While the winter season certainly doesn’t lack natural beauty, it’s a time when our artistic pursuits are limited to the indoors — save for an artfully crafted snowman or two.

But bring on summer, and the plein air painters take to the sand and riverbanks; the artisans hoist up their tents; and opportunities abound to create alfresco. Here’s my short guide to getting artsy outside: If gardening tops your early summer agenda, why not add a unique touch to your plantings? Last summer, one of my favorite outdoor crafts was spray-painting stenciled designs onto homemade wooden planters. Contact paper, spray paint, and an X-acto knife was all it took to make the blue and white clouds on our boxes.

Take advantage of our region’s many sunny days by making sun prints. On Friday June 18, Reno’s Nevada Museum of Art is hosting a sun printing class on its rooftop in celebration of the summer solstice and the museum’s ‘Moving Light’ exhibit.


While you’re in Reno, don’t miss Artown, a month-long celebration of the arts. Besides the many concerts and theatrical productions, the event features loads of outdoor art projects, like mural painting for kids (July 1 at the Aces ball field), plein air oil painting (July 2–Aug. 20 at VSA Arts of Nevada), and landscape photography (July 3 at Idlewild Park).

Sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots make for great canvases — with permission, of course. Kids can create together at the Patriotic Chalk Drawing Contest during Incline Village’s Red White and Tahoe Blue celebration on July 2.

While art museums and galleries are certainly inspiring, it’s even more fun to view and buy artwork outside. The local art festival circuit starts with the 4th of July Fine Arts & Crafts Festival at the Village at Squaw, July 2–4. Then, head to Kings Beach State Park July 24–25 for the 15th Annual Fine Art & Sculpture on the Shore. Truckee’s Historic Downtown Arts & Crafts Festival is July 31–Aug. 1, and Tahoe City hosts two back-to-back art festival weekends Aug. 13–15 and Aug. 20–22. Labor Day weekend, Sept. 4–5, don’t miss the festivals in downtown Truckee and the Village at Northstar.

If you’ve got the plein air–painting bug, be sure to apply for a spot at North Tahoe Plein Air, a juried competition where artists paint around Truckee and the event’s Village at Northstar location, Sept. 8–12. And then there’s the annual Trails and Vistas art hike. Last year’s adventure at the Tahoe Donner Equestrian Center paired poetry, fine art installation, sculpture, dancing, music, and horses for an entirely unique outdoor art experience. This year’s Sept. 11–12 event at Squaw Valley, themed ‘If Dreams Were Clouds’ is sure to be even more amazing (see David Bunker’s story on page 59).

Perhaps the ultimate in outrageous outdoor art is just a few hours drive up to the Black Rock Desert during Burning Man, Aug. 30–Sept. 6. Though I haven’t been, I’ve seen pictures and have been told tales of the many sculptures, installations, and functional art, all outside (or in tents) and many pieces so large they had to be made on site. And then let’s not get started on the costumes themselves — many border so much on ‘art’ that photographer Geoffrey Nelson landed a solo show at the Nevada Museum of Art in 2007 for his Burning Man portrait series.

So whether you pack up canvas and easel to paint lakeside or simply make a sand castle, create something beautiful for the world to enjoy this summer.

~ How do you enjoy/create art outside? Comment on this column online at moonshineink.com. Keep up with Lis and her coverage of the arts at blanksmith.com.


  • Lis Korb

    Lis Korb is Moonshine Ink’s art columnist. She works as content manager at AdventureSmith Explorations, block prints on the side (her postcards are sold at Riverside Studios), and aspires to become a llama rancher. Visit her blog: blanksmith.com.

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