“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything,” Shakespeare loved the month of April and so does the St. Augustine Art Association! This coming spring the Art Association will host the 5th Annual St. Augustine Plein Air Paint Out from April 22nd through the 25th. In coordination with the Lightner Museum, Plein Air artists will be painting locations found in the artwork from their exhibit, St. Augustine in a New Light: American Impressionism from the Collection of the Lightner Museum, which opens April 8.
Painting en plein air is nothing new. Commonly originated by Great Britain’s John Constable, outdoor painting became fundamental to French Impressionism around the year 1860. The birth of the French term en plein air–literally translated as outdoors–is a more elegant phrase than outdoor painting. Henry Flagler initialized the plein air movement in St. Augustine, bringing in artists from around the country to paint the historic town, and the Art Association harnessed the method in a marketing campaign–Like Painting in Europe! – which helped the organization survive during the Great Depression.
As the sun rises in the east and moves towards the west, shadows and colors transform. The plein air artist paints what they see in front of them at a particular moment in time, capturing these changing illuminations. Claude Monet is perhaps one of the most notable plein air painters and a forerunner of French Impressionism. He was notorious for painting the same scene over and over, but at different times of the day or year, to capture intricate differences in lighting and colors.
“In 2019, there were 70 artists who participated in the Paint Out. Even when painting at the same location, they all saw something different. No two paintings are ever alike. Watching an artist apply blocks of color or simple lines to the canvas that gradually blossom into a vibrant street scene or landscape is mesmerizing. Passersby relish the opportunity to stop and watch, and the artists love to interact with them. There is a sense of comradery and support for the arts during this event that we don’t necessarily get to see every day,” said Jennifer Flynt, Administrator of the St. Augustine Art Association. “I’ve been a part of the Plein Air Paint Out since its inception in 2017, and it’s certainly one of the highlights of the year for our artists.”
While COVID-19 altered the 2020 Paint Out to Plein Air on the Porch, this year the artists will be back out on the town. You’ll be able to find them painting at historic locations from the Lightner Museum and Castillo de San Marcos, to Aviles Street and the Ximenez-Fatio House. They will also be painting on the beaches and marshes of Anastasia Island. In addition to watching the artists paint on location, observers can visit the St. Augustine Art Association’s gallery to see (or buy) works-in-progress and finished paintings. Please wear a mask and distance as best as possible when interacting with the artists.
On Saturday, April 24, starting at 11:00am, the artists will spread out around the Lightner Museum gardens and courtyard for a Quick Draw. Artists, in competition with their peers, will have just two hours to complete a painting. Once the two hours are up, a judge will award three artists for their quick skills.
Opening to the public on May’s First Friday Art Walk (5/07 at 5:00pm) will be the Plein Air Pop Up exhibit of the finished artwork done during the Paint Out.
For complete details, event schedule and artist registration, visit www.staaa.org/pleinair