Last year I made a post about the plein air events I did in 2010. I thought I would do the same thing for this year since not only did I participate in some events for the 2nd time but I did some new events as well. This year I kept it pretty local for the most part. I didn't have the chance to apply for most of the out-of-town events so I kept up appearances by doing so many local events.
Marin Fair Plein Air 2011
I started off this year a little later than usual with the first event being early July. The plein-air-circuit season actually starts back in May with the Carmel Art Festival. Since I've yet to participate in these events I started a bit later, with a lot more local events.
I did this one last year as well. It's a fun little event, if you don't mind painting amongst crowds in the middle of July heat. It's a cheap event, unjuried at $12 per panel. You get a good 4 hours or so to paint anywhere in the fairgrounds. I won first place again this year. If I keep this up, it's a good way to win 250 bucks a year for not a whole lot of effort.
Pacific Northwest Plein Air 2011
I returned to Northern Oregon this year to participate in this year's Pacific Northwest Plein Air 2011. I had such a great time last year and was highly anticipating my return to the Gorge. I made friends last year that I was looking forward to seeing again. A few things changed this year, a bit to the detriment of the event.
Last year they put us up in a condo, about 5 or 6 of us in the same house. It was fun because we all could get together at the end of the day and comment on each other's paintings, share drinks and stories, and generally have a good time. This year they had us a bit spread out amongst separate generous hosts. It was still nice, and we managed to hang out a lot with some effort, but that aspect of the event was noticeably missing.
I didn't get to attend this year's reception but from what I heard, sales were not nearly as good as last year's. I didn't sell any paintings, but I still had such a good time painting there. I would love to come back next year but it's tough to justify such a big travelling expense without any guarantee of compensation. I would have to consider this event more of a "vacation" than a viable method of generating sales.
The event itself is consistently well-organized. Being the premier event in the area, they do get good prizes donated to them by the big art supply companies. They have pretty good events for the artists and they do a decent job of picking "suggested areas" if you care to paint with fellow artists. Most artists however, go find their own favorite spots.
Without being an established artist in the area, sales are tough in that part of the country. This event still gets a high recommendation from me for the same reason it got high marks last year: a gorgeous varied locale with no shortage of amazing scenery, well-organized events and great camraderie with the other artists.
The Great Petaluma Paintout
This is a local one-day event in Petaluma. It's a small event, open to anyone who wants to participate. You are confined to a small section of Petaluma with about 3 hours to do what you want. I chose to paint something I knew the other artists wouldn't be compelled to paint. I don't know if it backfired or what, but I didn't get any prize or sale. At 20 dollars to apply, it didn't seem that worth it for most people unless they won something or managed to make a sale. I am a bit leery of outdoor exhibitions nowadays. They don't seem all that conducive for sales and networking.
CWA Paintout: Marin Art and Garden Center
I participated in the California Watercolor Association's paint-out at the Marin Art and Garden Center in Ross, California. It's a place I've painted at for fun a bunch of times, which is the reason I applied to this one. It was open to oil painters, but something doesn't feel right about painting in oils at an event focused on watercolors. This was the first time I have painted in gouache for an event like this. It was a bit tricky painting here on such an overcast day. There was a decent mix of professionals and hobbyists who painted at this event. I squeaked by with a third place award. The reception was really short, and it was pretty much attended only by friends of the artists. It was a decent event, but I'd put it in the "do-for-fun" category instead of the "must-do".
Calistoga Plein Air Paint Out 2011
This event has a lot of potential. It's the first year for this event, and for first-timers, they did a pretty good job. It was a 2-day event with a 1-day reception/sale. The cool part about it is that a lot of the local wineries opened their property to us artists who might not normally be welcome. It was fun because it's really close to home. The participants were a mix of amateurs and local semi-pro's. I may have been a bit out-classed by them, so I feel like if higher-caliber artists applied it could grow into a pretty cool event. It's tough to sell in my range when everyone else sells so low.
Clunie Festival: East Sacramento
This is another first-time event, but it's actually a morphing of a different event from a few years ago called Capitol Plein Air. A few of the people I've painted with and since became friends in Sacramento helped run this show. It's another 1-day event which means opportunities to sell are limited. McKinley Park is in one of the nicest neighborhoods of Sacramento so one would hope that the big spenders come out. Truth is, a lot hangs on the reputation of the event. It's really hard to establish credibility in the first year of any event. The organizers did a great job of trying to do so, though. The event was extremely well-attended, and some big sales were had, but they were either by well-established artists or inexpensive art. If they keep expanding the event and attract art organizations to donate good prizes, they will get great publicity. They are doing everything else right. This is what happens when veterans of plein air events learn from what works and what doesn't and try to establish a new event with the hopes of getting something good going.
