You might think Australian painter Leon Holmes would feel a bit at home painting in Tucson at the 2016 Plein Air Convention & Expo (PACE) in April. After all, Australia is famously dry and hot. But Holmes says it’s more complicated than that.
“For the past five years I have been traveling so extensively that my subject matter and palette have been constantly evolving,” reports Holmes. “I actually found it very challenging this last year coming back to Australia, with its strong sharp light and high contrasting shadows. Saying this, yes, I feel there will be some familiar territory in Tucson.”
Holmes will be on the demo stage at PACE, showing his painting process, but don’t expect any formulas. Holmes is his own man, and he thinks on his feet. “I guess I am pretty experimental,” says the artist. “There are rules, but rules are there to be broken. Have fun and try to express a little of oneself within your own work.”

“Snow Top,” by Leon Holmes, oil on board, 8 x 12 in.

He continues, “I hope I can offer something a little different. Maybe explain something in a way that has not made sense to someone before, or make people think differently about their painting. It’s pretty hard today to establish a distinct difference between different nations and the way they paint. Universally, the Internet is bringing us all closer together as we search for assistance in developing our knowledge and skills. In all my travels, I have, however, noticed strong tendencies towards different styles within different regions and countries, mostly influenced, I believe, by the history of the artists that came before them. I do feel that my Australian influences are still alive and well within me. However, the world’s influences have somehow taken over, making painting so much more fun.”

A scene from Tuscany painted by Holmes

Holmes moved out beyond the Australian stage thanks to two forces: the Art in the Open Festival in Ireland, and Lori Putnam. “I can’t thank them both enough,” Holmes says. “The festival was a mixing pot to meet many painters from around the world, and Lori took time and faith in my abilities to recommend myself and my work to some much-respected contacts here.”

A scene from Ireland painted by Holmes

It’s not the great locales that pull artists such as Holmes into the Plein Air Convention. It isn’t just the opportunity to study the painting process of plein air luminaries. “I don’t believe it is about accomplishing anything,” he says. “I am coming because I enjoy the camaraderie of like-minded people; I enjoy sharing ideas as well as gaining new knowledge and ideas to further my own artistic hunger. It’s about meeting other like-minded people and growing as an artist within ourselves. PACE is a fantastically put-together event. Last year I listened to speakers not only talking about painting, but all sorts of subjects that in some way opened my eyes in new ways that related to painting. It was uplifting.”

“Dinghy at Rest,” by Leon Holmes, oil on board, 8 x 16 in.

There was one other factor in Holmes’s decision to participate in PACE 2016. “I am attending because I was invited and asked by Eric Rhoads. I don’t think I was allowed to say no,” he says with a laugh.

A scene from Australia painted by Holmes

The Plein Air Convention & Expo (PACE) is a five-day gathering of more than 800 plein air painters in a resort, with artists at the top of the field offering demos, lectures, and instruction. This year’s event is being held April 15-19 at El Conquistador Resort in Tucson. To see the faculty lined up for this year’s PACE, and to get more information, go here. As with previous years, the faculty will continue to expand through the winter, so check back often.


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