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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Starting a Plein Air Group

"Out of the Chasm" 12x24, oil

A reader recently asked about how to start a plein air group.   I've only started one - Plein Air Painters of the Bay of Fundy, or Plein Air Fundy for short - and it is small.   I started it because I was new to the area and was looking for people to paint with.  As luck would have it, coastal New Brunswick and Downeast Maine are sparsely populated, rural areas, and although there are outdoor painters, many miles separate us.  But we do manage to organize a paintout plus an exhibition every summer, and it's good to see everybody and the work they've been doing.  This summer marks our fifth year painting and exhibiting together.

First, ask yourself, Why?  Most likely, you're just looking for other people to paint with.  If that's the case, then keep it small and casual.  Get together with a few painting friends on a regular basis.  Put together a list of the group's favorite painting spots and make a schedule for painting.  Make sure you have enough cars, good directions and everyone's cell phone number.

After you've painted awhile together, maybe you'll be ready for a local group show.  You'll need a committee for this, since you'll have to locate suitable space, deal with advertising, hang the show and put on a reception.

You may think about doing a juried plein air show.  This requires a lot more energy, professionalism and committment, especially if you are going to invite big-name jurors and judges and have prizes.  Unless you have a large pool of volunteers to pull from, I suggest you keep things small and don't do a juried show.

One thing you might do, though, is have regular meetings with demonstrations by members or invited guests.  Usually the demonstrator gets a stipend.  You might even consider having someone teach a workshop.  If you can't find anyone local, some artists do travel to teach.  I'm one, and I'll be happy to teach a plein air painting workshop for your group.  (Let me know if you're interested.)  A schedule of paintouts, demonstrations and workshops will keep everyone in the loop and informed.

But whatever you do, remember what's really important - and that's having fun.