Paint Duluth – A Plein Air Event 

For an artist, having 3 days to do nothing but paint is a heavenly dream. “Paint Duluth” hosted by the Duluth Public Arts Commission, was the opportunity for 70 artists to be inspired by this beautiful historic southern Georgia town.

The fun started on Friday morning painting one of the old homes in the downtown area.

Shaded House
9 x 12
Loving the light patterns on this old house with all it’s overgrown foliage.

After lunch with some artists friends, I stationed myself on the corner of The 2 Smith Art Gallery, owned by Larry and Pam Smith, whose gallery served as the headquarters for the event. With a path leading the eye to the artist on the sidewalk and beyond, I thought this could make an interesting composition.

Adding a figure to this composition added interest and made some wonderful shadow patterns along the sidewalk. I kept the foreground and left side very simple to draw your eye up the path of the sidewalk and lead into the background trees.

Saturday morning was the “Quick Paint”.  With the threat of rain looming, I wasn’t sure it would go off without a hitch. Luckily, the skies held out.

Everyone got set up and the mayor blew the horn promptly at 9am for everyone to begin painting simultaneously throughout the downtown area. You have exactly one hour to paint a finished piece for the competition. Nothing like pressure to paint quickly, getting down the impression of the scene with minimal strokes.

I picked a railroad crossing with a path and trees, something I knew I could do fairly quick. The trick is to paint small, simplify and edit and lay down what is essential to the story of the scene.

At 10, all the paintings were lined up for judging. I was absolutely thrilled when Garry Colby, a talented oil painter, awarded me the winner! Thanks to JFM framers, the sponsor of the Quick Paint, I have a bunch of new frames.


I eliminated the yellow sign on the right (even though it is interesting) but thought it would be distracting. I wanted one center of interest and picked the train crossing, instead.

The afternoon was spent at the Southeastern Railway Museum which has historic Pullman cars and classic steam locomotives. I never knew this gem of a museum existed and was excited to try my hand at something I never previously painted, a train.

Here is The General, an engine that originally served as a passenger train from Louisiana in 1919 and then made it’s way up to GA after the depression. It was also the train that rode around Stone Mountain Park before being retired to this museum.

The General
9 x 12 pastel

Sunday morning, I worked at the corner of a long street. I had done the underpainting the 1st day and thought I’d go back to finish it up.  Not a good idea for the sun was right in my eye and it was so bright that all my pastels in my palette looked exactly the same. Unfortunately, my umbrella broke so I stopped before completing.

It not a good idea to paint a backlit scene where you are looking directly into the sun. This skews the colors of your palette and the painting and makes everything much more difficult. Make it easy on yourself and pick lighting that works with you, not against you.

I picked a better location down the street and painted with my buddies Donna Biggee and Ed Cahill. This house on the hill predates the civil war.  This painting was not one of my favorites. In plein air, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But just being out on a beautiful day painting with friends, makes it worth it.


The reception was held last night at the Adrian Collaboratives offices, 2 doors down from 2 Smith Art Gallery. I had a big night, winning 2nd place for “Gallery Street” and couldn’t be happier to see the red sold dot! The show will be up for the next week so if you are in the area, please stop by.

I’m also teaching a workshop on plein air painting on June 24-25th at Kudzu Art Zone in Suwanee GA. Please contact them if you are interested and learn the techniques and tricks of plein air painting. Contact:  (770) 840-9844 –


One thought on “Paint Duluth – A Plein Air Event

  1. What a great article! It was such a pleasure to meet you this weekend, and to, unknowingly, be the figure in you painting! Can’t wait to do a workshop with you.

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