En Plein Air Paint-Off in Fuquay-Varina

Actually, it should be called:

Pain-Air Paint-Off.

I signed up for this event three weeks ago.  En plein air (French pronunciation: ​[ɑ̃ plɛn‿ɛʁ]) is a French expression which means “in the open air,” and is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors.

I have never painted en plein air.

My first attempt, during a painting session at Lassiter Mills Falls in Raleigh, NC was met with laughter.  Kids laughed.  Parents too.  Embarrassing.  I tipped my french hat and yelled in frustration- “Is there no civility?”

Even my wife said the paintings were terrible.

Luckily, watercolor paper is double sided.  For every failure- there is another opportunity to redeem one’s artistic vision and skills.  Flip the paper over and being again.

My next few plein-air attempts were better.


I never understood how different and difficult it is to paint outdoors- with the constant lighting changes, people talking to you, cars, kids laughing, and cougar attacks (kidding).  There isn’t coffee ready 24/7 either.

Though I practiced 4-5 times before the competition in Fuquay-Varina, I was nervous.  I had no idea what to expect.

For the painting event the artists would arrive and draw randomly from a hat, a location in Fuquay-Varina to paint.  You then had 4 hours to sketch and paint before the judging.

I picked the Toy Town store in downtown Varina.

Here is a photograph of the painting in progress.  The weather was beautiful though a strong breeze sent my brushes and easel flying several times (I have since learned from plein-air painter Dan Nelson to use zip ties to keep everything grounded).

FQ2 FQ3 FV_Plein_Aire2

This was the almost finished painting.  I added a figure and highlights at the end.

I was happy with the final painting- especially in light of my plein air painting inexperience.

Dan Nelson’s piece won first prize (not surprising)- another fabulous work by the Wake Forest, NC based artist.  His work, and the work of the 2nd and 3rd place winners will be enlarged and put on canvases to be displayed in downtown Fuquay-Varina for the next year.

Voting began today for the 2nd and 3rd place winners.  Please vote, and I hope you consider my wonderful watercolor (shameless plug).


(919) 645-8345









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