Plein Air Art Festival Returns


Paint The Town Red!

Southwest Florida just enjoyed its first blast of fresh fall air, reminding us that from now until spring, we live in The Beautiful Weather Capital of The World! That becomes most important from November 6 to 12, when the Fort Myers Beach Art Association hosts the 8th Annual Paint The Beach Plein Air Art Festival.

“The biggest challenge to artists out in the elements is that conditions are completely out of their control,” said Paint The Beach Chair Marie Crist. “Indoors, you have air conditioning and ideal light. Outside, you must identify the most creative subject or place or piece to paint, then do it fast enough so it is the way you see it, and not have the paint dry up too quick on the canvas. Then the sun rotates, so what you see gradually changes over time due to light and shadow, so you must keep your original inspiration in mind to maintain that vision. Another huge issue is bugs, and of course a hard rain can be devastating, so we hope for good weather every year.”

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Jana Withers of Springhill, Florida participated in Paint the Beach 2014.

Marie explained that 67 artists would appear in this year’s show. “There will be 60 in the main division that consists of the Emerging and Juried categories, as well as an additional 7 who will join in for the Quick Draw event on Saturday. What amazed me is we put out the call for artists on July 15, and within 10 days the Juried field was full, along with half of the spots in the Emerging, so that shows we are now on the artistic map and people want to come to Fort Myers Beach to paint. That speaks well for the reputation of the show, as well as for the island, as artists recognize that this is a beautiful place to paint.”

Busy Week of Plein Air Art

Ted Staub captures an idyllic beach day on canvas.

Most artists arrive on Monday, November 6, to check in and enjoy a light reception at Nervous Nellie’s from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. “They receive their Goodie Bags as well as stamped canvases,” Marie relates, “to ensure the work they submit was truly painted here that week. Tuesday through Thursday they paint all day, as much as they want, at scattered locations of their choice all over Fort Myers Beach.”

The only time all 60 artists are together at one time is for “The Sundowner” competition on Wednesday, November 8, at Junkanoos On the Beach from 4 to 6 p.m., with the Fort Myers Beach Art Association hosting a reception immediately after, at its gallery at 3030 Shell Mound Boulevard. “We did ‘The Sundowner’ last year for the first time, and it may have been the highlight of the week, so we are doing it again,” Marie explained. “The artists are on the beach to paint the sunset or anything else that catches their eye or imagination, so we encourage the public to come out and meet the artists at work. You can even ask questions, but please be sensitive that they are painting in a timed competition. We announce ‘The Sundowner’ winner at that evening’s reception.”

Friday morning, November 10, artists bring the works they wish to have judged that afternoon to the main event tent at Santini Marina Plaza at 7205 Estero Boulevard. “We announce winners that evening at the main reception sponsored by The Friends of The Arts from 5 to 8 p.m.,” said Marie. “Tickets are $10 per person, and are available online or at the door.”

Artists from near and far gather to Paint the Beach. Here Barbara Boocher of Bonita Springs begins her painting. Photos by Sandy Sandness.

Saturday, November 11, features professional and student artists in the Quick Draw competition at Times Square, beginning at 9 a.m. “We have at least 31 artists and roughly 20 to 25 students who will do quick paintings, with judging done right there, with awards at Noon,” Marie explained. “The artwork remains on display there until roughly 2 p.m., when those works move to the Santini tent through 6 p.m.”

The Art Show in the Festival tent at Santini Plaza continues Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, November 12 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., where patrons can view and purchase the artwork created during the event.

Support the Arts

Marie encourages everyone to purchase raffle tickets to win three donated paintings by Art Association members, with tickets available online, at the gallery, or in the tent. “These are truly beautiful pieces of work, so please purchase raffle tickets, as all proceeds benefit our educational mission for young artists.”

The Art Festival is still in need of donations and volunteers. “We always accept funding,” Marie enthused! “The Merit Award still requires a sponsor for $250, if anyone wants to put their name on that! Any money we can save is one more dollar for our educational mission. We always need volunteers, whether to set up tables or sell tickets or help with the receptions or to distribute information.” To donate funds, volunteer your time, or for additional information, call 239-463-3909 or see

Paint The Beach offers at least $7,000 in award monies. “This is only possible because of our wonderful sponsors and partners,” Marie said, offering special thanks to the Greater Fort Myers Beach Friends of the Arts, Fish-Tale Marina, Junkanoos On the Beach, Matanzas on The Bay, Nervous Nellies, Oyster Bay Park, Plein Air Ad, Red Coconut RV Park, Santini Marina Plaza, Skye’s Mexican Restaurant, Smokin’ Oyster Brewery, South Beach Grille, The Fish House Restaurant, Watercolor Magazine, Wyndham Garden Hotel, and Fort Myers Beach Art Association, along with many local and national sponsors at the in-kind level.

The main judge for the week’s activities is Vladislav Yeliseyev, who was born in Russia and earned his Master’s Degree at the Moscow Institute of Architecture. His unique ability to reflect transparency of natural light in his paintings and to accentuate the artistic qualities of depicted objects quickly earned him a strong reputation. He is the founder of the Renaissance School of Art in Sarasota, and is an award-winning national and international plein air artist.

In Our Own Backyard

As for how Marie became involved as the Chair, she lets out a hearty laugh, before explaining: “Our longtime chair, Michele Buelow, announced last year she was retiring, as she did a wonderful job for the first 7 years. No one else stepped forward, putting the event at risk, so I said I will give it a try and here I am! In my past careers, I did a lot of meeting planning, so that helped me to step up as Chair. So far, I have yet to compete in ‘Paint The Beach,’ and probably won’t as long as I am the Chair. Truth is, I am still a beginner painter who is trying to learn the craft and let go of my old ways, to become more creative and expressive, so I have a lot yet to learn.”

“The best part of ‘Paint The Beach,’ Marie said, “is the excitement and energy participants bring for the arts, along with the fun it is to watch each artist create something that is a very unique and literally didn’t exist until a few moments ago, right before your eyes. It is a treat to watch all that amazing talent and creativity right here in our own backyard!”


Gary Mooney