“Plein Air” means “in the open air,” and that’s the essence of the style. Artists set up their easels at spots they find appealing and paint in real time. No pigmented Photoshopping or embellishments allowed. No deletions, either, for that matter.
Towns with scenic surroundings realized that artists appreciate invitations to visit, paint and sell their landscapes and street scenes to visitors who enjoy watching the works they saw created.
Some towns have “plein air” weekends. Others stretch the painting dates over several weeks to allow for weather and the chance to attract more visitors. Some plein air competitions are part of larger arts festivals. All of them allow a glimpse into the creative process that’s usually seen only in studios.
Related: A cool summer break in Vermont
Plein Air events this summer:
Ocean Park, Maine, July 15 to 17
Ocean Park is a Chautauqua-style community which celebrates its 135th anniversary in 2015. It’s bound by the Atlantic Ocean, the Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge, brooks and forests. The festival attracts both resident artists from Kennebunkport to Cape Elizabeth and those visiting the region for the summer. www.oceanpark.org
Morristown, New York, July 30 to Aug. 2
This four-day event is staged by the local public library. It’s their successful strategy to offset budget cuts. Started as a one-off experiment, it has grown every year. In addition to the 30 artists participating, there’s also a book sale, an evening riverfront concert, and wine tasting at a local vineyard. www.morristownpubliclibrary.org
Mad River Valley, Vermont, Aug. 14 to 15
The Great Vermont Plein Air Paint-Out is part of the month-long Vermont Festival of the Arts (which is worth visiting during the rest of its run). Fifty artists from across New England draw, sketch, and paint all of the iconic Vermont scenes: covered bridges, church steeples, red barns, mountains, and the Mad River. Painting is Friday and Saturday with a Saturday afternoon sidewalk art show and sale, and a Children’s Paint-Out. www.vermontartfest.com
Saranac Lake, New York, Aug. 17 to 22
The 50 artists participating have specific locations and dates for their creative efforts. The schedule includes: Paint the Adirondacks; Paint the Town; and Painting at the Saranac Fish & Game Club. Visitors can pick up a free map of where the artists will set up at the event. www.saranaclakeartworks.com
For more travel tips, go to www.insightguides.com.