Class members working in the North Fields

During the week of September 13-17, an unusual event took place in the little town of Midway, Utah. 

About 100 artists and volunteers descended on this rural community for a four-day conference on plein air painting. It’s not that this community has never seen this many artists before. To the contrary, Midway is the hub of much plein air painting activity due to its scenic locations in the North Fields, teamed with a robust agricultural industry and vast amounts of beautiful subject matter.

John Hughes delivering the keynote address on Light & Design
North Fields

In addition, the Midway Art Association regularly hosts its yearly Plein Air Paradise competition over the week leading up to the July 4 in these same venues. It has long sponsored a Fall Artists’ Retreat as well. The difference this year is that the Plein Air Painters of Utah and the Midway Art Association decided to partner up to present a unique opportunity for artists to come and receive instruction from some of Utah’s foremost plein air painters. And come they did, not only from Utah, but several other states as well!

North Fields

The faculty consisted of the following artists: Rob Adamson, Josh Clare, David Dean, Lauri Eskelson, Susan Gallacher, Susette Gertsch, Rebecca Hartvigsen, Tom Howard, John Hughes, David Koch, Steve McGinty, Michael Malm, John Poon, Bonnie Posselli, Steve Stauffer, Bryan Mark Taylor, and Kimbal Warren.

Kimbal Warren demonstrating in the field
Susette Gertsch demonstrating a figure from a live model

With this lineup, the anticipation and expectations were high. Fortunately, not only were they able to deliver, but the bar was set so high at this inaugural event that any future plans to host another one will have to take into account even larger expectations!

Class participants working away

The level of instruction was top-notch, with so much information being shared that even the instructors were gaining knowledge they weren’t expecting! There were Power Point lectures given on light, design, “The Painter’s Toolbox of Expression,” and painting trees, along with in-depth presentations on value structure in design. Demonstrations were both group and one-on-one. the instruction also featured oils, acrylic, plein air landscape, studio work, still life, portrait, and figurative. There was literally something for everyone, whether the attendee was a complete beginner or seasoned pro. As a matter of fact, there were several professional artists who came just to take it all in and sharpen their skills.

Josh Clare pointing out the finer points of a landscape

To give the reader a glimpse of this event as seen through the eyes of the participants, here is a smattering of some of the comments received:

“This is one of the best workshops I’ve ever been to. Thank you to all the artists who shared their knowledge and to the many others who donated time to make it a success!”

Steve McGinty, president of the Plein Air Painters of Utah
Tom Howard’s watercolor demo

“This was the most in-depth, hands-on workshop I have ever attended!”

“The lectures were all very informative, and structured in such a way that the attendees were able to instantly implement the knowledge received out in the field!”

“Unbelievable instruction, the best conference or workshop I have ever been to, please do this again!”

Rett Ashby helping students
Rob Adamson demonstrating a nocturne

At one point, when the participants were asked whether they would be interested in attending again, every hand in the room went up! This really gave the faculty pause because we didn’t have any plans to do another. This started out as a one-of-a-kind experience that could possibly lead into another, or even become a yearly event. It all depends on a lot of things coming together, and there is a lot to consider.

David Koch presenting

The Plein Air Painters of Utah and the Midway Art Association will be meeting soon to go over that possibility, so stay tuned! Meanwhile, if you are interested in attending next year, drop us an e-mail via

Susette Gertsch modeling winter plein air gear with Steve Stauffer
Steve McGinty demonstrating


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This article was featured in PleinAir Today, a weekly e-newsletter from PleinAir magazine. To start receiving PleinAir Today for free, click here.



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