OPS was formed to create opportunities and incentives for artists of like mind to come together and paint ...........En Plein Air
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In The Beginning - OPS History

March 11, 2014 7:25 PM | Tina Bohlman (Administrator)


Back in 1996 Bruce Peil and Dave Bates were sitting in Bruce’s living room lamenting the fact that even though most of the artists they knew were often heard saying - “We should get together and paint outdoors sometime” - it hardly ever happened. So the two of them came up with the idea to start a group dedicated to outdoor painting….and the “Society of Outdoor Painters” was formed.  A short time later the group changed the name to OPS (Outdoor Painters Society) but originally it was the “SOP”.

Dave & Bruce got together with a mutual friend, Marian Hirsch, and worked out what was needed to do to get the ball rolling and the group had their first outing October 5, 1996 at the home of Jerry and Suzanne Owens on Lake Texhoma. Originally, OPS had nine charter members at that first outing: Bruce Peil, Dave Bates, Jerry and Suzanne Owens, Marian Hirsch, Jim Rozek, Chuck Rawle, Ken Barry and Barbara Park.

The group continued to paint together with just a handful of members for a while, until their paint out at White Rock Lake in Dallas. This paint out is where they were “discovered” by a reporter for the Dallas Morning News who thought the group might make a good story. The paper covered their next outing and the article appeared the following weekend.  “After that the membership took off and started growing faster than we could keep up”, Dave said. Bruce agreed; he said, “We put a cap of 100 on the size and established a waiting list. After a while we removed the cap and the membership took off again”.

According to Dave & Bruce, the original purpose was to simply provide incentive and opportunity to artists who wanted to paint together en plein air and they adhered to that philosophy for several years. But, after opening up the membership and as it grew, a number of members indicated they’d like the group to become more professional, so the idea was put before the membership. “We received a significant feedback of negative opinion” said Dave. “About half (according to a formal survey) wanted to keep it casual, so we backed off those plans.” Bruce added, “we actually had some members drop out when they saw we wanted the group to become a more professional organization.” But the idea didn’t go away. “In spite ourselves”, Bruce reflected, “OPS began to gain a national reputation so we re-organized, establishing officer positions, a board of directors and signature/associate memberships”. “And, as the saying goes, the rest is history”, Bruce said with a grin.

Dave’s primary contributions during those early years were keeping the membership rolls on a computer, establishing a newsletter (paper at first, then electronic) and a website (with help from Fran Ellisor).  Bruce was the treasurer.  He collected the dues and kept a log of who had paid and when, as well as new members who joined during the year. Then he sent a copy of the paid members to Dave to be entered into the computer. Both Bruce & Dave planned the monthly outings.

A few years ago Dave & Bruce decided to take a rest and let the “new blood” contribute new ideas. “Good decision”, Dave said. “We both were becoming too busy with other responsibilities. The officers who have been running the OPS since then have been moving the ball forward in new and exciting ways. I have to say that the opportunity to help get this group started has been a wonderful experience. I have had some really great times with the group and made some wonderful friends through it. So it has been all good for me and Bruce as well.”

All good things take time” – is a saying that everyone has heard and there is no doubt that Dave & Bruce “getting together” to paint on location was a “good thing”. OPS is now a nationally known plein air artists organization with a membership of over 300 members.


First OPS outing - Co-founders seated L to R: Bruce Peil & Dave Bates


......And it all started with two good friends with a passion for painting en plein air. Thanks, Dave & Bruce – your “idea” was a good one!

Outdoor Painters Society™ 

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