Artist Paula Swain shares her painting that won second place in the Oil/Acrylic category with an unknown art buyer at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center during PleinAir Moab 2012. [Courtesy PleinAir Moab]

Moab is known for its scenic beauty. Between Oct. 8 and 12, more than 120 artists from all over the country will try to capture that beauty on canvas and compete for over $5000 in prize money during PleinAir Moab.

PleinAir is a national organization that hosts painting competitions and art shows across the country. “Painting en plein air” is French for “painting in the open air”, which gained popularity in the 19th century Europe with realist painters who sought truth in nature. It was later embraced by impressionists such as Monet and Renoir who conveyed the expression of light.

During PleinAir events artists have their canvases and papers stamped to prove the painting were created on site during the event.

Indiana artist Lawrence Rudolech was last year’s Best of Show Grand Prize winner. John Lintott of Grand Junction, Colo., was last year’s first place winner in the Oil/Acrylic Category. Both are returning this year to see if they can claim the big prizes once again.

Colorado artist Cliff Austen returns this year as the one to beat in all quick draw competitions. Austen won both quick draw competitions last year.

Fifty to sixty artists participate in quick draws, which are a timed art competition where artists have three hours to get a canvas stamped, find a spot, paint and have it framed. The first quickdraw is at Castle Creek Winery on Oct. 8; the other is in downtown Moab between 400 North and 400 South on Oct. 10.

“Artists love that they don’t have time to plan. They have to react to what they are seeing. Sometimes it turns out better than they planned,” said Laurie Collins, director of the Moab Arts and Recreation Center (MARC).

First place in this competition is $500.

“I love seeing Moab through all these different eyes. I tend to forget just how stunning this place is until I walk through and see paintings of places I know by heart but they look different. They are either showing me things I’ve never seen before or they are presenting them in a way I never thought of, the creativity is so inspiring,” Collins said.

Lee McVey, one of last year’s artists, has artwork featured in several art magazines and books. The atmospheric qualities in her paintings create a touching interpretation of the land. She has won awards at many national and regional shows, including special recognition for excellence in pastel at PleinAir Moab 2012.

“Being in red rock country and being able to paint in the national parks as well as other areas of Moab are the biggest rewards,” McVey said. “The chances to win prizes or sell are rewards, but not the main reason I participate.”

She particularly enjoys seeing other artist’s work.

“The inspiration that artists gain by working in close contact with each other, having over 100 artists come to one area to paint: They are learning from each other, they are watching each other, mostly talking about what paints they’re using, how they paint their views. That’s the other real value from this event,” Collins said.

Collins said that PleinAir Moab is a chance to, “further the idea of Moab as an arts destination, which is something that multiple art galleries have been working toward for years, I think this event does a lot to move in that direction.”

The idea of PleinAir Moab was born around a campfire in Escalante when Sandi Snead was participating in a PleinAir competition there five years ago. The project took a year to create, with no funds and the promise for artists to come and participate. Snead said the success is due to the city of Moab, the six-person committee and to their sponsors. Snead hopes for the event to grow, and for that to happen the event needs more sponsors, local help and support from the community.

“The five artists and committee members who help me now all work really hard,” Snead said. “Their ideas and enthusiasm keep PleinAir Moab evolving and strengthening and I could not imagine continuing without any of them. As for our sponsors let me say that I wish could list every one of them. We need them for PleinAir Moab to continue on!”

Over 400 pieces of art will be on display at the MARC between Oct. 10 and 12. All of the art painted during this event can be sold. The best of the best can only be seen the evening of Oct. 11 and all day Oct. 12 during judging.

Artists will be in Moab from Oct. 4 to 12 creating and selling paintings.

For the art lover there will be events between Oct. 8 to 12. To be apart of the competition, artists must register with the MARC and pay a $65 registration fee.

There will be a judge’s discussion on Saturday, Oct. 12, where they explain their decisions and how they came to find a winner.