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Irvine Museum’s Jean Stern to speak during Maui Plein Air Painting Invitational

By Staff | Feb 7, 2013

Randall Sexton is a three-time “Artist Choice” winner at the Maui Plein Air Painting Invitational.

LAHAINA – When the Maui Plein Air Painting Invitational returns Feb. 16-24, the event will showcase a popular painting style that dates back150 years called “plein air.”

Made into an art form by the early French Impressionists, the desire to paint light and its changing, ephemeral qualities, coupled with the creation of transportable paint tubes and the box easel, allowed artists the freedom to paint “en plein air,” which is the French expression for “in the open air.”

On Tuesday, Feb. 19, at 7 p.m., the foremost authority on California Impressionism, Jean Stern, executive director of the Irvine Museum, will delve into the concept of “Painting En Plein Air” during a free lecture at the Pioneer Inn in Lahaina.

Stern got an early start in the art world at the age of ten, helping at his father’s art gallery. These early impressions helped to shape his lifelong fascination with art and helped to mold his career.

Stern, who holds a Master’s Degree in Art History, is credited with single-handedly bringing national presence for the Irvine Museum, renowned for its impressive collections of California Impressionism.


“I feel that landscape painting is the highest form of visually representative art, and that plein air painting is its most honest expression,” said Stern. “Plein air painters live to capture the true appearance of natural light. I feel that humankind has an inseparable connection to nature, and that any art that reflects nature is important to the human spirit. We are all part of nature, and we turn to nature to mend our spirit after it gets battered by the stress and tribulations of modern life.”

According to Stern, the most important aspect of plein air painting is to capture the fleeting effect of immediate natural light before it changes. Generally, artists will paint no more than two hours outdoors on a single painting, because after two hours, the light has changed sufficiently to make it a different painting.

Claude Monet, the great French Impressionist, followed this rule. When he went out to paint, he set up three easels and three canvases. He would paint for two hours, take a break, start the next painting, and so on. This explains why he painted so many views of haystacks or water lilies or the faade of Rouen Cathedral. The light was so different after two hours that he had to stop.

Throughout his career, Stern has judged more than 150 art events around the country, but he considers the Maui Plein Air Painting Invitational his absolute favorite and the most desirable plein air painting event in the United States today.

“Not only is it staged in the Eden-like beauty of Maui, but it is organized by a dedicated group of people who share their genuine aloha each year,” said Stern. “For the public, it’s an incredible opportunity to watch great artists at work, to purchase original paintings and to have a thoroughly wonderful time in one of the world’s great destinations.”

For more information, visit www.MauiPleinAirPainting.org, call (808) 298-9119 or follow the event on Facebook.

In related news, the Maui Plein Air Painting Invitational will offer 2 three-day plein air workshops led by award-winning artists and oil painters Randall Sexton on Feb. 13-15 and Mary Pettis on Feb. 25-27.

Sexton returns to share his technique and joy of painting en plein air. Students of all levels are welcome. While the fundamentals of painting en plein air will be reviewed and demonstrated, the class is designed to encourage the experienced artist to stretch his or her own boundaries in an effort to be “in the moment” on location.

Born in Connecticut in 1958, Sexton was educated at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, and the San Francisco Academy of Art, as well as in workshops with Michael Lynch, Carolyn Anderson and friend/mentor Bob Gerbracht. He is a member of the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association and, most recently, was invited to be a Signature Member of the Plein-Air Painters of America. Sexton’s studio is located in Crockett, California, and he teaches workshops across the country.

Minnesota-based artist and oil painter Pettis is a recipient of three Irvine Museum awards and one Irvine Museum Honorable Mention award while attending the previous seven Maui Plein Air Painting Invitational events.

Born in 1953 on a farm in southern Minnesota, she grew up in the country. Pettis followed the rhythm of the seasons: barefoot before the ground was dry in spring, baling hay, feeding chickens, tromping through the sloughs and ravines and helping “put up” food for the large farm family.

A classically trained artist, her lifetime in art is a journey reflected in hundreds of originals and thousands of reproductions and etchings collected in nearly every state and several countries.

In her words, while working en plein air, the artist must work surely and quickly to accurately capture the light, structure and mood of the subject. This requires a masterful understanding of color, values and edges, and the ability to synthesize a wealth of information while contending with wind, heat, cold, bugs and every weather condition imaginable.

For more information on the workshops and to register online, visit www.MauiPleinAirPainting.org. Advance reservations are required; space is limited. Cost is $375 per person. A portion of the workshop fees will go towards a youth art scholarship fund.