Plein Air Convention & Expo 2016

Tucson, Arizona

Staged once a year by Plein Air Magazine in various artistically inspiring locations, the plein air convention, or PACE, is specific to artists who want to paint and learn on location with modern day masters. I attended my 4th gathering in Tucson where the long shadows and desert scenery were spectacular. More than 900 artists gathered from all over the globe (200 more than last year) creating the largest gathering of artists in the history of the world!

I cannot describe how wonderful it is to be with so many people of like interest. In Tucson I was able to bond with my "tribe" the people who love what I love and speak my language. To improve our skills many of us often spend 4 to 600 dollars to attend workshops with artists whose work we admire. For a bit more, PACE provides the opportunity to attend demonstrations by the best artists of our day in the morning and get personalized advice from them while working in the field in the afternoon, when light and shadows are at their best.

A small army of well-known names are drafted by publisher B. Eric Rhoads to do these demonstrations and advise artists of all levels during their creative process. Every stop at every canvas by the, red-hatted, faculty experts is like another workshop.

Since everyone wears a name tag it is easy to get to know one another and put those names you have seen in the high-end galleries to the faces of your favorite artists. Some of the friendly artists who helped me personally during this event included, Bill Anton of Prescott, Az., Matt Smith of Tucson, Az and (wild) Bill Davidson of Boulder, Co just to name a few. Many well known local artists attend regularly too including, Carole Gray-Weihman of Petaluma, Stefan Baumann, of the PBS series the Grand View, Ellen Howard of San Mateo and Brenda Boylan of Los Gatos.

PACE is an excellent acronym for this gathering because you really must pace yourself to keep up! There are always 1-4 demos going on at all times, sometimes two artists at once on the main stage, including some in the evenings addressing nocturnal painting techniques. So if you go, rest up before hand because there is so much to do, so much you will want to do, that even finding time to eat can be challenging.

Fortunately, Plein Air magazine offers DVDs of these great artists at discounted prices for attendees as well as via mail order at regular prices. The vendor section provides opportunities to buy every artist supply imaginable at reasonable prices direct from manufacturers such as RayMar panels and Strada Easels - designed and produced by our own local artist Brian Mark Taylor of Lafayette. Rosemary Brushes of the UK offers what are considered by most to be the best (hand-made) and are always available here at very reasonable prices.

Me and my "pardner" event MC and publisher B. Eric Rhoads - this perennially energetic and dynamic producer of magazines & events concluded that PACE cannot get any bigger and maintain the intimacy /contact between experts and novices that makes it work. So, they are going to limit its size, which means it will likely sell out more quickly in the future. The next location will be in San Diego during April of 2017. So if you are interested in "extreme painting" to advance your skills as an artist "en plein air" and would like to be part of the next historic gathering of artists, I encourage you to sign up soon. I'm glad I did!

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Friendly Fella 9 x 12 of a sweet horse I encountered near Saguaro National Monument (Available)