Valona Plein Air Paint Out 2011
This was my second time participating in this event. It's put on by the Epperson Gallery in Crockett(North East SF Bay). I like this event because so many friends of mine participate and the receptions are pretty well-attended. I tend to focus on different things there because it's so unique of an area to paint. The town is very industrial and there is an interesting muted tone to everything in the area. The prizes are different at this event as well because instead of cash prizes, this year I won another Pam Glover painting (much bigger than last year's) and a weekend workshop with Randy Sexton. I am not sure if they are doing it next year, but I hope they do. I do well at this show and it is helping me to establish my credibility in the area.
3rd Annual Paint Allied Arts
The final event in the season. It's a bit far-out in the season so the weather is gonna be hit-or-miss. The Allied Arts Guild buildings and park is in a great neighborhood in Menlo Park and is a beautiful place to paint. I think I would much prefer painting here in spring when everything is in bloom. It's got to look amazing. It's another one-day event and sale. To me I find it a bit weird to have an outdoor show when they have a gallery. For some reason it kind of works here, though. The gallery is a bit too small to be comfortable with lots of crowds anyway. The reception was well-attended despite the gloomy weather. People were somewhat willing to buy if you had the right price. A couple of people sold but the paintings were $300 and under. I got a lot of people interested in my work, but I may be out of their range. I did give out a lot of cards, though. Word did spread. It was nice to see some familiar painters there as well.
So here are this year's order of plein air events, from least-likely to want to do again to most-likely.#8 CWA Paintout: Marin Art and Garden Center#7 The Great Petaluma Paintout#6 3rd Annual Paint Allied Arts#5 Marin Fair Plein Air 2011#4 Calistoga Plein Air Paint Out 2011#3 Clunie Festival: East Sacramento#2 Pacific Northwest Plein Air 2011#1 Valona Plein Air Paint Out 2011
In the 2+ years I have done just about every local event in the area. I've only done 1 of the larger events in California, and only one out-of-state event. I think I have a pretty good idea of which events are good and which aren't quite as good. Next year I plan on cutting back on the smaller events and go instead for the better-recognized events. I feel like the money I spend on applying for local events for negligible benefits could be much better applied to going for national events. I don't know if I have the reputation or accolades to make it to the big leagues yet, but I feel like I am ready to start trying. There are some events in California that I still need to try out, as well. It's not gotten to the point that I can rely on these events for steady income. At best they are like paid vacations, but at worst they can be really expensive busts.Next year I am trying out a lot of new (to me) events, and if I don't get juried in, I will cut way back in participation in local plein air events.
Sergio Lopez, fine artist. Based in Santa Rosa, California.
My Website: www.themainloop.com
I plan on making a post like this for 2012. I participated in a few new events for me, such as Carmel and Los Gatos.
Very nice work and style and I like your subtle hues in many of them. I went on your site too. I read your comments as well.
On the east coast I do better at outside shows then anywhere else. Granted, you don't get top dollar from that market but it pays for the Liquin.
I haven't entered too many plein air events mostly because the travel expenses. I do paint outside with groups twice a week however. Your location lends itself to a lot of earth colors and it's nice. One the east coast it's the battle with greens until the season changes.
thanks for sharing.
Hi Jay, thanks for the reply and the extra info. I haven't done a lot of outdoor shows that don't have the plein air component to them. They seem to do Ok around here as well, though.
Yes travel expenses can eat up profits easily. I don't travel to multiple-day events that don't host artists (unless it's very prestigious) in order to save some money. I look for areas with a lot of diversity in the color. In California there are 2 seasons, brown and green. Plein air events tend to fall in the "brown" season. At least on the east coast there is a variety of weather patterns. The Pacific Northwest is probably pretty similar in that it's very green and possible to have rain in the summer.
Nice work and I appreciate the descriptions of the events, thanks for the post. I was wondering if you work one sized panels for these events. I just started doing plein air events and would like to set a goal to do two per summer since I work full time and this would be my vacation time. Local ones which are unknown nationally usually require taking off a Friday, but out-of-state will need more time.
