QAC News: Plein Air Painting Festival just around the corner

By Fiona Campbell

Remember Bob Ross? The cherubic host of PBS hit “The Joy of Painting,” with his corona of auburn permed hair and a soothing sonorous voice that the New York Times called the “aural equivalent of Demerol”?

Ross developed a near cult-like following between 1983 and 1994 as viewers tuned in to watch him paint an idyllic landscape from a blank canvas in just 26 minutes. Viewers fell for his signature words of encouragement to add a “happy little cloud in the sky” and his trademark, “there are no mistakes, only happy accidents.”

While Ross died in 1995, his celebrity continued with millions of hits on his YouTube videos. Why? To many Ross made art accessible, and offered a look inside the artist’s process.

The upcoming Arts en Plein Air Painting Festival offers visitors this same opportunity, but with a twist: to watch as artists capture a static painting in a changing landscape. Outdoors. Within a specified time. No reference photos or work after hours. Rain or shine.

From May 23 to May 26, emerging and established artists will leave their studios behind to paint and showcase their work “en plein air.” Plein air painting yields work that is both spontaneous and lively as light, form and colour change throughout the day.

Visitors will find artists using various mediums (oil, watercolour, acrylic and soft pastel) painting at their easels throughout downtown Belleville, the Old East Hill, Victoria Park, Zwick’s Park, Meyer’s Pier, the Waterfront Trail, as well as the Andara Gallery in Prince Edward County, downtown Stirling, Signal Brewery in Corbyville, and at O’Hara Mill Homestead and Conservation area in Madoc.

Artists have between Thursday morning at 9:30 am and Saturday afternoon by 5:00 pm to create and submit up to two works for consideration by judges Martha A. Robinson and Bob Pennycook, both established plein air artists.

The energy and excitement of the festival culminates in a closing ceremony and awards presentation on Sunday May 26 at the J.M. Parrott Gallery, where judges will award prizes totaling over $4,000. All are welcome to attend. Art lovers are encouraged to visit The Plein Air Exhibit from May 26 to June 6 to see how their favourite paintings created outdoors now have a new life indoors.

The Quinte Arts Council is still accepting registrations for the festival. Visit or call 613-962-1232.