Water Color Plein Air Painting by Nancy Wentzler

Nancy Wentzler to Lead 10th Plein Air Workshop

Nancy Wentzler, a plein air artist based in Williamsport, will present the 2024 Plein Air Workshop at the Dale-Engle-Walker property on Saturday, May 4, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. The workshop is a popular start to the day for artists eager to see a fellow artist’s approach to painting en plein air. Artists participating in the Plein Air Event are likely to be familiar with Wentzler’s work from the Lewisburg Arts Council’s annual exhibit at The Public Library for Union County and For Love of Nature: Endangered Species and The Wild Lands at the Library in 2022.

Wentzler took up painting later in life, exploring plein air after retiring as Chief Economist and Deputy Comptroller in the Office of the Comptroller in 2011. Her high-pressure Treasury Dept. career and the long-haul global travel that accompanied it left little time for leisure pursuits.

Upon returning to Central Pennsylvania and its stunning landscapes, Wentzler leaned into watercolor painting, a medium she prefers for its transparency and organic feeling. She studied the websites of prominent plein air artists who paint in watercolor, such as Alexis Lavine, who, in addition to landscapes, paints still-lifes, abstracts, and figurative works that play with composition and cropping. Wentzler also finds Sterling Edwards’s site educational. His signature stylized landscapes push representational elements to the edge of abstraction. She also recommends viewing the work of John Blockley, Ann Blockley, and Richard Schmid, each of whom has expanded the traditional notion of plein air art.

Lavine, Edwards, and other well-known plein air artists frequently offer in-person or online classes. But Wentzler recommends YouTube as the ultimate classroom for those who just want a few tips and guidelines as well as those who like step-by-step demonstrations. “I loved the learning experience,” says Wentzler, “and find painting outdoors very relaxing.”

On May 4, Wentzler will discuss the tools that a plein air artist needs—four or five good brushes, basic watercolor paints in pans or tubes, and quality paper—enough “to paint for the bin,” Wentzler says. If an effort goes wrong, throw it away and start over on a fresh sheet. She also urges artists to avoid overworking a piece: “Trust your marks.” The artists who attend Wentzler’s workshop will each choose what to submit for exhibition in June at The Gallery on North Front St. in Lewisburg. Some who compare their work to more experienced artists may not feel comfortable exhibiting. Wentzler urges those artists to reconsider: “Just put the painting in the show. Let it happen.” Exhibiting for the first time is “just one of the baby steps” in becoming a confident plein air artist.

The Plein Air Event is sponsored by the Lewisburg Arts Council, the Artists’ Guild of Lewisburg, the Lewisburg Photography Club, the Merrill Linn Conservancy, and the Union County Historical Society.