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Plan to be part of Plein Air in the Smokies, Sept. 26 – Oct. 2, 2022

April 25, 2022

Plein Air in the Smokies logo - blue

by Julie Dodd

The inaugural Plein Air in the Smokies will bring 20 nationally-acclaimed plein air artists to Great Smoky Mountains National Park to capture the beauty and magic of the Smokies. 

Charlie Hunter plein air painting
Charlie Hunter is one of the 20 artists invited for Plein Air in the Smokies. Photo from Charlie Hunter’s Instagram — charliehunterart

Throughout the week of Sept. 26 – Sept. 30, 2022, artists will be painting outdoors – in plein air — in various areas of the national park. A gala, art sale and public plein air painting event will be held during Oct. 1-2.

The art competition and public sale of the art will benefit Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP).

“We have world class talent coming to the Smokies to paint the beauty we love. This just has never happened here before,” said Lauren Gass, FOTS Senior Projects Director and coordinator of Plein Air in the Smokies.

The event is a collaboration between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Friends of the Smokies, with a host of sponsors and donors making this fundraising event possible.

What is plein air painting?

Plein air painting is the practice of painting landscape and scenery outdoors. It was developed in the 1800s by Impressionist artists like Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Plein air painters strive to capture the scene in a limited amount of time – usually in several hours because they must contend with the changing light and weather conditions.

Plein air artists also must be able to transport their easel and art materials to the painting location. Most plein air artists work in oils, acrylic or pastels.

Invited plein air artists

The 20 invited artists are world-renown plein air artists who have painted at national and international plein air events and have a love of capturing the beauty of nature and landscapes. The following is a list of the artists. You can click on the artist’s name to visit the artist’s website and see examples of their work.

Suzie Greer Baker

Gregory Barnes

Carl Bretzke

Brienne Brown

Brienne Brown
Brienne Brown demonstrates plein air painting techniques in a video posted on her Instagram — briennembrownartist

Roger Dale Brown

Jim Carson

Bill Farnsworth

Trey Finney

Beverly Ford Evans

Jake Gaedtke

Neal Hughes

Charlie Hunter

Christine Lashley

Patrick Lee

Dan Mondloch

Kathie Odom

Jim Richards

Nancy Tankersley

George Van Hook

Dawn Whitelaw

Painting in GSMNP

The invited artists will paint at various locations within the Park on Monday-Friday, Sept. 26-30, 2022.  You can watch them capturing the natural beauty and the history of GSMNP.

Elkmont – Four different artists will paint in Elkmont on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. A list of the days and times each artist is painting will be available prior to the event.

Cades Cove – All the artists will participate in a Paint Out on Thursday.

Throughout the Park – On days when the artists aren’t painting in Elkmont or Cades Cove, they will be painting at a variety of locations throughout the Park. Information will be provided about artist locations.

Because plein air painting is done outdoors and artists deal with changing shadows and weather, plein air artists typically prefer to paint earlier in the day or late in the day due to the lighting.

Quick Draw competition open to the public

As part of the inaugural week-long Plein Air in the Smokies event, Friends of the Smokies will host a Quick Draw Competition and art sale on Saturday, Oct. 1, in downtown Maryville, Tenn. This event will be a plein air (outdoor painting) competition, with artists painting in the Maryville Greenway or a section of the downtown. Registration for the event opens on May 1, and anyone 14 or older can participate.

Gala, art sale, judging

The week will conclude at Clayton Center for the Arts on the Maryville College campus, with judging and sale of the paintings.

A ticketed gala sale will be held on Saturday evening, Oct. 1, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. You may purchase tickets for the gala online now.

The public sale of art will be held at the Clayton Center on Oct. 2. 

Proceeds benefit GSMNP

Proceeds from the event will help fund several projects and programs that support the park’s efforts to preserve the historic and natural resources of the Smokies while providing a safe, enjoyable experience to over 14 million annual visitors.

Plein Air in the Smokies is presented by Lexus of Knoxville and Toyota of Knoxville and sponsored by RT Lodge and Anakeesta.

“I’m excited to talk with anyone who would like to talk about the event,” Gass said. “There will be lots of opportunities to be involved as volunteers.”

For information on becoming a sponsor of Plein Air in the Smokies or for other questions about the event, email Lauren@friendsofthesmokies.org

Begin making your plans now to be part of this exciting event that celebrates and supports Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Future blog posts will provide more information about the various events and suggest other activities you can enjoy in the Park and surrounding communities.


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