“Oak Respite,” by Jim Wodark, 2016, oil, 12 x 12 in. Collection the artist

Learning from somebody of Jeremy Lipking’s caliber at the Plein Air Convention & Expo (PACE) next month in San Diego is an attractive notion. But let it be known, PACE is designed to help both advanced artists and beginners. Attend Lipking’s demo, but also attend Jim Wodark’s pre-convention session about equipment, part of the Plein Air Basics Course.

Held the day before the convention opens, the Plein Air Basics Course covers all the important facts a newcomer to plein air should know before going out into the field. In addition to Wodark, Stephanie Birdsall, Georgia Mansur, Aline Ordman, and Kath Macaulay will be sharing their wisdom during the daylong course, which costs an additional $99 for PACE attendees.

“Hiesler Sunset,” by Jim Wodark, 2016, oil, 8 x 16 in. Private collection
“Hiesler Sunset,” by Jim Wodark, 2016, oil, 8 x 16 in. Private collection

Wodark knows a thing or two about plein air painting supplies. He figures he’s tried most of them, from panels to palettes to easels to brushes. His presentation will explain why some products work well outdoors, and what to watch out for. “This topic is not glamorous, but it’s like logistics — you have to have it,” says Wodark.

“Silverado Serenade,” by Jim Wodark, 2016, oil, 16 x 20 in. Private collection
“Silverado Serenade,” by Jim Wodark, 2016, oil, 16 x 20 in. Private collection

The California artist will have his plein air setup on display and will demonstrate its features. He won’t be focusing solely on a few select brand names, but Wodark will point out a good product now and then. “This is designed for people who haven’t done plein air painting before and want to get started on it,” Wodark says. “I’ll talk about what works in terms of easels, brushes, and so on, so you don’t have to wade through all the things out there. If you can get all that figured out so you have a really efficient system, you don’t have to think about that part and you can concentrate on painting.”

“Oak Valley,” by Jim Wodark, 2017, oil, 8 x 16 in. Collection the artist
“Oak Valley,” by Jim Wodark, 2017, oil, 8 x 16 in. Collection the artist

Wodark will offer a take-home list of dependable products, including backpacks, tripods, and paints. “I don’t say this is the best one; I have a list that I hand out that has all the ones I mention, the ones that work.” Of course, if you ask five artists which setup is the best, you may very well get six answers. Wodark says the most subjective and personal piece of equipment may well be the easel.

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years and have had all sorts of easels,” says the artist. “The easel may be the most subjective thing. There are so many different kinds of mechanisms invented. Some like one system better than the other. Some attach to the head of a tripod. That brings your hands up higher. Others have the palette down below. There’s no set way to have a palette. That’s what makes it so interesting. And some easels are cheap, but they just fall apart, and that will frustrate you. It’s like skiing with a crummy pair of skis. It’s really hard to enjoy it because you don’t turn as well. Get some parabolics, and suddenly it’s so much easier to turn. Painting is hard enough, and painting outside is even harder, so if your easel is giving you issues, if it’s heavy or is loose or hard to set up, you’re not going to enjoy it.”

“Winter’s Thaw,” by Jim Wodark, 2016, oil, 12 x 12 in. Private collection. Studio piece
“Winter’s Thaw,” by Jim Wodark, 2016, oil, 12 x 12 in. Private collection. Studio piece

Wodark’s main job will be over before the convention proper even begins. But he’ll be around all week, painting. “I’m a field instructor also, so I will be out there helping people,” says Wodark. “That’s fun to do. I enjoy meeting people, seeing what they do, helping them, or even just having them ask questions while I paint.”

“The Golden Blanket,” by Jim Wodark, 2017, oil, 24 x 36 in. Private collection. Studio piece
“The Golden Blanket,” by Jim Wodark, 2017, oil, 24 x 36 in. Private collection. Studio piece

Time is running out on the chance to join this experienced artist at the biggest gathering of plein air artists in the world. Wodark will be teaching at the Plein Air Convention & Expo, which will be held April 24-28 in San Diego, California. Have you seen the list of faculty members who will be instructing participants? It also includes Jeremy Lipking, Quang Ho, James Gurney, Charlie Hunter, and dozens more. The convention is almost filled. Go here to learn more and to register for PACE.

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