I did a small local event last year and won third place which was nice. This year, I decided to try doing a couple that require traveling. I did Canadaigua which is upstate NY in the Finger Lakes which was a long drive, but I could take my car and lots of extra stuff. I did this one to help me learn the routine and see firsthand how these events work. It was their first year and was well organized for being a first year. So they will work out more of the kinks next year. Dorms were offered and this was great because it was (cheap) good for socializing as you mentioned (even though the beds were uncomfortable but doable.) A map provided showed the area in which you were allowed to paint which was local but offered a variety of landscapes from town, lake, mountain, farm,a horticultural center, and wineries. I learned a lot doing this event and realized I like painting more than I like competing and the pressure to do well when maybe you're not feeling 100%. (This would be a good one for you Jay if you want to piggyback it with a driving vacation.)
I will be doing Plein Air Moab this October. I always wanted to paint out there and now I will. I have traveled with paints before, but not my easel. So I will probably need to ship it out there since I barely had any room in my luggage when I previously traveled with paints. I will be staying in a two room condo with my plein air partner, so this will be a different experience since I am very much a solo traveler. The event is a week long and you are allowed to paint in a 50 mile radius except for the two local quick paints. This includes Arches National Park and Canyonlands. The landscape will be totally different from anything I have ever painted plein air. The weather, climate, and surroundings will be unfamiliar and I am greatly looking forward to using much less green. Woo hoo! much less green! (You need to live out my way in order to appreciate that comment!) I think after this event, I will decide if I want to continue doing these type of events (competing) or just paint for the challenge and personal satisfaction.
Sergio, I was thinking about you totaling 8 events so far...what months are these events held? The most I could really do would be about three to four considering the winters here (and my work schedule.) I think Carmel (again) and Laguna would be good choices for you. Maybe take a risk and try Telluride or is it by invitation only? I would also think that Oregon or Washington state would have some good events. As you said, finding events with a high caliber group of artists (that charges a decent price for their work) seems like a good next step.
I just read your post Jay, yes - battle of the greens! (Could we start a post on artists who do green really well?! I went to a museum not too long ago and stared at a work which ordinarily wouldn't interest me. The entire painting was a landscape done well in greens!) It's not just an East coast thing, but an Ohio thing too.
Thanks for the reply, KatPaints. I learn something new about events every year. This is a tough year for plein air. I feel like sales are way down this year. Please tell me what Plein Air Moab is like! I have been compiling a 2013 Wishlist for events I want to apply for next year, and that one is on the list.
This post was written last November, and I don't know why it takes so long for articles to get approved around here. This just posted a few days ago. We are already deep into the 2012 season and I have tried a couple of new events, including Carmel. Did you read the paragraph about the Pacific Northwest Plein Air event? it's in Oregon. I will try for Telluride next year.
Hi, Next weekend starts Plein Air Moab and I was thinking about your post. Any updates?
I might do one more event this year, and I will make a new post on my blog after that. Thanks for keeping updated.
Hi, I'm back from Plein Air Moab, so here's my review:
Overall, I thought the event was well organized and the people in charge were friendly, upbeat and very helpful. Approximately 107 or 8 artists entered. This week long event included two quick draws ($500 purchase awards) and the final event which had winners ($1350 purchase award) in each of the categories of dry media, wet mediums, and oil. Each of the three categories had honorable mentions, and place winners with one Best of Show. The Best of show also was awarded a 1/2 page ad in Southwest Magazine. Some of the awards for the quick draws were odd like a gift certificate to a meat shop...what if you live in a different state? Ship the meat home?? Another for a massage...but when would I have time if I won?.......
The organizers provided artists with the standard packets/folders of information, complementary magazines, a T-shirt, discount coupon, and other freebies.
The awards for the quick draw at the winery was judged by the owner/family member while the shop owner of the person funding the quick draw within the city block judged the second event. Although these two event were not judged by a professional artist, I must say I thought the winners were in general a good choice. The final show/competition winners were determined by a curator and Lorenzo Chavez.
Artists from about 13 to 17 states were present at the event. The area allowed for painting was a 50 mile radius which included Moab, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. The choices for painting were phenomenal.
