This is art as spectator sport!
Plein Air Easton Arts Festival and Competition is the nation’s largest and most prestigious outdoor painting competition drawing judges from such august institutions as the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Walters Museum of Art in Baltimore.
During this week-long festival, 58 juried painters from around the world will fan out across Talbot County creating onsite works of art while competing for prizes and career-making accolades. There are opportunities for amateurs as well with workshops, lectures, and exhibitions throughout the week. Plus test your own talents during the much anticipated Quick Draw event when more than 175 artists participate in this competition.
Learn more about this unique event with the Plein Air Easton Guide.
About the Festival
The Plein Air Festival in Talbot County is the country’s largest and most prestigious festival of its kind. For nearly 20 years, this juried event has attracted the best artists from around North America. In mid-July, top artists converge on Talbot County for a week with one goal in mind, which is to produce work based on the stunning surroundings.
Attending the Plein Air Festival is one of those experiences that you’re not likely to confuse with any other arts event you’ve ever been to. The very nature of plein air (paintings created in the open air, not in a studio) is dynamic.
No matter where you are driving, walking, or cycling, it won’t be long before you stumble upon painters at work, usually perched on stools in front of their easels, brushes in hand. Part of the fun is interacting with the artists, who are happy to discuss what they’re working on, why they chose their subject matter, and how they’re employing their techniques. This festival also offers a rare opportunity to watch a piece come to life out of a blank canvas and with the source of inspiration right before your eyes.
What makes Talbot County such a magnet for artists drawn to this kind of plein air work is its numerous beguiling sights and settings. The area is noted for its extraordinary light, a gentle cast that’s influenced by the Chesapeake Bay.
Here, the waterfront is home to both glamorous yachts and working crab boats. The charming historic towns appear untouched by the hand of modernity. And, of course, there’s the unspoiled landscape teeming with wildlife: white tailed deer and fleet-footed fox scampering through thickets of forest, osprey swooping over the waterways, bald eagles and red-tailed hawks scouring the fields for prey, and flocks of geese landing rather majestically in formation amid the meadows.
From a visitor’s perspective, what is so special about the Plein Air Festival is the way that it prompts you to take a fresh look at the familiar. It is not only the bold and the beautiful that the artists capture on canvas.
Sometimes it’s a small, seemingly ordinary detail, a scalloped picket fence, a lonesome buoy or a tangle of overhead phone wires that captures the artists’ attention. And oftentimes it’s precisely these unorthodox choices that reminds us how important true artists are in the way they shed light on things we might otherwise take for granted, coaxing us forward to a greater appreciation for the world’s many facets.
For inspiration, you can access a series of podcasts and videos from last year’s festival, along with artists’ interviews and insights at pleinaireaston.com.