Artists paint Aspen’s portrait at Red Brick Plein Air Festival |

Artists paint Aspen’s portrait at Red Brick Plein Air Festival

Aspen artist Tammie Lane at work on the pedestrian mall during the Red Brick Plein Air Festival.
Courtesy photo |

If You Go …

What: Red Brick Plein Air Festival

When: Through Sunday, Aug. 14

Where: Various locations

How much: Free

More info:


What: Plein Air Quick Draw

Where: Mill Street pedestrian mall, Aspen

When: Friday, Aug. 12, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

How much: Free


What: Plein Air Exhibition and Sale

Where: Limelight Hotel

When: Friday, Aug. 12 through Sunday, Aug. 14; Friday & Saturday, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

They’re on restaurant patios and at the dancing fountain. They’re on the mesas of Woody Creek and standing in the shadows of the Maroon Bells. This weekend they’ll be perched amid the throngs at the farmers market and the Ducky Derby.

Nineteen painters from across Colorado have convened on Aspen this week for the seventh annual Plein Air Festival and created hundreds of new pieces of artwork. The week-long festival of al fresco art-making wraps up this weekend with a competition and a three-day exhibition.

The artists, chosen from a pool of applicants by a jury of plein-air painters, are free to roam wherever they like during the week — committing whatever catches their eye to canvas.

“It’s kind of like a scavenger hunt,” said Angie Callen, director of the Red Brick Center for the Arts, which produces the festival. “We tell them the popular places, but otherwise it’s just whatever they draw inspiration from.”

For Aspenites, the festival turns into a game of spot-the-painter — you’ll meet them on the malls downtown, out on hikes in the forest and embedded in the West End.

“That’s the fun of it, that you don’t know,” Callen said. “When you turn a corner there might be an aritst there painting your favorite spot. … Aspen is such an art-centric community that I think it’s great to see that activity actually happening in town, to see the presence of art being made. Not just seeing art.”

This year’s crop of Centennial State painters includes 12 returning artists from last year and nine from the Roaring Fork Valley. Along with traditional oil painters, this year’s Plein Air Festival crew includes a handful of watercolorists, an acrylic painter and one that works in pastels. Individual style finds a way to break through the relatively strict confines of the festival — the same mountainside on the same day might produce an infinite number of interpretations when filtered through Michael Charron’s rich realism or Patricia Maguire’s impressionism or Basalt artist Mike Otte’s abstract-leaning approach.

Each painter is required to produce at least six works, though most complete more than that. For the weekend exhibition at the Limelight Hotel, they also can bring one studio piece. That adds up to at least 150 new pieces of artwork — the vast majority created in the last five days.

Even during this rainy week, the artists have stayed productive. Patty Dwyer, an oil painter from Littleton, for instance, finished three paintings during Monday’s thunderstorms by sneaking out between the squalls.

After exploring for five days, as the week draws to a close, the artists come together. At a Thursday night reception, cash prizes were awarded to the best in show according to audience and artist votes. Friday morning features the Quick Draw competition, during which crowds gather to watch artists complete a painting within a two-hour time period. Judges choose a best in show when time runs out, and the works go on sale.

And all weekend long, the Red Brick is hosting an exhibition and sale of the works made during the Plein Air Festival at the Limelight Hotel.

A new addition this year is a Red Brick children’s camp pegged to the festival, which has sent youngsters out around town this week painting in the outdoors — their work will be on display at Friday’s Quick Draw.

This is the second year that the Red Brick Center for the Arts has been producing the festival (the Wheeler Opera House produced for its five previous offings). The sale has replaced an annual benefit dinner as the Red Brick’s largest annual fundraiser, supporting the nonprofit’s education programs. Prices at the exhibition range from less than $100 to around $1,200.

“I’m excited to see how it all comes together,” Callen said. “It’s going to be a really strong exhibition.”

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