Plein Air Ensemble has been hosting painting trips for serious - minded artists for 30 years. I should know – I am proud of the fact that I had a hand in organizing it with two friends back in 1990 and running it for the first 13 years until others took over the reins. And I will always cherish the many friendships and adventures we shared along the way
The other day, in my studio, I came across Old Quebec 16x20, painted in 2013, on the last of three trips to Quebec City. I dusted the canvas off, sat down, and let memories of those adventures come pouring back. I clearly remember searching out a protected spot for my easel, out of the way from pedestrian and vehicle traffic, then striving to capture the exhilarating feeling of the day as I painted Old Quebec. Absolute magic!
But let’s go back a bit: many will recall the trips to Quebec City and the wonderful boutique hotel where we stayed, with the grand piano in the dining room, only a few city blocks from the Old City Gates. On our first visit the hotel manager met us at the entrance on Rue Charest, then arranged for a bus tour of the city - and sat up front to give us a running commentary! Each morning we would leave the hotel to go out and sketch and paint and photograph, discovering winding cobblestone streets, ancient alleyways and 400 year- old historic buildings; we also picked out intimate restaurants for extended lunch breaks, making sure that we were back in time for le tableau d’hôtel and music into the night. On our last evening that same manager arranged for a reception in the foyer so that his invited guests could view our work. Several pieces were purchased on the spot! The following morning, after breakfast and bidding everyone goodbye, we set off for the long drive home, savoring the memories and our treasured creations stored carefully in the trunks of our vehicles.
Anyone that has been on one of these PLE adventures knows how they work: The five-day trips (including travel time) every spring and fall without a break - until this spring, that is, when the fully subscribed trip had to be cancelled due to the pandemic virus. Over the years we have traveled to destinations as far away as Charlevoix and the Eastern Townships of Quebec and closer to home in the Laurentians and Ottawa Valley. While there is never a shortage of camaraderie and sharing among the artists, no formal instruction is offered – everyone is expected to work independently.
I look forward to more Plein Air Ensemble adventures under the capable hands of artists, Mary Moore and Tom Lillico. Until we can finally get back to painting without all the Covid 19 restrictions, I will rely on my memories to accompany me at my studio easel.
Note: Sadly, the unique Royal William Hotel on Rue Charest no longer exists: a casualty to progress.