Several artists came from the Escalante Canyon Plein Air event which was held the prior week. Supposedly the painting area allowed by this event was staggeringly huge - much larger than the 50 mile radius allowed by the Moab event! Several comments, however were negative stating that they felt the event was cliquish because the winners of the competition were selected by a previous winner of the competition rather than an objective, professional, well-known plein air artist. Yet, it seems as if an artist with time and money coming from a long distance might want to piggyback the two events. (?)
The coordinators of the Moab event mentioned that sales were up from last year. They mentioned that Moab is not an arts town and felt it would take some time before this would be established. After a few days, most art was still not moving. Paintings moved locations in the room, but not out of the building. Moab buyers - young hikers, tourists, jeep adventurists and not many ultrawealthy types. Some tourists did buy paintings though. IMO, the sales compared to the Canadaigua event were extremely low. At the Finger Lakes competition, more than 50% of the artwork flew off the gallery walls within a few hours of time. Of course people living in the Finger Lakes tend to be educated, cultural, wine drinkers, second home owners or retirees with money to spend. Considering that it was the first year, people may have been hungry for art. It will be interesting to see if sales will be as good as they were the first year. It will also be interesting if Moab will continue to pick up sales.
My overall opinion of Moab Plein Air is that it was a great event. The chances of selling your work at the event seem a bit unpromising for most, but the area provides you with a worthwhile opportunity to create art in incredibly beautiful setting.
Well KatPaints, how many awards did you win?
Since the painting area was 50 miles, didn't it seem a bit non-community?. I really like when painters are is a viewable area. It seems more cohesive and communal. I like to see what artist do or are working on. But considering the area, I guess that's what artist want. One of these years I will go to one of these big-time plein air events. Did you ever total out your entire cost with motels, air fare, food, etc? Usually when I start totaling out the costs, it's the end of that trip.
Kat, that is excellent reporting about the Moab event! I'm really glad that you wrote such a detailed recap. Thanks for talking about Escalante as well. Although the chance of selling at the event may be slim as you say, the opportunity to paint in such an area might be worth it anyway. Especially if you are trying to build up your presence in the Southwest area. Would be curious to know if there are good "art towns" in the area with strong galleries.
Jay, I feel like even though it may seem "non-community" with such a big area to cover, the "rules" change when you're in such a tourist-attracting area. When it comes to lots of sales, you are much better off getting into places with lots of foot traffic, provided those feet have a lot of disposable income. The local community, in my experience, wants to help as long as they are able to get a deal on inexpensive art.
Absolutely 0 awards Jay! I knew this going in. My plein air is technically proficient, but aesthetically dead. Personally, I wouldn't even buy my own work at this point in time. But I gained something more that was worth more than an award. I posted elsewhere that a couple of the winners inspired me to focus on a new goal and direction with my work.
My goal was to paint in this area - something that I wanted to do for a long time. My main reason for the trip was to see that part of the US and paint. The event wasn't really important to me. So to total up the trip would be to total up a vacation. I have regrets in life, but not about spending money on travel.
Being spread out of 50 miles wasn't an issue. We had two meetups and two quickdraws which brought people together.
Sergio, At this point, I'm not concerned about building a presence. My work needs improvement and I need to hop to it, pronto!!
There are a couple of good galleries, Overlook and Framed Image. I didn't travel around enough to see if there were arts communities. Salt Lake City, Park Utah - Sundance, and Grand Junction were the closest areas. I would assume Telluride or Aspen would have a good arts community too.
Jay, I suggest finding the closest plein air event to where you live. Surely, there is something on the East Coast for a few days. Other than that, maybe join a paint out. Frankly, what I find the worst about events that are at a distance - shipping frames. I would add that several artist came in SUVs and even slept in them or camped. Many also stay with host families who open their doors to an extra room in their house. I figure if I ever have the opportunity to travel and paint on a continuous basis a 4 wheel drive or one of those t@b campers would be ideal.
Actually, I do a lot of plein air with groups and have done a few drive-to events. But no fly-away events. Sounds like fun. Right now I'm plein Aired out since I run one weekly group and paint with another as well. Never painted out west and it's on my list.
Speaking of galleries, this year I have sold more than ever - doing nothing but a few outside events and some local places like banks, libraries etc. I am in a few galleries but have sold nothing. Probably because you have to raise the price so high to cover the commission.
I like the communal energy and fun of all the people/artists at the events more than I care about selling or awards.