Joe Anna Arnett is a restless soul. Her approach to painting is constantly mutating, but there are a few things participants at the Plein Air Convention & Expo (PACE) can count on her talking about. A key ingredient will be the suitcase. 

“Waiting for High Tide,” by Joe Anna Arnett, oil, 12 x 16 in.

This is because travel is vitally important to Arnett, not just for her art, but for her life with her husband. “For us, it is all about travel,” Arnett says simply. “We’ve been all over, from France and Italy to England, Ireland, Scotland, Holland, Ecuador, Mexico, Guatemala, Canada, and of course, all over the United States. And if I ever got on a plane without my easel, I would feel absolutely naked. It just can’t happen.”

“The Moore Farm, Vermont,” by Joe Anna Arnett, oil, 12 x 14 in.

Another theme Arnett will almost assuredly touch upon is color temperature, and it is fascinating to see how beautifully she embraces the various color temperatures she encounters. “When I go out painting toward Abiquiú the rocks are unapologetically red; in Cornwall, England, you have to leave those warms at home,” she says. “My grounding was in color temperature, and I still find that a very important message for me. I ask myself if the light is warm or cool, what is happening in shadow. All you have to remember is one word: opposite. If it is a warm-light day, then the sunlit areas are warm, and shadows will be the opposite, cool.”

“Running for Home,” by Joe Anna Arnett, 9 x 12 in.

“Cliff View of the Todden, Cornwall,” by Joe Anna Arnett, oil, 12 x 16 in.

Color temperature, value relationships, and shape relationships will all certainly be on the table during Arnett’s demo at PACE — a demo she will share with fellow painter Lori Putnam. “It will be a learning experience, and it will be fun,” she promises. “Our approach will be, ‘Here are some tools. Take them outside and see what you can do with them.'” Certainly, Arnett will not be laying out some sort of formula or dogma. That doesn’t work very well in art instruction, and it certainly doesn’t work very well as an artistic approach for Arnett. Her style has developed in many interesting ways since the days when she became known for still lifes influenced by Dutch masters. “My students say, ‘We can’t paint like you because rarely do you paint like you,'” laughs Arnett.

“Rose, Abraham Darby, Morning Light,” by Joe Anna Arnett, oil, 12 x 14 in.

Clearly, among her favorite tools, her very favorite one is likely travel. “I love travel, and my art is a response to what I encounter,” she says. “Travel and having a response to what I see has changed how I look at still lifes in the studio. I go to a place and have to stop and say, what’s here, what’s special about this place. Like in Cornwall, England, which is inundated in cool tones, and you have to ask what the warms are. Cool light means cool subject matter. That is part of the joy, figuring out what’s here and what’s my response to it.”

“Sail Drying, Chioggia, Italy,” by Joe Anna Arnett, oil.

The globetrotter has a particular interest in PACE. Its location in the Big Sur area of California has not yet been checked off her list. “Yes, that’s right — I have not painted in Monterey, so I’m really excited about it.”


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