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Practice painting in a changing environment while learning techniques from an award-winning artist.

By Annalisa Purser

It’s no secret that Utahns live in a destination location, so before booking an exotic overseas retreat, consider a local trip organized through the University of Utah’s Go Learn program, which combines education with a vacation to facilitate deeper connections between travelers and the communities they visit.

The upcoming Plein Air Painting workshop, Sept. 30-Oct. 4, takes participants into Southern Utah and Zion National Park to perfect their outdoor painting skills and develop a IMG_1514body of at least 10 paintings to show at a gallery exhibition in November. Plein air is a French expression meaning “in the open air.” The fun begins a month before the trip with a workshop taught by trip instructor and acclaimed painter David Meikle.

Meikle took the first Plein Air Painting workshop to southern Utah a year ago and has been teaching painting classes for years. He received third place in the professional division of the Wasatch Plein Air Paradise competition in July 2015. He created the images seen on the “Welcome to Utah” billboards found at all major entry points to the state and recently finished a 10’x23’ mural for the City Creek Center.

“Plein air painting is like doing live theatre for artists,” Meikle said. “You have a lot of challenges to overcome in a short period of time—the light is always moving and the weather can change very quickly. This forces artists to learn how to edit what they see and make deliberate commitments to color and design. Artists also learn to stay focused, ignore the heat and bugs and field questions from curious on-lookers. An artist working in public becomes an attraction, and I think that enhances everyone’s experience.”

Typically, artists work in solitude in a studio, and the plein air workshop shows that painting can be a shared and social event. Participants will focus on learning how to make artistic interpretations about the landscape.

“There is something exciting at the end of the trip when all the work is lined up and you can see what has been created,” Meikle said. “No two paintings will ever look alike. It is interesting to see how different artists approach the same subject.”

This trip is for anyone interested in experiencing Utah’s landscape in a different way. While it is not necessary for participants to have studied art or be a professional artist, participants will have a better experience if they already know something about painting, mixing colors and using oil paints.

Another local Go Learn trip is to Centennial Valley in Montana and will happen Sept. 16-20. Travelers will join noted nature writer and photographer Stephen Trimble in honing their creative skills. If an overseas trip is still what you’re after, Go Learn also offers several international trips each year.


Annalisa Purser is a communications specialist at University Marketing and Communications. If you have an interesting story idea, email her at