Artists to capture the plein air landscape of Whidbey

— Created August 2, 2023 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

It’s Whidbey, au natural. No studios, no lighting, just Mother Nature.

Photo Courtesy of Pacific Northwest Art School
The practice of painting a landscape in plein air, or outdoors in natural light, is celebrated during the Whidbey Plein Air Paintout, which will take place Aug. 14-17 at various locations around Whidbey Island. Approximately 75 artists of all skill levels will participate in the fourth annual event, put on by the Pacific Northwest Art School in Coupeville.

Dozens of plein air artists will gather Aug. 14-17 to capture the natural beauty of Whidbey Island’s landscapes, part of the fourth annual Whidbey Plein Air Paintout. A program of the Pacific Northwest Art School in Coupeville and its partner, Whidbey and Camano Islands Tourism, this week-long competition will culminate in a public reception Friday, Aug. 18 and is followed by an exhibition and sale Aug. 19-20. Tickets to the Aug. 18 reception are $25 per person and may be purchased online at, at the school (15 NW Birch St., Coupeville) or at the door.

The Plein Air Paintout and gala is the major fundraiser of the year for the nonprofit art school.

“The Friday night ticketed event ($25 for bites and beverages from bayleaf) is for those 21 and over only and offers the chance to purchase the artwork before the FREE weekend sale,” said Lisa Bernhardt, executive director of Pacific Northwest Art School. “Attending the Friday night event is a guaranteed way to get to interact with the artists, as they will all be there! Patrons can ask them questions and put a face to a painting.”

For those unfamiliar with the term, plein air painting simply means painting a landscape in the outdoors. The work must be completed in a matter of hours, due to changing light and sometimes, changing weather.

Bernhardt said the competition regularly draws at least 75 artists to Whidbey, most coming from the surrounding five-state region and British Columbia. Each year about half of the artists are new, the others are returning. The paintout is also open to all levels of artists, whether beginners or seasoned veterans of the craft.

For people interested in the creative process, be on the lookout for artists working in various locations around Whidbey Island that week, because artists don’t mind if people want to watch.

“Artists love having folks watch their art being created virtually in front of their eyes,” said Bernhardt. “They also love the camaraderie this event brings like no other. Getting to peek over the shoulder of a veteran plein air artist, as a new plein air artist, is priceless. Learning from each other and enjoying a shared experience are also top of the list.”

Photo Courtesy of Pacific Northwest Art School
Artists from a five-state region and British Columbia will converge on Whidbey Island Aug. 14-17 for the fourth annual Whidbey Plein Air Paintout. Competition awards will be presented at a gala and reception Friday, Aug. 18 and will the paintout will conclude with a free public exhibition and sale Aug. 19-20.

The other thing artists enjoy, according to Bernhardt, is the ability to sell their work.

“We allow our artists to sell off the easel as well as at the Friday night reception and weekend long exhibition,” she said. “The exhibition is free and open to the public and scheduled the same weekend as the Whidbey Working Artists Open Studio Tour.”

All panels are stamped to authenticate they were painted during the competition. Speaking of which, the juror for this year’s submissions is Whidbey Island oil artist Mike Wise.

“The juror will speak to how he selected each piece and why. It is an informative time for the artists and a way to celebrate them,” explained Bernhardt. “There are cash awards for Best of Show, first, second and third place and People’s Choice. Historically, several honorable mentions will also be awarded. Come celebrate artists and the art school at the same time!”

Learn more about the Plein Air Paintout, reception and exhibition, the Pacific Northwest Art School and more by visiting