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Plein Air in Plain Sight

Story by Pamela Kleibrink Thompson, Photos by Jim Peterson & Jean Wolford

It’s almost summer and color is blooming everywhere. Mother Nature will inspire more than 50 artists who will paint, draw, and sketch the natural landscape at the 3rd Annual Eagle Plein Air Festival & Competition.  Historic Eagle, Idaho will be host to both budding artists as well as those with more experience from June 8 through June 10.

“Plein air painting was made popular by French impressionists like Monet,” shares Meg Glasgow, owner of the Gallery at Finer Frames and founder of the Eagle Plein Air Festival. “The term ‘en plein air’ actually means to paint outdoors. This unique art form is a challenge for the artists due to ever-changing conditions. Light moves with the clouds. Shadows constantly change. There is a special talent to it.”

Glasgow explains the origins of the Eagle Plein Air Festival & Competition: “Our purpose for the Festival is to provide the Treasure Valley an arts experience like no other. This is the only event of its kind in southern Idaho. Our partnerships with artists, local businesses, and performing arts groups attract many out-of-area artists and festival goers to see Eagle’s unique culture.”  When the festival began in 2014 there were 30 artists. Glasgow expects to have twice as many this year.

The 2017 Eagle Plein Air Festival & Competition is a festival, exhibition, and competition open to professional and non-professional artists of all skill levels. Attendees can watch a demonstration, take a painting lesson, and speak with the artists. At the end of the Festival, the public can view and purchase these unique visions of Eagle at the Festival Exhibition and painters: rolling foothills, barns, river front, and more.

To kick off the festivities, 3 Horse Ranch Winery will be the site of the Art in the Vines event on Thursday June 8 from 6 pm-9 pm. Enjoy something new this year, an outdoor jazz concert by the Van Paepeghem Sextet  in the beautiful vineyards at 3 Horse Ranch.  Enjoy wine tasting and music while watching dozens of painters in the vineyards as they compete in a 2 hour quick draw event.

Pioneering winegrowers Martha and Gary Cunningham began planting Rhone and Bordeaux vines of noble origin on the remote hillsides of the Sawtooth Range north of Boise, Idaho in the 1990s. The vast, historic ranch is now home to 3 Horse Ranch Vineyards, Idaho’s largest family-owned winery. Experience the remarkable vineyards and wines from America’s newest and most fascinating winegrowing frontier, the Eagle Foothills District of the Snake River Valley Appellation in Eagle, Idaho.

Purchase a tasty treat from Kanak Attack Catering. Beer, wine, and water will also be available for purchase. A portion of art and wine sales will benefit the Idaho Jazz Society scholarship program. Go early, the tasting room is open from noon – 6 pm. The Quick Draw painting event begins at 6:30 pm, and the concert starts at 7 pm. Some seating under the shade tent is available. Feel free to bring your own blanket and chairs. Please no outside food or beverages. $25/person includes the concert, wine tasting, and a festival souvenir wine glass.

The 545-acre Eagle Island State Park, a mile west of downtown Eagle, will be the location for Friday’s Paint Out.  Bordered by the north and south channels of the Boise River, the park features a popular swimming beach, grassy area and more than five miles of trails surrounded by abandoned outbuildings perfect for capturing on canvas. On Friday evening artists will paint by street lamps and the light of the full June moon during the Nocturnal Paint Out.

On Saturday, June 10 watch for artists in downtown Eagle and at the Eagle Saturday Market  from 8 am-2 pm at the State Street Paint Out.  All along State Street, artists will be painting out in the open air, “en plein air.”  In downtown Eagle from 3 pm-5 pm artists will participate in the quick draw competition.  Have fun watching the competition painters from start to finish in four square blocks around Heritage Park. Follow the paintings across the street to the gallery where the art will be auctioned off at 5:30pm. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Treasure Valley Artists’ Alliance.

The Festival Awards Show and Sale on Saturday from 5 pm-8 pm, at The Gallery at Finer Frames, is sure to be festive. Artists from the Plein Air Painters of Idaho will be painting live in the gallery and answering questions from 4 pm – 6 pm.  Celebrate the work and meet the artists, enjoy refreshments, and purchase your own original painting. Vote for your favorite paintings, with “Audience Choice” winners in the categories of Best Oil, Best Water Media, and Best Dry Media.

Outstanding paintings in best oil, best water media, and best dry media will be recognized in categories including Audience Choice Winners and the Grand Prize Winner.

Top off your weekend with a visit to the Idaho Botanical Garden, the picturesque location for a special invitational paint out during the popular Savor Idaho event hosted by the Idaho Wine Commission, on Sunday, June 11 from 9 am – 5 pm. Artwork will be available for purchase at the Finer Frames booth during the event from 2 pm – 5 pm. A portion of art sales will benefit the Idaho Wine Education Scholarship Fund.

The festival exhibition continues through July at the Gallery at Finer Frames. Don’t miss the closing reception at the Gallery at Finer Frames on Thursday, June 29 from 5 pm – 8 pm where you can buy original works of art created during the festival.

To prepare for the festival and competition, two workshops are being offered. On Saturday, June 3, Bonnie Zahn Griffith, an award-winning landscape artist and instructor, is offering a pastel painting workshop from 9 am to 4 pm.  The hands-on one day workshop will focus on composition, creating an underpainting, and balancing shapes to develop a strong painting using soft pastels.  Bonnie will provide references to paint from. The other workshop is designed for artists interested in learning or expanding their abilities in plein air painting. Offered by Niles Nordquist, a nationally recognized, award winning plein air painter, the three day workshop from Monday, June 5 to Wednesday, June 7 features hands-on painting and personal instruction from  Nordquist. This workshop focuses on plein air (outdoor) oil painting, but the techniques and principles can be easily translated into other painting mediums and studio painting.   

Lastly, aspiring painters can create their own masterpiece at the free Community Paint Along at the Eagle Public Library on Tuesday, June 6, from 10 am – noon.  Jessica Tookey, a teaching artist from the Treasure Valley Artists’ Alliance, will lead participants through a painting demonstration. Registration is required with Eagle Parks & Recreation.

Whether you are an aspiring Monet, or just an admirer of the arts, Eagle Plein Air Festival & Competition is sure to be a fun way to enjoy the great outdoors this June.