Artists Capture the Beauty of Belleville En Plein Air

The Belleville Downtown Improvement Area in partnership with the Quinte Arts Council presents the Belleville-on-the-Bay-of-Quinte Plein Air Festival May 31 to June 2 (event listing). There will be up to $4,500 in cash prizes awarded at the end of this event. $30 registration fee for artists.  Info: 613-968-2242 or

The Belleville Downtown Improvement Area (BDIA), in partnership with the Quinte Arts Council and the Ontario Plein Air Society (OPAS), is organizing the first Belleville-on-the-Bay-of-Quinte Plein Air Festival.  From Friday, May 31, to Sunday, June 2, artists from near and far will be capturing the beauty of Belleville en plein air!

En plein air is a French expression which means “in the open air”, and is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors. Many famous French Impressionist painters, such as Claude Monet, Camille Pissaro, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, advocated en plein air painting and much of their work was done outdoors.

The beauty of plein air paintings is that the art is based on direct observation of the subject, not from memories or photographs. Artists must capture the natural light and work quickly to catch the subject in that moment, as light can change significantly in a two hour period.

Front st snowing 237 copyPainting outside has its origins in the 17th century, through the works of artists such Nicholas Poussin (1594-1665) and Claude Lorraine (1600-1682) although the work that we have come to know as plein air had its origins in the early 19th century, through the works of painters such as Jean-Baptise-Camille Corot (1796-1875) and John Constable (1776-1837).

This type of painting influenced the development of the Barbizon School, a group of artists who were based in the village of Barbizon, by the forest of Fontainebleau.  In later years, this work in turn influenced the French Impressionist movement, which held that painting in heavy brushstrokes, and flecks of colour would create the overall impression of a scene, as a means of capturing and conveying the outdoor experience, although not as representationally as earlier works.

None of this work would have been possible without the invention of the collapsible zinc paint tube, with stopper cap, portable easels, palettes and paint boxes. Before having access to these products, artists would painstakingly grind up pigments with linseed oils and prepare materials for working outside. They would also have to carry heavy equipment and trek some distance to find the perfect place outdoors.

The Belleville-on-the-Bay-of-Quinte Plein Air Festival is a three-day event where artists will be completing their works outdoors, capturing natural light, colour, texture and nuance in their work. “This is the first time this artistic event will hit the streets of Belleville and we intend to be around for years to come,” says Seppo Nousiainen, Plein Air Festival Chairman.  “Artists will have a chance to capture the beautiful images of historic downtown Belleville, the shores of the Bay of Quinte, the famous ‘Old East Hill’ and the Moira River. This event is a juried and judged competition that is open to artists working in various media, such as watercolour, acrylic, soft pastel and oil. We would like to invite you to participate in this unique one-of-a kind-event and celebrate art en plein air.”

003 Snowing on front stParticipating artists can choose their own spot, as long as it is along the Moira River, on the periphery of the Bay of Quinte, in downtown Belleville or Old East Hill.  Artists must register by May 17 and the fee is $25 for members of the Quinte Arts Council or the OPAS and $30 for non-members. The registration form is available on the event website, You can also register at the DBIA office, from 8:30 am to 5 pm on May 31 and artists are allowed to submit two pieces that must have been completed outside during the festival to be considered by the jurors. All participating artists must bring their blank canvasses to the DBIA office for stamping prior to beginning their work. There will be a kick-off artists’ reception on Friday, May 31, at 7 pm in the Ritchie Room at Capers Brasserie and Wine Bar, 272 Front Street, Belleville. After completing their work, artists will be asked to bring it to the Ritchie Room, at 11 am on June 2, where it will be judged by the jurors. The awards presentation will take place there at 3 pm, and cash awards of up to a total of $4,500 will be given out.

It is expected that this event will bring artists and tourists to our community and demonstrate the beauty of our local landscapes, architecture, and wildlife.  For more information, visit or contact Sarah Tummon at the BDIA office, at 267 Front Street, Belleville: call 613-968-2242, or email

Oil paintings of Belleville scenes by Jesus Estevez.