*Special Note: The Plein Air Convention is not a sponsor. Just a great event and I’m happy to share my experience with you.

I just returned from the Plein Air Convention in San Diego, and while it’s all fresh in my mind I thought you might enjoy some highlights and takeaways.

I started the trip by taking the legs and panel holder off my 35 year old French Easel (16th birthday present from my parents) so it could travel safely in the suitcase with my large RedCloud 90 packpack stuffed with my palette and supplies. It ended up not traveling safely though, because the baggage inspectors took everything out, broke a piece off the panel holder – the only part that has broken on my easel – and then shoved it all back into my suitcase (yes, I flew United…).

My Masters Pallet (created by Michael) got there and back in perfect condition – and as you will see in the photos, it was pure pleasure to paint with. My pallet was drooled all over when artists came and compared it with their tiny Pochade box palettes!

Pretty soon we’ll be ready to make the Masters Pallet available to ya’ll as well, so be sure to keep an eye out for that exciting announcement to get one of your own.

When I got to San Diego Eric Rhoads started the convention with a very convincing impersonation of the beloved Bob Ross.

Eric Rhoads as Bob Ross

See the Plein Air Wars poster behind Eric in the above picture? That was a ton of fun to watch! 5 painters competed and the audience decided on a different subject for each artist, and then they had to paint with their non-natural hand – right handers with left and vice versa. At the end the audience voted by sound-o-meter and the winner received $7000 worth of prizes.

Eric ran off stage for 30 seconds and came out a new man ready for some incredible events. He kept the energy level high and insisted that learning had to be fun – which has always been my sentiments when it comes to art training as well.

Eric Rhoads Welcoming us to PACE17

By then it was time to see the sights and apply some paint to panel right outside the doors of the Convention Center.

I only had about an hour before the sun set to capture some of the fascinating colors and movement in this Flame Coral Tree.

Flame Coral Tree 12x9 plein air study by Bill Inman

Thank goodness Kristie spent the day before the convention making power foods for me so that I could conquer the packed schedule – I never took a breakfast, lunch or dinner break – just snacked during presentations and ran from morning till I passed out late at night. I woke every morning at 5 (the 3-hour time difference was not kind) for prayer, scripture study and a dose of Living Fuel (the nutrition that keeps me going), then raced to get an early seat at the Art Marketing Boot Camp that started at 6:30 where over the course of 3 mornings I learned about the 10-10-10 system for increasing our painting sales and creating a lifelong engaging artist brand.

Insights Eric gained from Jay Abraham

Michael Godfrey was the first demo Tuesday morning and it was an awesome way to start the day off with a bang! What an incredible artist and instructor – very kind and generous. Fortunately, I got to see how masterful his paintings were ahead of time over the past 3 or 4 years at the Quest for the West show at the Eiteljorg in Indianapolis.

His demo was one of the great moments for me at the Convention – he was so well prepared and organized – with a couple almost-finished example paintings to work on to teach several techniques like scumbling and glazing for atmospheric effects. He had some great insights that I’m excited to share with the Master Oil Painting community at a later date.

Michael Godfrey

Jeremy Lipking is one of the leading figurative artists in the world today and a fantastic teacher – unfortunately the lighting did not cooperate during his demo, the glare overshadowed the colors so much we couldn’t see what he was teaching. That’s one of the perils of live action.

Jeremy Lipking

Fortunately technical problems like that were a rare occurrence at the conference – Eric and Ali (Eric’s behind the scenes magician of an assistant) spent two years planning and coordinating the substantial details to make the conference a stunning event. As much as I was disappointed with the lighting problem, I was overwhelmed with the significance of learning from so many of the world’s most accomplished painters – without needing to travel the world to do it.

As many of you already know, Quang Ho is a wunderkind – I’ve been told over and over that my paintings seem to materialize from a cacophony of colors, but you really need to see Quang perform his magic. It was a memorable and inspiring demonstration!

Quang Ho

That night we painted at Old Town San Diego where we had gorgeous views, good food (thanks to Kristie and my homemade Larabars) and entertainment – a live band was singing directly in front of my easel. I tried to capture those quirky and beautifully interesting trees on the hill, but failed handily – I should have started with a simple light and dark pattern, but tried to place too many small shapes at once on the panel – it was still great fun though, and I loved the experience of painting something that I’m not super familiar with.

Old Town San Diego

James Gurney gave a presentation that was incredible, and packed full of painting wisdom! It’s a good thing they offered us the option of purchasing the raw footage from the festival because I just couldn’t take notes fast enough.

His painting, as seen below, was in the show all week – painted entirely plein air! I wish I had thought to take my books by him– Color and Light, Imaginative Realism and Dinotopia (I and II)– with me to have him sign.

Robust Robot by James Gurney

Friday was reserved for painting together at Point Loma, and what a sight to witness 900 artists spread out painting in such a picturesque coastal peninsula.

Painting at Point Loma

I had some fun and spliced together a little footage for you to enjoy. And what better way to end a blog than with a short video of one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever painted?

I highly recommend attending next year if you’re able. I had a blast meeting other members of our Master Oil Painting community at the convention and would love to have more of you join us in Santa Fe for the 2018 Plein Air Convention. And yes, I’ve already signed up for it!

Now I have a ton to catch up on after my week of Plien Air fun and learning. Emails to answer, training videos to complete (including an upcoming Cross Country Plein Air training), paintings to finish up, and of course family to spend time with.

So go outside and have a great time observing the nuances and subtleties of nature, and maybe next year we’ll get a chance to paint together at the next Plein Air Convention.

Happy Painting!

Bill