Trip to 5th Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo - Tucson, Arizona

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona

Wow, can't believe that PACE16 is just a memory! It was three intense days of learning, watching, sketching, painting, networking, and shopping.

We flew into Phoenix the evening of Friday, April 15, and drove down to Tucson that night. Saturday morning's lineup included Matt Smith's demonstration. He showed us how to use the palette knife to scratch out branches in the foreground, and how to use a bit of red with white for the highlights on saguaro cacti.

At lunch, I met Heather Goldstein, a vice president at Jerry's Artarama. We talked about how rare it is to find people who are both art- and business-savvy.

As I relaxed on the patio at the Hilton El Conquistador I sketched Pusch Ridge in my Stillman & Birn Gamma sketchbook, with a tiny set of watercolors and a waterbrush.

Pusch Ridge, Oro Valley/Tucson, Arizona

While I was browsing the paintings displayed for sale in the hall, I met Randall Sexton and we chatted about the painting workshop he's offering at Carquinez Strait, through Arts Benicia. I've been thinking about signing up.

I skipped the afternoon's paintout on the grounds of the hotel; M. and I went to Saguaro National Park instead and then went out for a delicious dinner at Cafe Poca Cosa in downtown Tucson. The park was otherworldly -- so many towering cacti! Now I see why cartoons of cacti look the way they do.

In addition to my Stillman & Birn, I also took along the Bee Pen Sketcher's sketchbook I've been playing with. While it does OK with ink and wash, it didn't really love a combination of Crayola Twistable colored pencils and watercolor. This was a quick sketch I did of the desert plantlife behind the Hilton.

Behind the Hilton El Conquistador, Tucson, Arizona

I did a lot of thumbnails during the trip, working out compositions for potential acrylic studies.

Studies, Tucson, Arizona

Sunday's convention highlight was easily the portrait demo by Jove Wang. With seemingly random strokes he dashed off a likeness of the sitter that was full of life. I challenged myself to do a quick sketch of him painting with just a waterbrush and watercolors -- no pencil or pen first.

Sketch of Jove Wang demo at Plein Air Convention, Tucson, Arizona

From the resort, you can see quite far into the distance -- tried to capture it with ink and wash between conference sessions.

Oro Valley landscape from Hilton El Conquistador

The evening's paintout was at Catalina State Park. I had only about an hour to paint, since I wanted to get back to the hotel for the urban sketching demo by Tim Oliver and Richard Sneary.

Catalina State Park, Tucson, Arizona

It was challenging to keep the acrylics workable even though I was in the shade of the car. The tiny canvas size meant I couldn't use huge brushes, so that made everything fiddly.

Monday I did another watercolor sketch of the view of Oro Valley from the Hilton.

View of Oro Valley from Hilton El Conquistador

I spent quite a bit of time at the expo, figuring out what I would buy. As I mentioned in the last post, I'd had my eye on a Strada easel, so I decided to spring for the Mini version. I also got an Easyl tripod to go with it, and picked up various odds and ends at other vendors: the RayMar panels and wet panel carrier, a Rosemary & Co. travel sable watercolor brush, some brushes from Trekell and Judson's, an Easel Brush Clip, etc. Golden Artist Colors kindly gave me a few free tubes of their OPEN acrylic paint to supplement the ones I'd brought.

While everyone else went off to paint Old Tucson, M. and I went to Picacho State Park, where I set up my new easel and tripod. I used the Golden OPEN acrylics on a RayMar panel. (The painting I did there is at the top of this blog post.)

The views were beautiful and it would have been great to stay longer, but we had to get to Phoenix for dinner with M.'s cousin and to check into our airport hotel. But -- one last putting of pen to paper: on the way to Phoenix, I sketched some quick studies of the highway.

Driving from Tucson to Phoenix, Arizona

It's amazing that these desert landscapes are just a short plane ride away now. I still haven't seen (or painted) the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Scottsdale -- so many more places to explore on our next AZ adventure!

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  1. Great to see your sketches from the trip. I've been to the Saguaro National Park and it is so odd....and the cacti looks just like in the cartoons. lol Looks like you had a great time painting, sketching, and shopping!!!