Fresh air, beautiful settings and talented painters – find all this and more at the Bath County Plein Air Festival

Fresh air, beautiful settings and talented painters – all these things exemplify the Bath County Plein Air Festival now in it’s 7th year.  For one week, 30 of the mid-Atlantic’s best plein air painters will set up their easels along the scenic vistas of Bath County to capture the warm Autumn colors on canvas.  The focus for this year’s festival is on the figure in the landscape and is held in partnership with the Warm Springs Gallery.

Courtesy of the Bath County Plein Air on Facebook

So, what is plein air? Plein Air is French for open air.  It’s a style of painting that became popular in the early nineteenth century in Europe and America.  With a wide variety of pre-mixed oil pigments available for the first time along with an easily transportable box easel, artists could finally venture out of their studios and work in the field with ease.  Plein Air artists usually paint “ala prima” laying down the scene with quick, broad, brush strokes rather than the traditional style of building up layers of paint.  Depending on the light and weather, the paintings are usually done in one session.

Plein Air paintings are unique in that they challenge the artist to quickly capture the sights and sounds all around them in the moment and channel that into an image on paper or canvas.

This is a juried event and 20 artists were chosen earlier this summer by a panel of five professional artists and curators to be in the festival.  Award winners and top artists chosen in 2018 were also invited to come back as to this year’s festival.

The judge for the 2019 festival is Angela Cunningham, a portrait painter, genre painter and sculptor from North Carolina. She says she enjoys working from life because she believes it’s the best way to see the intricacies of the subject’s form and is an excellent way to interact with the personality of the life before her.  You can find examples of her work at her website

Painting by Angela Cunningham

The Bath County Plein Air Festival awards over eight thousand dollars in cash prizes plus merchandise awards. The top three paintings in the exhibit will receive $1000.00, $750.00 and $500.00 respectively.  The Best in Show painting will receive the Gordon F. Ferguson Memorial Award and $1000.00.  Additionally, there is a $1000.00 award for the People’s Choice, and $1000.00 for the Best in Show Peer Review.   Several smaller awards for $500.00 are also given for the Donald L. Lewis Sr. Memorial, Best Architectural, Figurative, Nocturne and Vista paintings.

In addition to the treat of seeing talented artists paint stunning vistas throughout the county, there are several other events during the week.

On Wednesday, Oct 2nd there is a Sunset and Nocturne Paint Out & Reception on Main Street in Hot Springs from 6 to 10pm.    The event is free and open to the public.

On Thursday, Oct 3rd, the Inn at Gristmill will host Cork and Canvas, a wine tasting event featuring Virginia wines and winemaker Ben Jordan from 3 to 5pm.

On Friday, Oct 4th from 1 to 3pm, Oakley Farm in Warm Springs will host a cider tasting and label unveiling.  Artists were invited to submit paintings for a label at a local cidery.  The submissions will be on display and visitors can vote for their favorite.  The votes will be considered in the final selection for the label.

Also, on Friday from 4 to 6pm, the Lodge at Warm Springs Farm will host Modern Dance En Plein Air and BBQ.  A performance of the piece “Unbroken” by choreographer Cali Mareneck will feature a suite of dances honoring Appalachian culture.

You can have your portrait done on Saturday, Oct 5th in the courtyard of the Inn at Gristmill Square.  Sign up for the personal portrait is through the Warm Springs Gallery.

The Gala celebration of the 7th annual Bath Plein Air Festival is Saturday night from 6 to 8pm with an exhibition and the presentation of the festival awards. Hors d’oeuvres and wine will be served.

The festival wraps up Sunday, Oct 6th with a brunch at the Warm Springs Gallery. Small paintings produced all throughout the week will be on display.  This event is free and open to the public.

Unless otherwise specified, there is a fee for the special events.  You can find more information about all the events at

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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