The Plein Air Painters of Alaska, bound together by their hardy Alaskan “can do” attitude, have battled grizzly bears, huge swarms of mosquitoes, inclement weather, and hours of winter darkness to pursue their passion for painting outside.
By Michele Usibelli
Plein Air Painters of Alaska has 40 active members, and they still paint every Friday — sun, rain or snow — except when temps dip below zero; then they move inside to paint!
Seventeen years ago a small group of Alaskan plein air painters got together to form a Friday morning painting group. These extreme plein air painters, bound together by their hardy Alaskan “can do” attitude, battled grizzly bears, huge swarms of mosquitoes, inclement weather, and hours of winter darkness to pursue their passion for painting outside.
Five of the original members are still part of the group today: Lynn Boots, Don Kolstad, Berry Atkinson, Marianne Weiland, and Teri Jo Hedman. I had been invited to teach a workshop with this amazing group about five years ago, so when Lynn Boots contacted me to teach a workshop in my husband’s hometown of Healy, Alaska, at the entrance to Denali National Park this summer, I jumped at the chance.
The three-day workshop began with a “meet and greet” dinner at Black Diamond Golf Course, where the smoke was so think from the neighboring forest fires in Canada that we couldn’t see 20 feet beyond our faces. Not to be deterred, this tough group went to bed, excited for the next day’s workshop.
Day #1 of the workshop we woke up to torrential rains, which was good for the forest fires but not so good for plein air painting. Never fear, we found a covered gazebo near Otto Lake, and I carried on with my morning demo. Many of the attendees were camping, sleeping in their campers and even in their cars!
Thankfully, day #2 dawned sunny and a little windy, which kept the bugs away, at least for a while.
Day #3 I took the group of 15 painters on an ATV excursion to paint up in the mountains at the northern boundary of Denali National Park. Two of my workshop attendees were 89 years young, and they whooped and hollered the whole way! We found an amazing place to park the ATVs to paint and spent the day enjoying the solitude and beauty of plein air painting in Alaska. For this trip I added industrial-strength bug spray and bear spray to my plein air supplies :-).
I returned to my studio inspired and with an all-new respect for these Extreme Plein Air Painters!
Upcoming travel and art events with Streamline Publishing:
- September 22-29, 2019: Fall Color Week: Ghost Ranch
- October 11-19, 2019: Fine Art Connoisseur Art Trip to France
- November 10-13, 2019: Figurative Art Convention & Expo
- May 2-6, 2020: The 9th Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo