Small me1Moody overcast skies and shadow-less days of winter, spring and fall are a real challenge for a plein air painter, but for Elizabeth Gaye MacDonald they are the challenge she seeks. In Michigan and South Western Ontario there are many dull and dreary days. She believes there is no bad weather, only bad clothing. She’s painted on some record breaking cold days on the North shore of lake Erie, when the temperature was -14.5 °C (5.9 °F). On days like that she deserves the title “Extreme Plein Air Painter”.

Born in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, she grew up in Southeast Detroit. Her father (and muse) was a lifelong scout leader, avid outdoors man, drafts-man, and artist. From her earliest memories summers were filled with camping on a lake in north eastern Ontario. This secluded woodland lake brought out her love of nature and the outdoors. Her love of art was nurtured by her father’s many art projects which included drawing, painting, sculpture, and leather-work.

In the 60’s, they moved to a farm in Canada. Living in a small rural town has it’s benefits, and drawbacks. There were no art classes in high school. She found an outlet for her art by joining the Drama Club, where she worked on making props for the school plays. She carved an eight foot wooden fire place mantle in her senior year.

Returning to University later in life, Elizabeth graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Honours degree in 2000. Afterwards, she volunteered and worked part time at the Windsor Printmaker’s Forum a non profit artist run organization. There she curated exhibitions, taught printmaking, life drawing, and held several positions on their Board. In 2009, she founded the Windsor & Essex County Plein Air Artists group. Elizabeth currently organizes plein air events in Canada and participates in events internationally. Her work is in private and corporate collections in the U.S. and Canada. She has won awards for her plein air paintings and photography.

Her dream is to travel the county living and painting on the road. In 2018 Elizabeth traveled across the South west USA in her mini van, visiting and painting with many artists. This journey lead her to purchase a small teardrop trailer. She has already used it to travel and participate in 3 plein air events. She is looking forward to more painting adventures in Canada and the United States.

May 2019


Elizabeth Gaye MacDonald is a gifted artist and a leader in the creative arts community. Her plein air sessions have inspired so many to enjoy painting outdoors and her exquisite works are admired by her peers. She is a talented artist and a credit to the association of representational artists.

Susan Duxter
Artist at SuDu Art
August 4, 2011, Susan worked with Elizabeth Gaye in different groups

Elizabeth Gaye is an inspiration to many… myself included. She inspires as an artist, colleague and mentor. She is incredibly talented and a leader in the Windsor Art community in the true sense of the word. She works and shares art and artistic opportunities selflessly. It is a pleasure to know and work with her as I learn and work in Plein Air.

Nancy A. Bauer
Artist, Illustrator & Instructor at An Artist in Search of Excellence
November 30, 2013, Elizabeth Gaye worked with Nancy A. in the same group

A few years back, I came across the Plein Air Group headed by Gaye MacDonald.  Due to health issues, I only attended a few outings.  During those outings and phone dealings with her, I quickly realized that Gaye took time to welcome the new painters, made time for any questions you had and shared her wealth of techniques.  She made everyone feel that they were on equal basis insofar as the art world.    Gaye also demonstrated her true colours in that she was consistently at every location during the cold and/or warm months.  The only thing that kept her away was a storm of some kind.  She also seemed to have a good relationship with all the attendees.  She is an invaluable coach.

Just a month or so ago, I remembered what a great guide/coach Gaye was I called to her ask if she knew of anyone that could come to my home and start me off with an acrylic painting.  Also I asked her if someone could advise me  what was needed for a home style studio.  She was quick to respond by saying that she would love to do it.  Needless to say I was thrilled.   Gaye asked me to send her the picture of what I wished to paint.  When she received it, she started with the initial steps of creating a grid system.  I found her to be very responsive, methodical, practical, organized, calm and has a very pleasant demeanor.  Before the session was over, she ensured that she gave me some homework.  She is very disciplined and, I think, that’s one attribute all artists should have.  She also made recommendations such as, the need for a new easel, where I could get certain products, etc.  She is a wealth of knowledge and she actually enjoys sharing it with others.  I would highly recommend her as an art instructor.  It is obvious from her art projects that she is an outstanding artist.

Louise Scaini-Jojic
February 12, 2017