Paint The Beach Beautiful


    7th Annual Paint The Beach Plein Air Art Festival

    Artists from all over the nation converge on Fort Myers Beach this upcoming week to create breathtaking artworks of the beach environs at the 7th annual Paint The Beach Plein Air Art Festival from November 7 to 13. This is the perfect forum for the public to observe the artists in the challenging form of open-air painting as they capture the beauty, texture and light of the beach landscape. The festival culminates in an artwork display and sale at Santini Marina Plaza Friday-Sunday, featuring the artwork created throughout the week.

    There are 25 artists in the Juried event and 35 in the Emerging division, vying for over $6,000 in prizes. Competitors must be in the Juried category if they ever finished in 1st, 2n, or 3rd place in similar events, receive national recognition by a retail gallery, or are active in national exhibits. Registration began July 15 and was full by mid-August.

    Michele Buelow and Marie Crist are 2016 co-chairs. Michele says that “Paint The Beach gets better and better each year, as the word spreads among artists and patrons. We sponsor Paint The Beach to educate and entertain everyone about the cultural aspects of life on Fort Myers Beach; to promote the study, practice, and appreciation of art; and to encourage art instruction for children and junior artists. It is awesome to walk into the Festival Tent at the end of the week and experience all that great artwork.”

    Bud Nocera, president of the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce, concurs: “The Paint The Beach Plein Air Festival is one of the great art events in Southwest Florida. The plein air artists constantly amaze with their beautiful renditions of Fort Myers Beach, wandering all over the island to find interesting and gorgeous places to paint. The Friday reception at Santini Marina Plaza and Fish-Tale Marina is always a lot of fun, a great place to meet friends and see all the outstanding artwork in one place at one time.”

    On Monday, November 7, artists check in at Nervous Nellie’s and are issued canvas stamped paper. They provide organizers an idea of where they intend to set up, “but these are artists,” Michele cautions, “and motivation often changes their minds. Bowditch Point, Lover’s Key, Matanzas Pass, and the shrimp boat fleet are favored locations but so are crazy places like on top of bridges or buildings.”

    A Tough & Resilient Group

    From Tuesday through Thursday, November 8 to 10, artists can paint what they want when they want anywhere at any time from Main Street to Lover’s Key, but Michele states that “it must be on the canvas stamped paper and they must work on location, meaning they cannot take it home to work on later; that is what ‘open air’ means. The entire festival is rain-or-shine, as plein air artists learn to cope with wind, sunshine, bugs and rain – they are a tough and resilient group! A watercolor artist a few years ago had her entire painting wash off in a rainstorm! Last year was extraordinarily hot so most artists painted first thing in the morning, in the evening or at night. They expect the public to watch and ask questions, but be sensitive to the fact that they are working.”Paint the Beach, Fort Myers Beach

    The middle of the week features the Sundowner event on the beach in front of Junkanoos on Wednesday, November 9, at 3040 Estero Boulevard from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. “This is the first time we host this forum during Paint The Beach,” explains Michele, “because it is most likely the only time all week all 60 artists will be at the same place at the same time to take advantage of our glorious sunsets. The rest of the time they scatter all over the island.”

    Events from Friday through Sunday, November 11 to 13, are mainly at the Festival Tent at Santini Marina Plaza at 7205 Estero Boulevard, where each artist hangs two framed pieces for judging. On display with the professionals is the art from the Beach Elementary School 4th & 5th grade students who unofficially kicked off the Festival with their own plein air session on Friday, October 21, with the assistance of art teacher Holly Nichols and Art Association volunteers.

    Preview Reception & Quick Draw

    Friday evening is The Collector’s Preview Reception featuring music, refreshments and cash bar from 5 to 8 p.m., with $10 tickets available at the door or in advance at

    Paint The Beach Plein Air, art festival, fort myers beachSaturday’s highlight is the Quick Draw at Times Square from 9 to 11 a.m. The audience marvels as artists paint timed works, with Artist and Student Divisions. “Roughly 30 of the adult artists take part, with an additional 30 high school students who have their own competition, and art teachers love it,” says Michele. “The students really are in awe of the professionals, and there is a critique after.” Awards are at 12:30 p.m., with paintings on display until 2 p.m. before the pieces relocate to the Festival Tent. Free viewing at Santini Marina Plaza on Saturday is from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., where guests enjoy steel drum music during the afternoon as they view the displayed works.

    Sunday, November 13, concludes the week, with art for sale at the Festival Tent from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. “Visitors can purchase the magnificent works at wonderfully reasonable prices, generally from $100 to $900,” Michele relates. The Fort Myers Beach Art Association raffles off donated paintings to benefit the organization at 2 p.m.; this raised roughly $6,000 in 2015. Raffle tickets can be purchased at the Fort Myers Beach Art Association Gallery at 3030 Shell Mound Boulevard, off Donora Boulevard or in the festival tent.

    To volunteer, donate a painting to the raffle, or purchase Friday night reception tickets, call 239-463-3909 or email Festival organizers thank their partners: the Greater Fort Myers Beach Friends of the Arts, Fish-Tale Marina, Santini Marina Plaza, the Town of Fort Myers Beach, and Fort Myers Beach Art Association.

    Michele sums up the Festival succinctly: “Beautiful artwork; accomplished artists!”


    Gary Mooney