Plein air painting in Utah
Kimbal Warren instructing in the field

From September 12 through 15 an incredible event took place in Midway Utah, when 21 of the state’s most accomplished artists, as well as 79 determined painters came together for a local conference of plein air painters that was put on by the Plein Air Painters of Utah and the Midway Art Association. This was not a local event in the sense of who attended, though, because we had participants from as far away as the East Coast and Hawaii.

One of the reasons this event is so special is that it is small — participants have been kept to no more than 100 in the past two years — and the tuition this year was $400. The students also got a chance to recoup that, which many did with money to spare, on the last day, which turned into an exhibition and sale.

The event started with a light breakfast and sometimes resembled a vaudeville act due to the hilarious antics of our master of ceremonies, Steve Stauffer. By 8 a.m. the instruction started with two Powerpoint presentations. I spoke on “How to Study Painting,” and then Tom Howard spoke on “Drawing Basics.” These two keynote addresses set the stage for what was to come.

Plein air painting workshop
Russell Case taking the stage

Next, the whole room cleared out and met in a local farmer’s field for group demos by the entire faculty. In addition to that, beginner instruction was provided in the field, as well as an indoor still life demo by David Dean, which was held at the event venue for anyone who wanted to stay indoors. (By the way, Midway Utah, with its backdrop of Mount Timpanogos, has one of the most unique farming vistas in the country.)

The afternoon session consisted of presentations by Russell Case on design, an afternoon student painting session, and finally a city-landscape presentation and demo, which covered perspective, by Rob Adamson.

As you can see, this format was rigorous and packed with quality information for all the participants!

The next two days followed the same general format, which included extended student painting time, along with field and town hall demos by Bonnie Posselli (on palette knife and brush in oil), Becky Hartvigsen (watercolor), Tom Howard (watercolor), Kimbal Warren (oil), Steve McGinty (president of the Plein Air Painters of Utah; oil), John Hughes (oil), Rhett Ashby (palette knife in oil), Lauri Eskelson (oil), Steve Heward (oil), and Scott Bevan (oil). Later on, when everyone returned from the field, indoor presentations featured lectures such as “Designing on Location” by John Poon, “Composition” by David Dibble, “Controlling Values” by David Koch, along with watercolor demos by Spike Ress and Roland Lee. Additionally there were oil painting demos by Susette Gertsch (who did the figure in a garden setting), an evening oil painting demo by Josh Clare, and another by Susan Gallacher.

The three days of instruction ended with a panel discussion and catered dinner. Then it was time to clean up for the Saturday show and sale, which was a huge success for both faculty and participants alike!

All in all, it was an amazing event that informed and inspired not only the students in attendance but the faculty as well! Here is a sampling of comments:

“Remarkable lectures and demos! Thank you so much for your wonderful organization. It’s the perfect workshop/retreat anywhere!”

“This is a good event. Humble and down-to-earth instructors who are free with their good help. Everyone was so helpful & encouraging.”

“The talent of instructors/presenters was over the top. The event was very well organized, informative and fun. I am leaving inspired and grateful.”

“I appreciated the opportunity to show my work! Thanks a million for putting this together. Best experience of my art year!”

“I had the best 4 days of my life! Thanks for your passion, time and talent!”

One of the things people are asking is if we will be doing another one next year. Well hmmm… possibly! We’ll know as soon as we get together to review the event and make that determination. Check back in the next few weeks and months at to find out!

The Plein Air Painters of Utah is a loosely knit group of professional painters who get together for monthly paint-outs. These excursions into the field can be attended by anyone who would like to come along. Information on our activities can be accessed by going to, or by getting on our mailing list. To do that contact president Steve McGinty at

We would like to thank many individuals for their tireless efforts in putting on Plein Air Utah: Our many hosts, for providing lodging for our instructors, Gayle Warren, our coordinator, without whom we could not have done this! The many volunteers who worked behind the scenes: Norma Burgner, Jean Dean, Sue Stauffer, and Matt Chatterley. Becky Hartvigsen and Lauri Eskelson for the food, and Beckie Rock, who handled our online presence. Their time and talents were a huge asset! A special thanks to our three farmers/ranchers — John Besendorfer, Paul Probst, and Neil and Alicia Richardson — for allowing us to invade their properties for three days. Thank you so much!

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