night than in the day. He revealed three essential tools: 1) how to compose necessary shapes, just enough to tell a story; 2) watercolor consistency for more accurate timing (“Watercolor Clock”); and 3) the four pillars of dynamic paintings.

“Fresh Eggs: A New Look at an Old Medium” with Stewart White
From “Fresh Eggs: A New Look at an Old Medium” with Stewart White

Egg tempera has been around since Ancient Egypt. It is flexible, immediate, and simple to use, yet it is seldom used in plein air or studio work. In his session, Stewart White examined the pros and cons and all the wonderful qualities of this ancient medium in a contemporary new light.

If you ever wondered how the pros interpret light and shadow with lightning speed, we hope you caught this session! In just under 40 minutes, veteran plein air painter Joe Gyurcsak showed how to establish the value/design of a medium-sized painting. Joe is Blick’s Resident Artist, a veteran instructor, and a nationally recognized plein air painter.

Sergio Roffo led a demonstration of an 11” x 14” coastal landscape scene, describing the process of color mixing and values step by step.

Plein Air Convention - From “Build a Foundation for a Great Painting” with Mark Fehlman
From “Build a Foundation for a Great Painting” with Mark Fehlman

If you use the light that is reflected into shadow shapes within a painting, it will add more visual interest, says Mark Fehlman. A wall in shadow can get warm light reflecting from the ground and cool light reflecting from the sky. This also occurs in round objects, like a bush or a tree, and it can be seen in the soffit of an overhang on a roof or a post as it rises from the ground. In his demo, he explained how to use this knowledge to give life to objects within your painting.

We joined Scott Hamill as he shared his process for painting outdoors using large brushes to achieve loose, energetic brushwork. He demonstrated how to use these tools to make bold and confident brushstrokes that attract the eye and create more engaging work. We learned how to make an incredible variety of marks with just one brush, inspiring creativity and opening up neural pathways.

We explored the interplay of warm and cool light on simple objects found in nature during a 90-minute gouache demo with Kevin Scarborough. He explained how to elevate scenes by understanding the science of light and its consideration when color mixing for added depth in a painting.

“Texture for Water Media” with Georgia Mansur
From “Texture for Water Media” with Georgia Mansur

We joined Georgia Mansur for a fascinating session on how to use grounds and pastes to paint a textured watercolor — something that can be applied to both watercolor and acrylic paints.

Establishing shadow shapes first is key to Barbara Tapp’s bold plein air watercolors. She demonstrated drawing the design, the shadow shapes, and the values in a sketchbook, then proceeded to paint a watercolor working from dark to light, resulting in a painting with strong values. She also shared some of her personal watercolor tips and discoveries along the way.

Kyle Buckland cut through all the confusing jargon regarding design and composition and provided a straightforward process to ensure a successful composition every time.

Plus: We even enjoyed an informal ‘paint-out’ with Carl Bretzke during sunset and late dusk, within steps of the Plein Air Convention conference hotel. Clare Bowen and Mark Shasha led a critique session with attendee-submitted paintings. The Art Show and Sale has been going strong with new paintings going on easels every day, and the Expo hall has continued to be a busy place as well.

We hope to see you next year at PACE! Shown here: Cherie Dawn Haas, Shelby Keefe, Fen Roscoe, Kelly Kane, Kathie Odom, and Richard Hight
We hope to see you next year at PACE! Shown here: Cherie Dawn Haas, Shelby Keefe, Fen Roscoe, Kelly Kane, Kathie Odom, and Richard Hight

We wish you were here! Stay tuned for when we announce the location for next year’s PACE, and reserve your spot ASAP: PleinAirConvention.com.

See more highlights from the Plein Air Convention here at OutdoorPainter.com.


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