Tom Bluemlein, one of the instructors at the Plein Air Convention & Expo (PACE), has seen people in painting workshops act terribly nervous. He has some advice for them. 

“You need to get rid of that,” the Kentucky painter says. “We are trying to have fun here. Anyway, how can you fail if you are doing what you are meant to do?”

“Down From the Glacier,” by Tom Bluemlein, oil, 30 x 15 in.

Bluemlein says he is excited to be at PACE, which runs through April 17 in Monterey, California. More than 700 painters have gathered to swap knowledge, paint, and enjoy the camaraderie. “I don’t think Monet ever had this many artists hanging out with him,” he says with a laugh. Bluemlein will be a field painter, but he will also paint a demo onstage in the conference center. He says his subject matter will likely be a waterfall. “There’s a waterfall I love in Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” says Bluemlein. “Just about every metaphor you can come up with in terms of the reason we are here has to do with water.”

He says that when he is near a waterfall, he feels he finds a higher consciousness. “They talk about Sedona and some other places out West as being energy vortexes,” says Bluemlein. “The Great Smoky Mountains have every bit as strong of a vortex as anywhere else. The falls are clean and crisp, and the water is ice cold. You smell the hemlocks, the mosses, the ferns. It’s wonderful. I want some of that onstage with me.”

“Secret Place,” by Tom Bluemlein, oil, 30 x 24 in.

Waterfalls are also far from static. “Falling water has so much variance to it,” he says. “It’s not like a building that everybody knows. I like painting to be exciting; sometimes the 20-minute painting is the best. It captures that moment. You have to move fast, be confident, and approach it like you are having the time of your life.”

Bluemlein has been a professional artist since he graduated college in 1969. “I didn’t do it to get rich, but to have a good time,” says the artist. “I chose something exciting and fun, exactly what I wanted to do, as if I were a multimillionaire. I try to give the audience that — I am here for a good time, and I hope they are too.”


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