Art in the heart of Camas

‘Plein Air’ event draws artists to historic downtown

West Linn, Ore., artist Peter X O'Brien shows his painting of Natalia's Cafe in downtown Camas during the 2021 Plein Air art event on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021.

Artist Claudia Arvidson paints during the the 2021 Plein Air art event in downtown Camas on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021.

Artist Beth Norwood works on an oil painting of a Camas flower basket in downtown Camas during the 2021 Plein Air art event on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021.

The buildings, people, flora and fauna of Camas’ historic downtown provided ample muses for the artists who took part in the 2021 Plein Air Art Event, hosted by the Camas Gallery, on Friday, Sept. 3.

Each year, the event attracts artists from around the Portland-Vancouver metro area, who set up easels and paint outdoors, “en plein air,” on the sidewalks of historic downtown Camas. The event traditionally precedes the Downtown Camas Association’s art-themed September First Friday.

This year’s “Plein Air” art event in Camas drew several newcomers.

West Linn, Oregon artist Peter X O’Brien said this was his first year painting at the Plein Air event.

Having nabbed a prime spot across from Natalia’s Cafe on Northeast Fourth Avenue, O’Brien portrayed diners chatting at an outdoor cafe table, partially shaded by a nearby tree and the red Natalia’s patio umbrellas.

A former NFL placekicker who now participates in juried art shows throughout the Pacific Northwest and teaches art classes out of his Lake Oswego, Oregon, studio, O’Brien arrived to the day of plein-air painting in his mobile studio van with his 90-year-old father in tow, and the two made a day of it in downtown Camas.

“This is my first time here, and I love it. It’s an awesome town,” O’Brien said of Camas.

The art teacher also urged one of his students, Claudia Arvidson, of Portland, to take part in the Plein Air event.

Arvidson placed her easel in a shaded, lowkey spot across from the Juxtaposition home furnishings store, just a few yards west of where O’Brien was painting, and concentrated on perfecting a downtown Camas tree and a visiting squirrel.

Across Northeast Fourth Avenue, near the Camas Hotel, another artist new to the Plein Air event worked on a tiny, intricately detailed painting featuring a Camas flower basket.

Artist Beth Norwood may have been new to the Plein Air event, but she is familiar with downtown Camas, having shown her eco-friendly oil paintings, which are made using 100-percent chemical-free M Graham & Co. oil paints and contain no additives, solvents or turpentine, at the Camas Gallery.

“This is my first time (at the Plein Air event),” Norwood said. “It’s a great day for it.”

To learn more about the Plein Air event, visit To find more of O’Brien’s or Norwood’s artwork, visit and