Russell Johnson Prescott, AZ landscape artist

Prescott Plein Air Art Festival Experience from October 1-4, 2020

The first ever Prescott Plein Air Art Festival was held October 1-4, 2020. It was an honor to be part of this event as a long-time Prescott resident and local artist. The Highland Center for Natural History organized the event and did quite well for a first time. Artists painted on location in the Prescott area for three days and an art show reception followed. I chose a sunrise painting for my first day, showing up at Watson Lake before the sun rose over Glassford Hill. A tree growing from an outcropping of rocks caught my eye.

By mid morning, the sun was getting too hot and I had no shade. Afterwards, I found shade under cottonwood trees at Granite Gardens. This painting has a mix of brush work and palette knife textural painting techniques.

Later in the afternoon, during the heat of the day, I found a cool shady spot at Lynx Lake for a tall vertical painting to emphasize the tall ponderosa pines.

Friday morning, I wasn’t able to get out bright and early and chose to arrive at Willow Lake where I could find shade under some large cottonwood trees. I chose to paint a mass of granite rocks getting highlighted by the morning sun. A few cottonwood trees were growing in the rocks and the bright green leaves reflected in the lake. Distant forested hills of Prescott became a nice background.

Later that afternoon, I returned to Lynx Lake after enjoying the cool shade the day before. The temps were in the high 80’s and I couldn’t think of a better place to paint. There was a nice breeze and the water rippled, reflecting colors and light.

Saturday, the last day to paint, I arrived at Goldwater Lake to find some cottonwoods starting to turn yellow, reflecting on the calm waters. I decided to use a palette knife again for a more impressionistic and textural approach. Afterwards, on a whim, I used extra paint to complete another painting of backlit pines.

The last painting, I titled “Grand Finale”, was a sunset painting completed at the Constellation Trails to capture the last rays of light. I zoomed in on the Granite Dells and Glassford Hill that were bathed in evening warm light.

The art show was set up Sunday morning, and folks starting showing up at 1:00pm to view our paintings. The tall painting from Lynx Lake titled “Quiet Cove” and the red pine tree painting “Sunny Pines” got the most attention. Overall, the event was a wonderful experience to meet new artists, painting outdoors, and get positive feedback. I’m looking forward to doing it again next year.

Paintings by all participating artists are available for purchase through October 31, 2020 through the Highland Centers online at:

Here is a gallery of photos of the completed work, click on thumbnails for a full view:

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