Artist Lonnie Granston of Boulder, Colorado, participated in a past PleinAir Moab event. [Courtesy photo]

Moab’s glorious autumn season lends itself to all kinds of outdoor activities, including artistic endeavors like painting. Up to 125 artists from around the nation will set up easels in and around town during PleinAir Moab in the first week of October.

“En plein air” is French for “in the open air” and refers to the act of painting outdoors – a practice that became more popular during the 1970s with the introduction of tube paints and the box easel.

“There’s nothing quite like painting en plein air,” said Moab artist Sandi Snead, who founded PleinAir Moab in 2009. “You’re absorbing everything – the smells, the light, the air, insects. It’s very challenging for the artist. You fall in love with it.”

Local, regional and national artists participate in PleinAir Moab’s annual competition. Artists may set up easels anywhere within a 50-mile radius of Moab. Some will be painting urban scenes from downtown Moab.

The public is invited to come watch the artists at work, and view “quick draw” competitions, where registered artists complete entire paintings within a set amount of time at a designated location.

Quick draw events will take place in downtown Moab on Thursday, Oct. 6, from 4 to 7 p.m., and at Arches National Park on Friday, Oct. 7, from 2 to 5 p.m. Receptions will be held, with awards given out both days from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center, 111 E. 100 North.

Amateurs are also invited to paint outdoors in free “Art Experientials” taught by local plein air artist Margie Lopez Read. People are free to drop in anytime between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1, and from noon to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 4. The Art Experientials will take place at Moonflower Canyon, off Kane Creek Boulevard. The event is free and art supplies are provided. All ages and abilities are welcome.

Lopez Read said it’s fun to come and walk home with something you’ve painted.

She is known for her artwork, which she gives to people in exchange for a donation to a nonprofit organization such as the Moab Valley Multicultural Center, the Grand County Food Bank, or the BEACON Afterschool Program. Her work can be found at Gallery Moab, which takes no commission on her donated paintings.

PleinAir Moab is an excellent opportunity to meet artists and see how they work, said MARC Director and PleinAir coordinator Meg Stewart.

Public art sales will be held on Thursday, Oct. 6, through Saturday, Oct. 8, at the MARC, from 4 to 9 p.m. each day.

Eighty percent of the artwork available for sale will have been created that week, Stewart said. More than 300 pieces will be for sale, starting Thursday.

Snead no longer runs the event, as she did for five years with former MARC Director Laurie Collins. She is, however, one of the competing artists. Although she works in all media, she prefers pastels when painting outdoors.

“For Plein Air, I like pastels – the pigments are as you see them. I can just grab and go. I feel I can capture things more quickly,” Snead said.

Participating PleinAir Moab artists compete for multiple cash prizes. Various workshops will be offered to the public for a fee.

PleinAir Moab festival features artists at work outdoors

“There’s nothing quite like painting en plein air … You’re absorbing everything – the smells, the light, the air, insects. It’s very challenging for the artist. You fall in love with it.”

When: Monday, Oct. 3, through Saturday, Oct. 8; artists-only workshops begin on Saturday, Oct. 1, and Sunday, Oct. 2

Where: Moab Arts and Recreation Center, 111 E. 100 North. Artists will set up at various other Moab-area locations

Cost: Public events are free to spectators; fees vary for artists workshops

Information:; 435-259-6272

For more information, to view a schedule or to register for an artist competition, visit