Ever wonder why several different painters standing near each other and painting the same scene often produce totally different results? Or why some artists prefer to work in watercolor while others generally prefer to paint in oil? Ask the artists themselves — there’ll be a great opportunity to do just that on Friday and Saturday, August 17 and 18, during Valley Arts’ Great Vermont Plein Air Festival. The event will be held rain or shine.

Painters in every medium, from watercolor and oil to acrylics and pastels, and at every level of experience, will be gathering on Friday morning at the festival headquarters in the Bridge Street alley and deciding where in The Valley to paint. They’ll return on Saturday to catch the morning light at a different location, or to work again at the same place — maybe taking a different approach or working with a different palette of colors.

While many of the artists have participated in this annual event before, for some it’s their first time painting outdoors. For the artists, the festival is a time for sharing the energy and fun that the event generates, as well as a venue for showing their work. For visitors, the event is an opportunity to meet and talk with the artists and learn about the process of making paintings.

Haven’t yet decided whether to participate? Maybe feeling a little intimidated? No problem — those who’d like to try their hand but haven’t preregistered can register at the festival tent in the Bridge Street alley on both Friday and Saturday. Just want to watch and talk with the artists? There’ll be maps of painting sites and Valley Arts volunteers and staff with information at the tent, ready to make the experience comfortable and enjoyable.

Some paintings created before the event will be on display in the alley on Friday. On Saturday from 3 to 5:30 p.m., there’ll be a sidewalk show and sale of work created during the festival; it’s also an opportunity to mingle with the participating artists.

Saturday also includes a children’s plein air event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., in which kids can paint alongside adult artists. There’s no fee for the kids to participate, and Valley Arts will provide materials for children who don’t have their own. There’s no registration ahead of time — just bring the kids, sign them up on Saturday at festival headquarters and watch them enjoy themselves.

Tie-Dye, a creative activity for the whole family, also takes place on Saturday. There’s no admission fee, and registration is right at the festival headquarters as well. Bring a soft, light-colored, piece of cotton clothing and go home with wearable art.

Visit http://valleyartsvt.com/art/great-vermont-plein-air-festival for information about times and fees to participate in the adult painting event. And on Friday and Saturday, visit with Valley Arts volunteers and staff at the headquarters in the Bridge Street alley.