The Sundowner


Paint The Beach Paints At The Beach!

Although in its 7th year, the Paint The Beach Plein Air Art Festival perhaps never lived up to its moniker better than during The Sundowner inaugural event on Wednesday, November 9, in front of Junkanoo On the Beach. Almost 60 artists from throughout the nation and world crammed practically every nook & cranny of the Junkanoo beach to capture the glorious sunset and magnificent beach and seascape.

The Sundowner|, Paint the Beach Paints Fort Myers BeachHelma Gansen, a volunteer for the Fort Myers Beach Art Association, says that “I took part in the Festival last year, but it was intimidating because of the talent of all the artists – I am more comfortable volunteering than participating! It is incredible to witness this quality of work, especially outdoors.” The horn sounded at 4:30 to begin the event, and another concluded it at 6:30 p.m. “Artists have two hours to complete their painting,” Helma relates. “We initial the blank canvases to ensure authenticity, and anything incomplete at the end must remain that way.”

“This is the first time we are hosting The Sundowner during Paint The Beach,” explains Michele Buelow, Festival co-chair with Marie Crist, and a participant. “It is the only time almost all the artists are at the same place at the same time; the rest of the week they scatter all over the island.” The evening was perfect “Three Bears Weather” – not too hot or cold or sunny or cloudy but just right! “Nothing like the horribly hot conditions from last year,” recalls Helma. “I worked with oils at the Red Coconut and the heat was so bad the paint ran off my canvas!”

Competitors are from at least 10 states as well as foreign nations like Austria, Canada, Columbia, and Sweden. Sharon Yarbrough, from Port Charlotte and in her third Paint the Beach Festival, said, “I enjoy the camaraderie. I belong to a plein air group in Charlotte County where 200 members gather every Monday. We are an active community, a great environment for retirees, there is not a lot of heavy lifting, and we go from one festival to another – it’s crazy fun!”

Christa Friedl came all the way from Vienna, Austria, for her third Paint the Beach. “We come together to talk and enjoy each other’s company, while painting and doing what we love,” she explains. “It is really quite different here on Fort Myers Beach than in Europe because the colors are so much brighter, and that is a real challenge.”

Apparently Christa met that challenge because she won the Sundowner top prize for her sunset painting, with Sheila Weissner placing 2nd and John Sanchez 3rd.

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. There are 25 artists in the Juried event and 35 in the Emerging division, vying for over $6,000 in prizes. Friday evening is The Collector’s Preview Reception featuring music, refreshments, and cash bar from 5 to 8 p.m., with $10-per-person tickets available at the door.

Saturday’s highlight is the Quick Draw at Times Square from 9 to 11 a.m., with awards at 12:30 p.m. and paintings on display until 2 p.m. before the pieces relocate to the Festival Tent through 6 p.m. Sunday, November 13, concludes the week, with art for sale from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Michele sums up the Paint the Beach Plein Air Art Festival succinctly: “Beautiful artwork; accomplished artists!”


Gary Mooney