Local artist Larry Christensen paints outdoors during PleinAir Moab 2013. [Photo courtesy of Laurie Collins]

With the advent of box easels and tube paints in the 1870s, came the popularity of painting “en plein air” – A French expression that means “in the open air.” The term is used to describe painting outdoors.

Local, regional and national artists will set up easels in Moab for its fifth annual PleinAir Moab, Friday, Oct. 3 through Saturday, Oct. 11, a festival that includes watching artists paint outdoors, art sales and receptions, and an awards competition.

Moab artist Sandi Snead created PleinAir Moab five years ago after attending a similar event in Escalante. En plein air artists must contend with the challenges of wind, changes in lighting, and sometimes dirt blowing into paints as they try and capture what they are seeing, she said.

“I love plein air – it takes you back to the roots,” Snead said. “It makes you a better painter all-around. It’s why I love it.”

Two “quick draws” – timed events where artists will create a painting in a set amount of time at a specific location while spectators watch – will take place during the week. That requires a special skill, Snead said.

Outside Castle Creek Winery at Red Cliffs Lodge on the Colorado River will be the site of one quick draw session on Tuesday, Oct. 8 from 3 to 6 p.m. There will be a wine reception and “wet paint” sale from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the winery, state Route 128, mile marker 14. (A wet sale refers to a painting that has just been created, and thus, is still wet).

The other quick draw event will happen Thursday, Oct. 10 on Main Street – “a super cool event where artists are painting urban scenes,” Snead said. Artists will paint from 3:45 to 7:15 p.m., followed by a “wet paint” sale and wine reception, 7:30 to 9 p.m. at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center (MARC), 111 E. 100 North. Artists will set up easels within one block of Main Street between 400 North and 835 South.

While Moab PleinAir is a non-juried event, it attracts high-caliber artists from across the country, Snead said. More than 120 artists from 22 states participated last year.

Typically, 15-20 Moab artists participate, and approximately 10 artists come from the Grand Junction area in Colorado, she said.

Culminating the week of outdoor painting is the main competition, Saturday, Oct. 11, at the MARC. Artists may submit one painting per category for this event. Categories include oil-acrylic, water-colors, and dry media such as pastels, or charcoal. The main competition art sale opens Friday, Oct. 10 at 6 p.m. and will continue on Saturday, Oct. 11 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. This sale features what the artists consider their best works completed during the week. The awards presentation and reception is from 5 to 7 p.m., on Saturday, Oct. 11, followed by the judges’ talk about how they made their decisions.

Also at the MARC, in a different room, artists will show other en plein paintings, created either in Moab, or regionally, prior to the event. Those sales will be going on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday , Oct. 9-11, from noon to 9 p.m. Art-buyers can find works ranging from $20 to $2,000, Snead said.

“There are a lot in the $300 range which is really good,” Snead said. Both artists and patrons benefit without the mark-up of a gallery, she added.

Art lovers interested in a sneak preview of main competition art can attend the Art Buyers Club Reception, Friday, Oct. 10 from 3 to 5:30 p.m., which takes place in a nearby private home before the main competition art sale opens at 6 p.m. The $50 ticket fee for this wine and hors d’oeurves reception can be applied toward the purchase of an artwork.

“It’s a win-win if you’re planning to buy art,” Snead said.

Also on Friday, Oct. 10, Alan Peterson, Museum of Northern Arizona Curator of Fine Arts, will give a slide show presentation of artist Gunnar Wildforss, a Swedish-American painter best known for his water-color paintings of the Grand Canyon. This free event will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the MARC.

Slide shows on plein air painting will be shown Oct. 4, at 1 p.m., and Oct. 8, at 5 p.m. at the Moab Information Center, Main and Center Street.

On Thursday, Oct. 2, one of last year’s judges, and a nationally acclaimed artist, Peggy Immel, will lead a workshop and demonstration titled Architecturals for the Plein Air Landscape Painter. The $100 workshop for experienced artists is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is limited to 12 participants.

“The event is a real treat for me,” coming from more of a performing arts background rather than visual arts, said art center director Laurie Collins. “It’s a very cool, educational event.”

For more information visit www.pleinairmoab.com or call 435-686-2545. To purchase a ticket for the Artists Buyers Reception, call Collins at 435-259-6272.

What: PleinAir Main Competition Art Sale

When: Friday, Oct. 10, beginning at 6 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 11, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Where: Moab Arts and Recreation Center, 111 E. 100 North

5th annual Moab PleinAir starts Oct. 3

I love plein air – it takes you back to the roots. It makes you a better painter all-around. It’s why I love it.