Artists to paint Whidbey “en plein air” next week

— Created August 10, 2022 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

Whidbey Islanders should be on the lookout next week for a gathering of that most interesting creature – the plein air artist.

That’s right, it’s time for the third annual Whidbey Plein Air Paint Out, brought to us by the Pacific Northwest Art School in Coupeville and the Coupeville Chamber of Commerce.  The Paint Out will start Monday and runs through Thursday, Aug. 18, followed by the Plein Air Gala Friday, Aug. 19 from 6 to 9 p.m. and an art show and sale from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 20 and 21 at the art school.

Turnout for this year’s event is good, according to organizers.

“This year over 50 artists have registered from all over Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana and British Columbia,” said Lisa Bernhardt, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Art School.  “They can paint anywhere on Whidbey, but they do tend to focus on Coupeville and Ebey’s Reserve.”

One may be tempted at this point to ask what, exactly, is a plein air artist? Well, thank the French for the term “en plein air,” which means “in the open air.” That, simply put, is the definition – painting in open air. It is nothing new for artists to paint outdoors, but according to, it was the French impressionists who perfected the – pardon the pun – art form. Previously, artists had to grind raw pigments themselves, but the innovation of paint tubes and box easels allowed artists to take the studio outside, where the ever-changing light and weather challenged artists’ talent and technique.

Fast forward to the present, where participating artists can paint any or all of the four days of the Paint Out. Bernhardt said they will likely paint two-to-four hours each day and create as many panels as they choose. All the panels will be authenticated before artists go out to paint each day. Up to six panels can be submitted for the Friday night gala.

The number of artists registered to participate so far means there will be a broad range of styles and abilities, which is part of the fun and appeal of the Paint Out.

“The painters range from novice to ‘this is how I earn my living,’” said Bernhardt.

Of course, the point of the paint out is not only to help participating artists but to benefit both the Pacific Northwest Art School and the Coupeville chamber, which will share the proceeds. The public is invited to the gala and the art show and sale. Plus, it provides a little friendly competition for the artists.

“Please come to the Pacific Northwest Art School Friday, Aug. 19 from 6 to 9 p.m. for the gala and art sale,” said Bernhardt. “There will be a juried art show and monetary prizes will be awarded to artworks that are deemed best of show, first, second and third place, plus a few honorable mentions. There will also be a people’s choice award.”

Tickets for the Paint Out Gala are $25 and are available for purchase at The weekend art sale, to be held Aug. 20-21, is free to attend. The PNWAS is located at 15 NW Birch Street in Coupeville. Masks are required indoors.

Bernhardt said bringing all these talented painters to Whidbey Island is one of her favorite things about the Plein Air Paint Out.

“I love seeing the beautiful, unique and diverse work created by equally beautiful, unique and diverse souls,” she said. “And I love the fellowship of artists.”