The Bala Plein Air Group hosted two instructor led Plein Air workshops in 2022. These ran over 2 days.

Sam Paonessa Aug 25-26 (Oil & Acrylics)

Margaret Ferraro June 18-19 (Pastel)


with Sam Paonessa Aug 25-26, 2022 oil & acrylic

Sam Paonessa returned for a second year to instruct artists in a two-day workshop en plein air.  On Day one with Sam’s coaching students tackled trees rocks and far shore on Lake Muskoka from Windsor Park. On Day 2, the workshop moved to Hanna Park. Sam share techniques for perspective, painting the foreground and adding in buildings in the distance on a changing sky in Port Carling.

“Sam is fast on his feet with a brush or palette knife but so helpful at meeting everyone exactly where they are in their art journey.  In my first summer with Bala Plein Air, I learned so much in Sam’s workshop.” – Heather Dunlop, Honorable Mention Award Winner, The Bala Cranberry Festival Art Exhibition


A professional artist who has enjoyed a creative career spanning over 35 years leading workshops all over the world. Sam graduated from the Ontario College of Art in Toronto and was awarded the Canadian Studio Scholarship Award. Widely exhibited and awarded, Sam has gained the attention of both corporate and private fine art collectors across North America and abroad. He worked at Hallmark Cards Canada, first as an illustrator and later as Art Director.  His coin design, Canadian Icons, was selected as a finalist for the Royal Canadian Mint 2017 150th Collection commemorating Canada’s anniversary as a nation. Sam also has category awards for his paintings from a Plein Air magazine competition. His popularity for teaching workshops continues to grow across Ontario.

WORKSHOPS for 2023 will be posted in May 2023


Saturday June 18 – 9:30 AM to 4:00 PM

and Sunday June 19 – 9:30 AM to 1:00 PM

at the Bala Community Centre, 1008 Maple Street

Plein air in Pastel

Where do great paintings come from?  Some masterpieces are happy accidents, but most are the result of a well rehearsed PLAN. Making art “en plein air” (outside in the open air) requires artists to observe with intention, to squint, and to interpret colour and light.  The Bala Plein Air Group is thrilled to have Master Pastellist Margaret Ferraro join us at the start of our plein air season to provide instruction and share her experience in a 1.5-day workshop in the town of Bala, (Muskoka), Ontario.  The medium we will use is pastel.  As a result of our Community Grant from the Township of Muskoka Lakes, we will be providing some of the materials to enhance the workshop (special paper and a small set of pastels) for each student.  The Bala Community Centre will be our base camp.   

Day 1 – With Margaret as our guide, we start our day with a walk around the area we are painting with just sketch pad, pencil and adjustable viewfinder.  The focus on taking the time to observe and collect many ideas for painting before anything else. We spend the first couple of hours developing our ideas, making thumbnails and understanding the function and importance of thumbnails.  Once we have several thumbnails, students will choose one to do in pastel. Margaret will take the students through planning the painting, how to start with a simple plan, how to build your painting consistently, take it though the middles phases to the end of a plein air painting and demonstrate each step of the way, before students do their own work.  Everyone will be encouraged to go at their own pace, with Margaret helping everyone along.  On Day 2, we will review our thumbnails or make more, before executing another painting in the morning Students will have much more experience with thumbnails, and create at least two paintings by the end of this workshop. 

INSTRUCTOR: Margaret Ferraro, MPAC-EM

Margaret’s art stands apart from others based on her use of pure, intense colour earning the description of “Tom Thompson on uppers.”  She has been an art instructor for twenty-five years, and has taught at the McMichael and the Haliburton School of Art.  Margaret’s has taken many students on plein air painting trips in France, Costa Rica, Italy, Spain and Algonquin.  She has her own studio “The Icehouse” in Shanty Bay, near Barrie.     

Her work has been shown in many National and International Art Exhibitions, including the Pastel Society of America and the Pastel Artists of Canada in NYC, Toronto, Vancouver and Etobicoke to name a few. In 2019, she was one of four pastel artists named to Master Pastellist-EM, the highest level of achievement in the medium, by the Pastel Artists of Canada. 

Who should attend: It is recommended to have experience in art and previously have attended art workshops.  This workshop is ideal for artists who are beginners or experienced using Pastel. If you are starting your plein air journey this is an excellent entry point. If you are an experienced artist, you will be benefit from Margaret’s approach and theory on composition and colour and take your art to another world.   All are welcome, and no Bala Plein Air Group affiliation is required.