Chandler artist in Prescott Plein Air Art Festival SanTan Sun News

Chandler artist in Prescott Plein Air Art Festival

September 24th, 2020 Editorial Staff
Chandler artist in Prescott Plein Air Art Festival

David M. Brown

Matt Sterbenz of Chandler is among 14 Arizona artists participating in the first Plein Air Art Festival in October in Prescott.

Sponsored by The Highlands Center for Natural History and the city of Prescott, the event features live outdoor painting Oct. 1–3 followed by a reception and sale event Oct. 4 and an online sale Oct 6–17.

“I’ll have three days to paint as much as I can,” said Sterbenz. “I’m hoping to get a good variety of subjects: a sunset or sunrise, Watson Lake, and maybe a historic building or downtown scene.”

“In plein air” artists try to capture the spirit of a landscape or subject by incorporating natural light, color and movement into their art, explained Janet Humphrey, a Prescott resident and one of the event coordinators.

The public can observe and speak with the artists as they work dawn to dusk at seven sites, chosen to celebrate Prescott’s diverse landscape: Granite Dells, Granite Mountain, Highlands Center for Natural History, and four lakes, Goldwater, Lynx, Watson and Willow.

On Oct. 4 from 1–7 p.m., the paintings completed in the previous three days will be displayed during the reception and sale in The Finn, Touchmark at the Ranch, 3150 Touchmark Blvd. Each artist will submit three to five pieces for display.

The ticketed event will incorporate the CDC guidelines with staggered arrival times. The public will view, purchase and judge the works for a People’s Choice Award. A “Best of Show” will also be awarded.

The online sale of the remaining Plein Air artists’ paintings will take place at

“Our goal is to make the Highlands Center Annual Prescott Plein Air Festival a sustainable event for the artists, the public and the community, inspiring reverence for nature through art,” said Humphrey.

She is a board member for the nonprofit center, which was created in 1996 to help people discover the wonders of nature and become responsible caretakers of the land.

Sterbenz isn’t sure where he will be painting in Prescott.

“That’s what I like most about plein air painting. When I set out, I might have a vague idea about what I want to paint, but ultimately nature is the deciding factor,” said Sterbenz, a frequent hiker.

“I enjoy painting Watson Lake, so I will definitely spend some time there, but I also want to explore more of the surrounding areas.”

He grew up in Phoenix and graduated from Arizona State University in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in fine art and has participated in some of the nation’s top plein air invitational events, including the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art and the Sedona Plein Air Festival.

“Most of my childhood, I had a pencil in hand, drawing my surroundings,” he recalled. “After receiving an oil painting set at the age of ten, the pencil was always accompanied by brushes.”

His style is contemporary Impressionist style with oil paints.

“When working on location, I try to finish the painting in one session. In the studio, however, I will work on a painting over the course of several days or weeks,” he said.

“The studio paintings tend to have more texture and layers than plein air paintings do. In the studio I have the advantage of time, and I can utilize techniques that are not normally possible when painting plein air.”

Sterbenz frequently finds himself hiking and painting outdoors – a process which he believes is critical for producing effective studio work.

The former president of Arizona Plein Air Painters, he has participated in some of the nation’s top plein air invitational events, including the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art and the Sedona Plein Air Festival.

His work has appeared in publications including Plein Air Magazine and Southwest Art Magazine.

Tickets for the event are available at

To see the artists’ bios and samples of their work and the various painting sites: or call  928-776-9550 for more information. Learn more about Sterbenz at

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