Plein Air experts to give lecture, workshop in Canandaigua

Festival judge Nancy Tankersley

Local residents can learn more about the art of plein air painting or get expert advice on their own painting as part of the upcoming Finger Lakes Plein Air Competition and Festival in Canandaigua in early June.

The Finger Lakes Plein Air Festival, sponsored in part by the Ontario County Arts Council, takes its name from the French term for “open air,” as the artists set up their easels outside to paint works that will be judged and sold. The festival also features opportunities for the public to meet the artists and watch them work as well as a Community Paint-Out, a painting competition for local residents with cash prizes.

The first event by visiting experts is a lecture by Valerie Balint titled “In Search of A ‘Truer Nature’: The Influence of John Ruskin and British Artists on American Plein Air Painting” on Sunday, June 7, in Stage 14 of the Finger Lakes Community College main campus, 3325 Marvin Sands Drive, Canandaigua. This event is free and open to the public.

Balint is associate curator of Olana, the historic home, studio and 250-acre artist-designed grounds of nineteenth-century landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church in Hudson, New York.

She will discuss the legacy of American plein air painting, its links to the impressionist tradition, and the influence of Great Britain, particularly the role of artist and art critic John Ruskin in formalizing the underlying principles of open air painting. Ruskin believed in a move away from the old master studio tradition and towards works composed through first-hand experience with nature. Balint’s lecture is co-sponsored by Ferris Hills at West Lake.

At the end of the Plein Air Festival, festival judge Nancy Tankersley will host a three-day workshop on “Keeping It Fresh,” for current and aspiring painters June 15-17, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Pat Rini Rohrer Gallery, 71 S. Main St., Canandaigua. The workshop fee is $425 and registration is required at or by calling 410-770-4421.

Tankersley is a founder of the Easton Studio in Maryland, which hosts workshops by top painters from all over the country. She credits her current level of professionalism to knowledge she gained in workshops.

A founder of a plein air event in Easton, Tankersley is a member of the American Impressionist Society and the Mid-Atlantic Plein Air Painters and a juried member of the 100-year-old Washington Society of Landscape Painters. “I think it is important for contemporary artists to capture the land and the people as they are today. I do not try to romanticize or invent my subjects, but I do try to show the beauty of the ordinary,” she says.

Other Finger Lakes Plein Air events are as follows:
June 11: Meet the Artists event at Canandaigua Yacht Club, 6 to 8 p.m., hors d’oeuvres and cash bar.
June 13: Quick Draw Event, public can watch as juried artists paint in downtown Canandaigua, 9:30-11:30 a.m., winner announced at 12:30 p.m.
June 13: Community Paint Out, a competition for local and regional artists, 1 to 3 p.m., downtown Canandaigua
June 14: Public Exhibit and Sale at Sonnenberg Gardens Carriage House, 151 Charlotte St., Canandaigua, noon- 4 p.m.

For more on the Finger Lakes Plein Air Festival, visit, call 585-394-0030 or email

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