Plein Air “paint outs” are an open invitation to all artists, amateur and professional, to paint the treasures of Arizona State Parks. These live outdoor painting competitions take place in 4 hour blocks. After the painting period, the artists gather to judge their peers' completed work.
Artists are welcome to bring their easels, brushes, drop cloth, canvas and capture scenes around the park. The park entrance fee is waived for participating artists.
Plein Air is a French term that means “in the open air.” At Plein Air events landscape artists gather at a designated time to have their blank canvas and or papers stamped and then head out with packed easels, paints and brushes and trek into nature looking for inspiration in the wide open spaces with good light and fresh air to paint everyday scenery. The parks are safe, have clean bathrooms and the views are irresistible. Four hours later the artists meet to display the finished piece/pieces and submit them for judging by fellow artists.
Artists are encouraged to bring a mat or frame for protection and enhancement of their painting. Artists then vote for the top three best paintings.
The top three paintings from each “paint out” are entered in a annual gallery show. These paintings capture the magnificence of nature and also raise awareness of the need for artists, collectors and visitors to be stewards of our parks now and in the future. See actual paintings in our Online Plein Air Gallery, or see photos from the events below. Plein Air Paint Outs are supported by painters from all over the southwest, including the Arizona Plein Air Painter Society and Tucson Plein Air Painters Society .
The “paint outs” began as part of the State Parks 50th anniversary celebrations, 2006–2007. Arizona State Parks and the Tucson Plein Air Painters Society partnered to host a series of 10 Plein Air “paint outs” at many Arizona State Parks. An opening reception followed by a gallery show of the top 30 paintings from the 10 “paint outs” was held at Boyce Thompson Arboretum from January 5th to the 27th, 2008.
The Plein Air partnership and “paint out" series was so successful that a new series of 11 “paint outs” started in September 2007. The newly formed Arizona Plein Air Painter Society became a new partner. This series will be followed by gallery shows for the winners at Otero Hall at Tubac Presidio State Historic Park from January 10, 2009 to February 1, 2009, followed by another show at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale during the months of February and March 2009.
A new Plein Air “paint out” series started in January 2009 with a gallery show following the series at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, January 2010. This program aims to be a successful collaboration between creative art societies and Arizona State Parks.
A smaller edition of the Plein Air events is tentatively scheduled to take place in 2010. More details will be posted.
Artists have always painted outside in front of the subject they are painting. Artists who accompanied explorers like Lewis and Clark and Juan Bautista de Anza recorded in detailed style what they saw along the way and sent the paintings back to the company/country that had funded them.
The Impressionists made a statement by focusing on a different purpose and style. Most painting done was in a controlled studio setting rather than outdoors. They were not creating a detailed depiction, they were exploring light and its effect on the subject matter. At the time it was not well received by the public at large. They found themselves being rejected by the major Salon shows.
Contemporary Plein Air painters paint on site, getting down the lights & shadows and how they effect even everyday mundane objects. Some artists focus on the landscape, others paint a figure in the landscape. Each artist will see the world a bit differently and that will show up on the final painting. Plein Air painters typically finish a piece in one painting session, trying to get down the shapes & shadows before the sun moves and changes the whole scene. Many artists use their plein air works as studies and then create larger works in their studios using those studies as a reference. Those small works often are very fresh and loose, one of the many lovely things about plein air paintings.
Dramatic skies and rain made the Homolovi paint out (May 23, 2009) a unique event!
Inside the Homolovi's Ruins State Park Visitor Center artists met together to showcase their paintings.
Many painters and artists participated in their first event with State Parks at the Lake Havasu Plein Air event, held April 2009.
Artists discuss each other's work at the event.
An artist enjoys painting on the lakeshore at Lake Havasu State Park.
Painters display their work at the Picacho Peak State Park event in March 2009.
Boyce Thompson Arboretum
At Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Gail Munden painted in the Eucalyptus grove.
At the Slide Rock State Park Apple Festival Cody De Long painted an apple tree.
All the painters from the Boyce Thompson Arboretum Paint Out; the very first Paint Out.
Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area artists Carol Treloar and Beth Ray show their paintings.
At Dead Horse Ranch, Fall 2008, painters Luke Thalheimer, Marla Smith and Gretchen Lopez display their work.
At Oracle State Park a painting in progress.
Jerry Pond chose to paint the Drover's Shed at Boyce Thompson Arboretum.
At Tubac Presidio State Historic Park 2007 Event.
Jack Wahl painting Ayer Lake at Boyce Thompson Arboretum.
Michael Lundquist displays his watercolor at the Tonto Natural Bridge Paint Out.
The painters from the Riordan Mansion State Historic Park event with Park Rangers Nikki Loeber and Holly Emerick.
Riordan Mansion State Historic Park.
Part of Riordan Mansion State Historic Park as interpreted by an artist.
At Red Rock State Park artist Diane Paulle painting.
Elizabeth Wallace displays her painting from the Red Rock State Park event.
A painter studies the city of Jerome from Jerome State Historic Park.
Volunteer Katherine Weaver, enjoys the award-winning paintings from each event throughout the year. They were all displayed for the finale art show held at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park gallery.
Private exhibit for patients, families and staff was held at the Mayo Clinic. Show ran from January to Febraury, 2010 and included the winners from the 2009 events.
The top three winners of each "paint out" from the 2008 series were displayed at Tubac Presidio State Historic Park, inside Otero Hall. The show ran from January 10 to Febraury 1st. The show then moved to a private exhibit for patients, families and staff at the Mayo Clinic where it hung from February 5th to March 19th. You can also view some of the paintings from this show in an online gallery sponsored by the Arizona Plein Air Painter Society . Visit the Online Gallery .