Just in from Monterey: 3rd Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo (Part 1)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Nametag - 3rd Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo (PACE14), Monterey, California

This is the third year that Eric Rhoads and his crew at Plein Air magazine have put on this massive extravaganza of all things outdoor painting. In previous years, we were always at London Book Fair during this event so I couldn't attend. Third time's the charm.

We flew to San Jose (about an hour north of Monterey) via Salt Lake City. I'm sure I've flown over Utah before, but wow, that was one stunning view -- and that's just the airport?!

At the airport, Salt Lake City, Utah

It's very close to downtown, and we had a long enough layover, but we opted out of the free Mormon heritage Temple Square tours from the airport ... figured we'd see the city another time, because those mountains just begged to be sketched.

Our flight was a little delayed, so we reached Monterey in our rental car with minutes to spare before the convention began. The humorous opening keynote was by master plein air painter Kevin Macpherson.

He described his recent work painting portraits and teaching in China and spoke broadly about the need to invest in yourself. Tip: Have your photo taken with someone shorter so you look tall in comparison. Here's Kevin doing just that.

With Kevin Macpherson at PACE14, Monterey, CA

The keynote was followed by Shelby Keefe's "Beats and Brushwork" -- part painting demo, part performance art. Grooving to her own original electronic music composition, she danced her brush across the canvas to render three bold, impressionist house fronts against a distant cityscape.

Shelby Keefe demonstrating - Beats & Brushwork - at PACE14

The convention had four stages, so I could choose among oil, water media, pastel and other demonstrations throughout the week. In addition, many of the expo vendors had set up demo easels at their booths, so there was no shortage of opportunities to watch artists at work.

Each day began with Marketing Boot Camp, where Eric Rhoads shared advice for promoting and selling art. Yes, he's relentlessly self-promotional and never misses an opportunity to market his DVDs and events and magazines but can you really argue with someone who preaches what he practices?

A lot of his advice is just good sales strategy, but he tailors it to the audience and notes that most of the people listening won't bother putting any of it into practice. Those few who do are likely to see their brand get a boost (not least because he'll promote them as his success stories in next year's conference: the few attendees who hadn't heard of Camille Przewodek, Lori McNee and Lori Putnam prior to the event sure know them now).

A highlight was watching Rosemary, of artisan brush maker Rosemary & Co., demonstrate how she crafts her popular handmade brushes. The hairs are never trimmed, she noted, to preserve their natural ends -- they are carefully tap-tap-tapped into shape.

Rosemary of Rosemary & Co. demonstrating the art of making brushes at PACE14

She didn't bring a ton of watercolor brushes as so many of the attendees were oil/acrylic painters but I did snag a few to try -- a goat hair mop, for washes, and a pure squirrel mop. The squirrel holds a lot of water yet still manages to make a fine line when needed -- I'm excited to use this one more.

Brushes by Rosemary & Co., from PACE14

All week, during the daytime (when we were indoors) it was warm and sunny. The evenings (when we went out to paint) were unfortunately classic NoCal coastal: cold, damp, foggy. A few of us snuck out to feel the sun on our faces at Fisherman's Wharf between sessions:

Tourist at Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey California

Sketch of Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey, California

Paddleboarding break, Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey, California

We shivered through our first paint out, at Asilomar State Beach in Pacific Grove. Here's a shot of my setup, with the adorable tiny folding stool I bought a few weeks ago at Go Outdoors in London.

My setup at Asilomar State Beach, Pacific Grove, California

Between the chilly breeze and the sand, it was hard to stay focused. I struggled through a watercolor and then did a few opaque sketches with the addition of white gouache.

Waves at Asilomar State Beach, Pacific Grove, California

Overcast day at Asilomar State Beach, Pacific Grove, California

The surfers were having a better time than we were, that evening!

Surfers at Asilomar State Beach, Pacific Grove, California

[To be continued...]

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  1. Now I know why we haven't seen you in NYC lately...boy have you been traveling! Looks like fun! Your little stool looks like mine. I wish I had one tiny like that but with a back. Have a great trip...hope to see you back here at some point. You were missed.