TRAVERSE CITY — The Grand Traverse region is about to appear on hundreds of canvases, all of them filled over the course of just one week.

The second annual Paint Grand Traverse features a mix of 44 plein air artists from around the area and across the nation. Seventeen artists call Michigan home, but the rest are spread across 17 states including Massachusetts, Tennessee, Colorado and California.

Crooked Tree Arts Center puts on the event, which runs Aug. 12-18 and includes three competitions for the artists: Small Wonders Competition and Sale, Quick Draw Competition and the Paint Grand Finale. All artwork is for sale.

Also available are free live painting demos, workshops and classes, a “Pint-Sized Paint Out” for kids, parties, sales and opportunities for spectators.

Plein air painting comes from the French term, “en plein air” — meaning “in open air.”

“The idea is that the artists are painting outdoors working more rapidly than in a studio,” said Megan Kelto, associate director of Crooked Tree Arts Center in Traverse City. “They’re trying to catch those unique lighting and atmospheric conditions that are present at that time.”

Plein air painting is a challenge, but also special and unique, said festival artist Heather Ihn Martin, of Concord, California. There are obstacles like changing light that require one be on their toes and get a feel for the environment — but at the same time, allow artists to experience the smells, textures and “the whole essence of it,” she said.

Some of the locations artists will paint are Sleeping Bear Dunes, the Leelanau Peninsula, Old Mission Peninsula, the Sara Hardy Farmers Market in downtown Traverse City, Crystal Mountain in Benzie County and downtown Traverse City.

The public is welcome to find artists on location, and watch and interact with them as they work, Kelto said. Artists can check in using an app called Glympse, which the public can view on their phones or, she added.

Studio paintings tend to be better than plein air ones, but plein air works are identifiable because they’re looser and more expressive, festival artist Rick Koehler said. Koehler, 67, has been painting for six years and splits his time between Lake Leelanau and Cincinnati, Ohio.

Koehler worked as an architect for 39 years and, in the process, learned to draw tight and precise. His painting demands he be loose, he said.

“Plein air to me is experiencing the true artistic vision and feeling and mood,” Leelanau Peninsula artist Barbara Reich said. “It is just a way of painting that’s very satisfying to my soul.”

Find more information, including a complete list of venues and events and ticket information for the final sale, at

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