About the Festival:

In 2003, the Sheridan Arts Foundation first collaborated with Keith Wicks, executive director of Sonoma Plein Air, to produce this event, and now a week of outdoor art has become an indispensable part of the town’s Independence Day festivities. Over the Fourth of July weekend, for the past 12 years in beautiful Telluride, Colorado the Sheridan Arts Foundation has hosted nationally renowned artists for the Telluride Plein Air, a celebration of outdoor painting.
In addition to observing some of the nation's top Plein Air artists at work, locals and tourists alike enjoy watching our two-hour quick draw competition, followed by the VIP Artist Choice Preview & Wine Tasting featuring each artists favorite piece of the week. The celebration culminates in a three-day sale, where the artists display the art they created all week long. Forty percent of the sale revenue benefits Telluride community programming through the Sheridan Arts Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit that maintains and preserves the historic Sheridan Opera House.

What is Plein Air? 

En plein air is a French expression which means "in the open air", and is used to describe the act of painting outdoors. While artists have long painted outdoors,  working in natural light became increasingly important to multiple schools of art in the mid 19th century.

The Barbizon School of France was of particular influence on the Realists, artists who focused their work on everyday subjects versus prominent figures. The Realist movement inspired the Impressionists, whose style included visible brush strokes, ordinary subject matter, and an emphasis on light in its changing qualities.

The popularity of painting en plein air increased in the 1870s with the introduction of paint in tubes, which replaced the task of grinding and mixing dry pigment powders with linseed oil. It was also during this period that the "Box Easel, " typically known as the French Box Easel, was invented. This development increased the ease and portability of art supplies, making treks into the forest and up the hillsides less intimidating and more appealing to those looking to paint new landscapes.

Lead by Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and others, the Impressionists took their paint tubes and easels outdoors, where they recreated the world through vivid use of color. At first these outdoor sketches were taken home to be finished in the studio, but eventually artists began to complete their works outdoors. Although at first rebuffed for what appeared to be unfinished paintings, the Impressionist vision soon became a standard for truthfully conveying the outdoor experience.

Artists in the United States were attracted to the concept, and many, like Californian Guy Rose, traveled to France to study with the French Impressionists. Suddenly, locations with remarkable light were of particular interest to painters including both the East and West Coasts and the American Southwest where painting colonies formed.

Today, there are more than 500 registered plein air artists in the United States working "en plein air" to capture the light and colors particular to a location.

The Telluride Plein Air is an essential fundraiser for the Sheridan Arts Foundation. Forty percent of the revenue from each sale goes to the Sheridan Arts Foundation, providing support for community programming at the Sheridan Opera House and collaboration with local non-profits throughout the year.

Sergio Lopez paints Telluride's iconic Sheridan Chop House during the Quick Draw Competition