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Road Trip

Plein Air Painting in Easton

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

WHERE: Easton, Md.

WHY: Modern Monets, DIY pottery and what's on tap?

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HOW FAR: About one mile from start to finish, and about 70 miles from Washington.

For those planning to visit Easton next week, beware of wet paint. Starting Monday, the Eastern Shore town will be dripping in oils, acrylics and watercolors for the fourth annual Plein Air Competition and Arts Festival.

The French phrase "plein air" refers to the painterly technique in which artists use the outdoors as their studio, dragging easels and paints outside to create masterpieces on the spot. The tradition was popularized in the mid-1800s by the Barbizon School and the light-fixated impressionists (e.g., Monet and his amis) and continues today amid such frame-worthy landscapes as the Chesapeake Bay.

During the seven-day festival, accomplished artists from across the country will plant their paint sets on the genteel streets, grassy fields and shorelines of Talbot County. Their ultimate goal is to walk away with the best-painting prize. One of the more exhilarating events is Saturday's Quick Draw, a mad race to produce a work of art in two hours. (All are invited to compete, even those who never advanced beyond finger painting.) The best creations win awards or, even better, find buyers.

The same day, the Maryland Shakespeare Festival will perform for free "The Merry Wives of Windsor," yes, en plein air (specifically, in the town parking lot). The matrimonial comedy is just one of many special performances, lectures and workshops intended to inspire attendees to go outside and be creative.

-- Ben Chapman

Plein Air Competition and Arts Festival: Monday-July 27. Various locations in Easton. For details or to register for the Quick Draw, call 410-822-7297 or visit http://www.pleinaireaston.com. Most events are free.

"The Merry Wives of Windsor": Saturday at 8 p.m. Parking lot at 11 S. Harrison St. http://www.mdshakes.org. Free.

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