Payson Art League hosted a three-day Plein Air painting workshop last week, inviting nationally award-winning oil painting artist, Bill Cramer, to lead the workshop.

The Prescott artist is an experienced rock climber which has given him a perspective of the world that few others get to experience.

Living in northern Arizona, he discovered the joys and challenges of painting landscapes outdoors. The opportunity to experience and paint some of the most scenic places in America has contributed to his artistic growth.

“Any landscape worth painting is more than the obvious visual elements. The push of an evening breeze, the feel of sun baked sandstone, the scent of sagebrush or the sound of a raven suddenly overhead are examples of the many unseen elements that inform my work. I’m satisfied when a painting is as rich as the landscape that inspired it. My goals are to keep exploring the Southwest’s wild places, search for new ideas and express what I find exciting about landscapes and about painting,” said Cramer.

Some of his most recent honors include the Grand Canyon Plein Air Festival’s Artist Choice Award for 2020, Oil Painters of America, Oil Painters of America Virtual Salon Show (2020), Landscape Award of Excellence, and Prescott Plein Air Festival (2020), Best of Show Award.

The April 13-15 workshop begun with Cramer doing a presentation on the basics of composing a scene and quieting the background noise that might overcomplicate a painting. This initial meeting was open to all PAL members and the public at Green Valley Park. Many people stopped to watch Cramer paint the twisted Emory oak that grows between the boulders across from the historical museum.

The following days comprised field trips to Water Wheel Crossing, the cliffs of East Verde Estates, and culminated at the Tonto Natural Bridge, where Cramer “whipped out” a composition capturing the curvature of the bridge and the light peaking through the natural travertine monument in a mere 45 minutes, much to the awe of the 11 Payson artists that signed up for the extended workshop.

Robert Hershberger, the former president of PAL arranged for artists Bill Ahrendt and Masoud Yasami to meet the artistic troupe at the lodge for a final critique and juried contest.

Suzy Almblade took home the award for Best Plein Air painting for the week.

Every artist that participated, both established and emerging artists, gained an immense amount of knowledge and inspiration from the event. Bill was the perfect instructor to make us all feel welcomed, and emboldened, to see and paint our gorgeous Rim Country with fresh eyes.

Those interested in more information about the Payson Art League and upcoming events can find more information at

Linkey is president of the Payson Art League.

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