Arts and Entertainment

Plein Air launches Sept. 8

A plein air artist paints from the Coupeville Wharf at last year’s competition.  - photo courtesy of Lisa Bernhardt
A plein air artist paints from the Coupeville Wharf at last year’s competition.
— image credit: photo courtesy of Lisa Bernhardt

Whidbey Plein Air artists will paint the town beginning Tuesday, Sept. 8.

For four days, professional and amateur artists will scatter across Whidbey Island, striving to capture various landscapes while fleeting light is their time keeper.

The Plein Air Painters’ U.S. Open is the regions largest outdoor painting competition. In French, “plein air” means “out of doors” and artists must capture a landscape in one setting.

“It’s a race against time because the light is constantly changing. They have about two and half hours or less to capture it, depending on the weather,” said Lisa Bernhardt, assistant director of the Pacific Northwest Art School.

Artists can sign up for the competition until Friday, Sept. 4 at 12 p.m. Artist registration is $50 and includes entry to the gala and private social gatherings. Registration materials are available at the Pacific Northwest Art School.

“Artists can work alongside professionals, if they’re amateur, sell their work and expand their client base and friend base,” Bernhardt said.

A new addition this year are the bright yellow signs which say “plein air artist,” Bernhardt said. The artists will place them in the ground nearby and passing drivers can watch them work or ask questions.

Although the artists are free to paint at any part of the island, they will only paint at four specific locations on Friday, Sept. 11. People can find them at Captain Whidbey Inn, downtown Coupeville, downtown Langley and the scenic overlook above Ebey’s Reserve.

On the closing night of the competition, a gala and auction will be held at the historic Crockett Barn Saturday, Sept. 12.

Tickets are $50 and includes savory food served up by local restaurants, elegant wines and a chance to mingle with artists. It also supports the Pacific Northwest Art School.

The ticket doubles as a $50 “plein air buck” good toward the purchase of a plein air painting.

The freshly painted works are also submitted for judging and several are selected for awards, including a new award, “Rookie of the Year.” The award winners and the works of the seven top ranked artists will be sold in a live auction led by Jim Freeman. All the remaining paintings will be sold in the silent auction.

This year’s juror is internationally renowned artist Xiaogang Zhu. Zhu, who now lives in Olympia, was educated and launched his professional career in China.

To purchase Gala tickets call the Pacific Nortwest Art School at 360-678-3396, or 866-678-3396, drop by 15 NW Birch St. in Coupeville, or visit

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