Plein air is a French term for “outside or outdoors.” The French coined the term plein air painting (technically: painting en plein air), which means painting outside in nature.
There is a huge movement of painters participating because it’s fun to paint on location (though it is different from studio painting), fun to paint with others and make friends, and fun to travel to beautiful spots to create paintings. The convention is all about plein air painting, teaching painting, going outside to paint, and offering supplies.
The convention is a production of PleinAir magazine and is produced by its parent company, Streamline Publishing. We put a lot of effort into creating a wonderful experience for those who honor us with their attendance. Our primary goal is to keep you growing as an artist, and keep you inspired and meeting lots of new friends.
Eric Rhoads, the publisher of the convention, is your host and MC. Eric is not only publisher and founder of the magazine, he is a plein air painter. He started plein air painting when his wife became pregnant with triplets (yes, we said triplets!). She could not tolerate the smell of paint, so he had to move his painting to the garage. But that still wasn’t good enough, so he went outdoors to paint. At the time he did not know the term plein air, nor was the Internet around, and there was almost no one teaching plein air painting. Because he struggled to learn, and because it was more difficult than studio painting, he started the magazine and the convention to help others learn faster and to inspire them to paint.
When most people think of a convention, they think of a giant political convention like they see on TV. It’s not that. It is a large gathering, but only a fraction of the size of those big conventions, and everybody there wants to learn, make friends, connect with others, and get better at painting.
Before the convention we offer three optional pre-convention workshops, then we start by opening our giant Expo Hall of art materials, which tend to be plein air-specific. We offer a free orientation before the convention to let you know what’s about to happen and how to make the most of it, and, if you want, we connect you with some new friends so you can have a buddy or two for lunches and dinners. The convention starts with an opening ceremony where we tell you what’s going on, we give a Lifetime Achievement Award, have a couple of speakers, and we present the PleinAir Salon Grand Prize for the year. And this year we have a fun onstage painting demo. Then we have a cocktail party and some heavy hors d’oeuvres (you won’t need dinner).
The following morning we start with Art Marketing Boot Camp, which begins at 6:30 (stand-up breakfast at 6:15) and goes till 7:45. We have Home Room at 8 (we make announcements and give away prizes in Home Room), and after that you go off to one of four stages. You can move freely among all the stages. In the early afternoon, we all go painting together (which is a blast). We repeat this every day. And later we have more sessions if you want to fill your evening.
On Saturday we do a closing ceremony and announce where we’re going the following year, and offer you a discount price that’s good on that day only. Then we go out to paint again, and we’ll have a closing party that night. Sunday is a full day of painting, with no indoor sessions, and the Expo Hall is closed. We will go to Wine Country to paint. In all cases, when we go outdoors to paint, we have faculty there to work with you in the field (which is why we call them field painters).
It’s hard to put a price on a great education and a transformation. Why is Harvard more expensive than a small community college? It’s because of Harvard’s faculty and the quality of its students. We seek to bring you the finest painters in the world to teach you. They are our version of Harvard level in the painting world. Sometimes we have to fly in people like Joseph Zbukvic, the world’s greatest watercolor artist, from places like Australia. Or Marc Dalessio, one of the best plein air painters on earth, from Italy. To have enough faculty to give you a lot of variety to choose from and a lot of stages, and enough to work with people when we are out painting, takes a massive effort at great expense.
What is the value of experiencing a transformation as a painter, having a life-changing experience, having access and a chance to talk to the best painters in the world, all in one place? Having an Expo Hall with dozens of plein air-specific art materials companies? Having your life changed? Priceless.
Your ticket to the convention gives you access to:
- The convention orientation
- The opening ceremony, which includes the PleinAir Salon Grand Prize Presentation, Lifetime Achievement Award Presentation, and a Special “4 Painters on 1” Painting Demo
- Three mornings of Eric Rhoads’ Art Marketing Boot Camp
- All-access pass to all main stage sessions and oil painting sessions
- All-access pass to all watercolor sessions
- All-access pass to all pastel sessions
- All-access pass to to all Expo Hall sessions
- A ticket to participate in the world’s largest paint-out each day for four days, paint-outs within walking distance, and indoor painting sessions
- Breakfast each morning before Art Marketing Boot Camp
- All keynote speakers
- All demonstrations
- The Expo Hall of art materials vendors
- Book and video signings
- Photos with faculty members
- Opening cocktail party
- The closing Homecoming “Hippie theme” dance
- Evening speciality sessions
- Critique sessions
Our convention in San Francisco is anticipated to be smaller than last year’s, probably about 750 people. That seems like a lot, but it won’t feel like a lot because people are spread out to different stages and spread out at painting locations.
The only time it might feel big is in the main stage sessions that everyone attends, and the key to that is getting in early and sitting close. But the big screens make everything easily viewed. Most sessions are not packed, and you’ll feel perfectly comfortable. You won’t want to miss out on all the amazing sessions, speakers, and artist demos. You’ll have a chance to see people who don’t normally teach or are never on a stage, and some we know will never return or will be hard to get again. We rarely repeat speakers and artists, and have never had the same lineup at any two conventions. Each is unique and special and a chance to connect or reconnect with the plein air community.
We consider it our job to give you the best possible faculty, and a lot of different approaches so you get the best overall education. Consider the convention a sampler of demonstrations and approaches. As the publishers of PleinAirmagazine, we know who’s hot, who is becoming well known, and who is about to be well known. Therefore we select people based on their teaching ability and what they have to offer. Most of the people we select become famous. Of course, most of our faculty is already famous, some more than others. Some faculty are there to teach on stage, others to work with people when we go outside to paint.
We are here to help you grow, so we ask onstage faculty to help, and we bring in other faculty, people we call field painters. They are mentors who walk around when we paint and help people. Some may set up and paint so you can watch. They have bright hats and flags and you have a STOP HERE paper you can wave to get them to stop and work with you on your painting. This year, we also have special mentors for the Basics Course attendees, who will work with that group exclusively.