One of the signature artistic events of the Nation’s Oldest City is happening this month: the fifth annual St. Augustine Plein Air Paint Out, hosted by the St. Augustine Art Association.
From April 22 to 25 artists will set up their easels throughout the area, painting pictures of historic locations, like the Lightner Museum, the Castillo de San Marcos, Aviles Street and the Ximenez-Fatio House. Others will go to the beaches or the marshes of Anastasia Island to create their works.
This year, the Paint Out takes on special significance as painters will capture locations found in the Lightner exhibit, “St. Augustine in a New Light: American Impressionism from the Collection of the Lightner Museum.” That exhibit opened April 8.
The event celebrates a style of painting known as “en plein air,” which translated means “outdoors.” It is an approach to painting outside that is fundamental to French Impressionism, beginning around 1860.
It is also a style that Henry Flagler patronized when he brought artists to St. Augustine from around the country to paint the historic town. The Art Association, founded in 1924, marketed this approach, declaring it “like painting in Europe”; the campaign helped the organization survive the Great Depression.
Plein air artists strive to capture what they see at a particular moment, as lighting, shadows and colors constantly change from sunrise to sunset. Claude Monet is one of the most notable plein air painters and was a forerunner of French Impressionism.
Last year, difficulties posed by COVID-19 altered the Paint Out event. It was called Plein Air on the Porch. This year, however, the artists will be back in town as they were in 2019, when 70 artists participated.
One focal point of the event is the Quick Draw competition. At 11 a.m. Saturday, April 24, artists will gather in the Lightner Museum courtyard and gardens. They will have two hours to complete a painting. A judge will decide the winners.
The Paint Out is a favorite among passersby, who often stop to watch the artists at work and speak with them about their art.
“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 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.”
Artwork completed during the Paint Out will be the subject of a Plein Air Pop Up exhibit during May’s First Friday Art Walk.
For complete details, schedule and artist registration, go to staaa.org/pleinair or call 904-824-2310.
The Art Association, 22 Marine St., is open free to the public. Hours currently are 1-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday.