Plein air for beginners - Carrie Curran -
Landscape painter Carrie Curran

Plein Air for Beginners > Painting outdoors gives you so many options! Get insider notes from Carrie Curran’s advice on “Plein Air Basics,” which took place at an earlier Plein Air Convention and Expo (PACE). Register TODAY to save $500 on your PACE ticket (discount ends 2/14/20). Hurry! As of now, there are only 70 seats left!

Carrie Curran is a nationally renowned artist, entrepreneur, teacher, and mentor who has been featured in USA Today, Iconic life, Good Morning Arizona, The Luxe List, Az Big Media, The Paradise Valley Independent, the Scottsdale Progress, Live Better in, Raising Arizona Kids, and Images Arizona: Az Faces/Az Lifestyles/Az Places. For five years, she has been the Artist in Residence at the famed Hermosa Inn, rated No. 1 hotel in the Southwest and the No. 8 hotel in the country by Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards.

For thirty years, Carrie Curran has been a professional artist living in Arizona, merging her passions for art and business. She is the well-known founder and lead instructor of Carrie Curran Art Studios, which offers a comprehensive selection of kids and adult art classes and was the first wine and paint destination in the Valley. Her widely established Young Vincent’s program at the studio offers art education and special events for children and teens. Carrie is the founder of the Youth Academy at the Scottsdale Artists’ School and Fine Art for Children, is active in Arts in Education, and is a docent at the Phoenix Art Museum.

Known for her plein air work and bold, oversized floral canvas oil works, her paintings are full of life, movement, and texture. Carrie’s paintings are collected internationally in both private and corporate collections. She has worked with well-respected artists around the world, including Quang Ho, Mark Daily, Matt Smith, and Kevin McPherson. Her instruction and mentorship have provided the foundation for professional success in the fine arts to thousands of students for over three decades.

Learn from Carrie in person at the upcoming Plein Air Convention and Expo (PACE) in Westminster, Colorado, May 2–6! (Tickets are selling out quickly. Early bird price will end on Valentine’s Day, February 14, and so will the payment plan, but don’t wait, because we expect to be fully sold out before then. Go ahead, gift yourself for Valentine’s Day by registering for PACE20!)

Grand Canyon, landscape painting
Grand Canyon, plein air painting

Plein Air for Beginners: 7 Things to Consider When Painting a Landscape Outdoors

Notes From the Plein Air Basics Course at a previous PACE.


1. Light source. Is the light crossing the scene to produce a light side, shadow side, and cast shadows?
2. Contrast. Do values, shapes, and colors distinguish themselves or blend together?
3. Ways to create the illusion of space. Are there ways to introduce elements of linear perspective? Create overlapping? Exaggerate value and color to create atmospheric perspective?
4. Horizon line. Where will you place the horizon line? For example, a low horizon line will help feature the sky in your composition.
5. Is there a way to incorporate background, middle ground, and foreground in your painting?
6. Do you see a strong value structure of three to five value masses?
7. Using a viewfinder can help enormously! The landscape can be so overwhelming, and using a viewfinder will help you isolate the part that appeals to you the most, and help you to decide on a format and to design your composition.

Painting landscapes - Carrie Curran
Tucson Desert, plein air painting
Plein air for beginners - Carrie Curran -
Carrie Curran, painting in Monet’s Garden, Giverny

Plein Air for Beginners – Basics Course at PACE
See the world in a whole new way, like a Plein Air painter!

Join us for this beginner session, a hands-on class that sets you up for everything else you will learn during the Plein Air Convention and Expo. Miss this class and you’ll miss the fundamental skills you’ll need to succeed at this unique art form.

This session on plein air for beginners is not a lecture; it is highly interactive and filled with unique exercises. You’ll come away with tons of inspiration and a wealth of new skills and techniques.

Plein air for beginners - Carrie Curran -
Path to the Seine River, plein air painting location

The Basics Course staff is committed to the plein air experience and will introduce complete novices to this wonderful form of expression, taking each participant to all new heights. Basic instruction in all mediums will enable participants to take advantage of the magnificent outdoor painting possibilities in the Denver area. Here is what to plan for and what to expect from this course:

PACE 2020 Basics Course
A pre-convention course offering “the basics” to those who want to learn to paint outdoors!
Cost: $167*
Date: Saturday, May 2, 2020
What to bring: sketchbook, graphite, pen

Choosing the right scene, learn how to edit, and keeping it simple

Painting outdoors gives you so many options. It is sometimes difficult to decide what to paint or how to feature the subject you are passionate about. Learn the art of finding simple scenes, how to edit more complex scenes and to train your eye to look for certain visual cues to help you create three-dimensional paintings. We will practice these techniques by drawing sketches of the breathtaking Colorado landscapes we will explore during the week.

Create useful thumbnail sketches

Thumbnail sketching actually speeds up the painting process as well as helps to explore design alternatives, teach simplification and build confidence. Participants will create several actual sketches step-by-step along with the instructor and learn to compose the landscape/subject in terms of masses and shapes using a limited value scale. The goal is to learn how to design simple value compositions.

Learn to see the quality of light and shadow, paint the feel of the landscape

Landscape painters are fascinated by the light and how it moves through a scene creating shadows, values, color and atmosphere. Learning to see is a process of observation and the practice of tried and true plein air painting techniques. One of the many things we will share with you is the importance of using a limited color palette, making color mixing easier and naturally creating harmony in your paintings. Added bonus: you don’t have to worry about hauling so many tubes of paint in your pack!

Choosing your medium, outdoor painting gear that’s right for you

Each medium requires a little different equipment and each artist will talk about their medium, how they work in the field, and what equipment works best for them. Participants will receive a “Gear Up Checklist” to use as a reminder of what to pack for a day of painting in the field. Instructors will display their favorite equipment and supplies and will be available to discuss helpful tips about their gear and their medium.

What to really expect on your outdoor painting adventures

Painting outdoors can be a rugged experience if you choose to backpack to a secluded spot for your painting. To keep it a little easier, you can paint out of the back of your car or simply sit on your back porch and paint what you see. Instructors will be certain to share the “ins and outs” of painting outdoors and their personal stories. Rest assured, the challenges typically out way the feeling of being fully sensitized to the beauty of nature!


At the daily paint outs during the main Convention, Basics Mentors will be grouped together in a clearly marked area and available to assist Basics Attendees, allowing you to put your newly-learned skills to the test under the guiding eye of your mentors.

You will receive daily text messages regarding the specific meeting area where there will be a “Basics” banner displayed. We look forward to offering our guidance in the field!

Plein Air Convention PACE 2020

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