Painting Paradise ‘En Plein Air’

Keys Reporter Newspaper – Jan 6, 2017 (

Next Tuesday, 21 artists from the States and Europe will come to the Florida Keys to participate in the third annual Paradise Paint Out plein air event. For eight days, the artists will set up their easels at various locations to paint what they see, and paint it quickly.

This year’s Paint Out will be different from previous ones in a number of ways. The new organizer and beneficiary is the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter (FKCS). Also, the event has been extended to include the lower Keys. The artists will paint in Key West, Big Pine and Marathon for four days, and then continue in Islamorada and Key Largo for four days. Paradise Paint Out volunteer Paula Friedman notes that there are more master-level painters than ever before and a stellar line-up of invitees overall.

Local artists Kathleen Denis of Islamorada and Priscilla Coote of Key West will cross brushes for the third time with new and returning artists. These include such plein air stars as Jason Sacran from Arkansas. He has been trouncing the competition in plein air contests across the nation. Morgan Samuel Price is from Altamonte Springs, FL. She presents her popular workshops as far as Mexico and France. Thomas Jefferson Kitts from Oregon will stay on to teach workshops at Ocean Reef and at the Art Guild of the Purple Isles.

Kathleen Denis sparked the flame of the initial paint-out two years ago. This year, she will concentrate solely on her craft. Asked about her passion for plein air painting, she explains that she does it “to document scenes that someday may no longer exist, [like] charming Keys places that are being replaced by more modern buildings or that may be damaged by hurricanes.”

The French expression ‘en plein air,’ means ‘in the open air.’ Any painting done in oil, water media or pastel qualifies, as long as most of the work is done outside. The artist attempts to replicate the distinctive conditions at the time of painting. As the light changes, the way the scene appears changes and it is this and other challenges that make plein air painting so exciting. Denis talks about other obstacles, such as sudden rains, bugs and strong wind. It’s a hallmark of plein air when dirt or leaves settle on the wet painting and become part of the artwork. “Collectors look for this sort of thing,” says Denis, “it makes the plein air authentic.”

All artwork will be available for purchase at the wet room galleries. ‘Wet’ because any paintings done in oil will take time to dry. The Big Pine Community Park Room at MM 30 will be the official wet room gallery for the first four days. That’s where the opening reception on Monday, Jan 11 will be held, as well as the Artist and Patron reception two nights later.

Our Place in Paradise, a new gallery in Islamorada at MM 88.7, will be hosting the wet room gallery for the Upper Keys. There’s a Patron & Artist Meet and Greet Sunday evening (Jan 15) and the Finale & Florida Bay Preservation Night on Wed (Jan 18). The Finale is the only wet room event not free to the public. Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased at

Additional community events include a Full Moon Nocturnal Painting and the Mayor’s Ball at Casa Marina. On Florida Bay Preservation Day the artists will paint the Bay from various locations. Proceeds from sales at the Finale reception will benefit both the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter and Florida Bay Forever.

Betsy Keteltas, FKCS Executive Council Member, has put together a list of potential locations to help the artists pick their next spot. This will be especially helpful for artists less familiar with the Keys. People can find the location of their favorite artist by checking the event’s Facebook page (@paradisepaintout), which will be updated continually.

Of the twenty-one artists that will participate, six have been invited for the first time and not all are familiar with the Keys. Among them are Haidee-Jo Summers and Greg Barnes. Summers is from Great Britain and has never been to Florida. Barnes is a pastel artist from North Carolina. He has visited and painted the Keys in the past and remembers that time as “being full of subject matter that I just couldn’t get enough of.“

When asked about the artist selection process, Keteltas says “We sought suggestions and feedback from artists and others active in the plein air movement. Those who made the suggestions know the Keys well, our color palette and personality. They provided a lengthy list of artists. We are excited about the returning artists and the artists joining the Paint Out for the first time. We are honored that these 21 accepted our invitation to paint the beautiful Florida Keys.”

For more information go to and


Please follow and like us:

About the author

Hi, I’m Carmen “Mica” Alex and this is my blog about science, traveling, life and anything else that’s interesting or beautiful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.