It’s a bit dangerous to ask C.W. Mundy what he will be doing at the Plein Air Convention & Expo (PACE) in April, in Monterey, California. It’s dicey to ask him what he’ll be doing in February, for that matter. Mundy takes a new tack in his art in unpredictable plunges, depending on what he sees or imagines. 

C.W. Mundy painting at the entrance to China Cove.

Mundy told us recently that he would probably paint a still life during his demo at PACE. “I think it’s better to teach the science of painting rather than teach outdoors,” says Mundy. “I think the environment and the insecurity of being outdoors can be an obstacle for some people. It can be frustrating. The students can get freaked out by the cloud cover coming and going. Better to take what you learn inside and apply it when you go outdoors.”

“Camden, ‘The Mary Day’ at Dock,” by C.W. Mundy, 2014, oil on linen, 16 x 20 in.

The Indiana artist is an iconoclast through and through, but he explains it thus: “I’m always shaking things up because that’s just the way I’m wired. I’m just a child trapped in an adult’s body, and I just want to see what I’m going to get away with.” Mundy says that, but he’s a skilled and experienced painter who knows and respects the fundamentals. It’s just where the fundamentals stop that he gets squirrely. 

“The Angelique,” by C.W. Mundy, 2014, oil on linen, 16 x 20 in. Studio painting.

“I’m starting a series where I prepare the canvas with all sorts of abstract situations going on, and I let that be the foundational ground instead of white linen with a few hash marks to show the drawing,” says Mundy. “I let that influence the stuff that I’m going to put on top. And then I’ll use a palette knife, squeegee, toilet paper, Rosemary brushes, even sticks and twigs to mark the surface.”

An observer watching Mundy paint will see him beautifully depict something…then scrape it down. The essence of his careful rendering will still be there, but much will be gone. Then he’ll build on top of that. Mundy is fond of paraphrasing the painter Carolyn Anderson, saying, “We are not just painting things here. We want to paint beyond what the things are.”

“Entrance to China Cove, Pt. Lobos, California Coast, 2013, oil on linen, 9 x 12 in.

Mundy is arriving in Monterey early for PACE, and offering fellow early birds a mini-workshop. It starts at 9 a.m. on Sunday, April 12 and lasts a day and a half. The painter will give a lecture, then present a slideshow, and then paint a demo. It’s likely you will hear some of Mundy’s music as well — perhaps a live performance. He is a talented songwriter and banjo player. The workshop will be limited to 300 people — that’s roughly a third of the expected PACE participants. An additional fee gets you in the Mundy workshop.

“‘The Appledore,’ Camden,” by C.W. Mundy, 2014, oil on linen, 12 x 9 in. Studio painting.

The artist says that he and his wife, Rebecca, are developing a new lecture and a new slideshow, so veterans of past Mundy workshops would see new material. “The lecture gives the information,” says Mundy. “The slideshow is the visuals to reinforce the info. And then I’ll paint the demo to reinforce it all.” Throughout the three sections of the workshop, a common thread will be apparent. “A painter paints what he sees. An artist paints what he can’t see,” says Mundy. “I’ll be urging people to take the liberty to make up what you want — to make up things so the painting expresses the way you feel about the subject. Copying the way it looks is important, but that’s the beginning stage. Having all those tools are definitely important. But there comes a time when you have to stop being a caterpillar and become a butterfly. Give an interpretation of your subject matter.”


“Red Pear, Green Lime, Copper & Flow Blue,” by C.W. Mundy, 2014, oil on linen, 16 x 20 in. Painted from life in studio.

“My whole purpose in doing this is to try to inspire and light a fire under the people who show up,” says Mundy. “That’s my whole purpose. I’m kind of like the jailer who lets them out of prison. I had to go through all of that, thinking there were rules and regulations. I try to give them that window to take off and become an artist instead of just a painter.”

The Plein Air Convention & Expo will be held April 13-17 in Monterey, California. Last year, more than 700 artists basked in the perfect weather and learned from 70 instructors. This year, organizers expect even more participants. Learn more here.


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