Watch Impressionist Painters in Action

You can see their landscapes unfold before your very eyes during the annual Plein Air Easton festival in Easton, Maryland.

Photo courtesy of Talbot County Tourism

Even if you skip the collectors’ party, there are plenty of other opportunities to rub elbows with the artists. Gallery exhibits notwithstanding, we recognize painters in restaurants and in the lobby of the Tidewater Inn, and we are privy to several live demos. During Sacran’s informative tutorial, we have fun listening to the banter as fellow artists encourage him to narrate the stroke and color choices for his harbor scene, explaining exactly what he’s doing and why, with a fair bit of good-natured ribbing.

The range of artistic styles and subject matter at PAE is impressive. I find myself equally drawn to the miniaturist landscapes of Crista Pisano and the pastel-toned waterscapes of Elise Phillips. The 2016 grand prize is ultimately awarded to Easton-based painter Sara Linda Poly for “Origins,” an arboreal scene that depicts sunlight peeking through a deep wood.

“The level of talent and skill is so high that it pushes each artist to not only do their best, but to also go even further,” says Kirk Larsen, a New York artist who’s been coming to PAE since 2011. “Knowing that your compatriots are out there painting at any point that you’re not really drives the creative process.”

Braving the elements is also par for the course, and central to the character of the work. Artists must guard against sunburn and heat stroke (it is July, after all, with temperatures in the low 90s), and any number of flying pests. “One of the supporting inspirations is the heat itself,” Larsen says. “That atmospheric quality influences what we see. It makes for delicious paintings and very tired nights.”

Over the course of a week, painters will inevitably encounter skies in every color, shape and form—from unrelenting sunshine to towering thunderclouds.

There’s definitely a festive tone in the air as the entire town (population about 17,000) embraces both the art and the artists. Wandering through the historic Avalon Theatre, another exhibition venue, Sam and I marvel at works on display by past winners. Later on, we nibble cheese and crackers at several gallery open houses featuring both Delmarva and national painters. In Easton, there’s practically a gallery on every block, catering to a gamut of tastes and wallet sizes.

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