En plein air: Duluth taken over by painters

The Duluth Art Institute’s second annual Plein Air Duluth: Paint du Nord brought in artists from near and far. The en plein air event, meaning “in the open air,” was a weeklong painting competition from July 10-16 between 40 artists who were selected from throughout the nation. The artists were given four specific Duluth locations they could paint at but also were allowed to paint anywhere.

“I love the community of artists that come together and I like the whole sensory experience of being outside doing plein air, going to different places and exploring, looking for things to paint,” said pastel artist Patricia Duncan.

The idea of bringing plein air painting to Duluth was suggested by a few local artists including oil painter Matt Kania. Kania was one of the six artists who thought Duluth would be a prime location for plein air painting and suggested it to Anne Dugan, executive and artistic director of the Duluth Art Institute.


“The No. 1 thing I enjoy is being outside. No. 2, being challenged with the awesome task of looking at a scene and somehow showing someone what I loved about the scene that I was painting,” Kania said about plein air painting.

Outside of painting, Kania owns his own business, Map Hero, where he designs and illustrates maps. Like Kania, Stillwater, Minn., artist Angie Malin also enjoys to do things other than painting. Her most recent venture is stained glass.

“I like being outdoors in the peace to express quietly with my paint, but right now I’m actually trying to make some stained glass windows for the house,” Malin said.

Michele Combs is a painter from Plymouth, Minn., who attended the plein air painting event. She was caught in the rain on Monday outside of Fitger’s and went in to stay dry. She has recently started to paint storefront windows, so when she saw Lotus on the Lake she couldn’t resist starting a new painting.

“The first women’s clothing window I did was because I liked a store in Red Wing and after a plein air event there I went shopping and had to paint it,” Combs said. “Being that it rained Monday, I started to paint the Lotus storefront and worked on it for the week.”


Duluth’s unpredictable weather last week did not stop tourists from viewing the painters. Glensheen Mansion was the Wednesday painting location with around 25 of the artists and many viewers, including Donnarae Carrell and her two friends. Carrell knows painter Paul Oman from when he was a pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Birchwood, Wis.

“We’ve known him for a while and love to follow his art career,” Carrell said. “It is a pleasure to see artists with that much talent and see how they view things. They put a color in paintings that I don’t see so it is fascinating to watch their interpretations.”

Before Oman was a pastor, he was a science teacher. He has a passion for pleasing other people and has found painting as a way to do so.

“I enjoy when a painting turns out, I love talking to people and hopefully my painting can inspire something in their life, maybe even it motivates them to paint or gives them a moment of joy to see it, that’s really what it’s all about for me,” Oman said.

Selected paintings will be on display at the institute through Sept. 9.


Written by Anna Jones as published in the Duluth Budgeteer.