Plein Air and Why We Love It!

Painting Outdoors Creates Community

February 23-24
Brooker Creek Preserve
Tarpon Springs
Details here

We artists need each other. It’s a simple fact. While many artists may appear to be singular successes with no apparent peers, it’s an illusion.

We thrive with a sense of community and common purpose.

photo by Shawn Dell Joyce

Think back to the Impressionists who came into their own success as a group after the Salon Des Refuses. Alone, they would not have made an impact, nor had the courage to buck the establishment and open their own exhibition.

Also, the Hudson River School, a group of painters who made an impact not only with their paintings but with their activism, preserving the land and becoming America’s first environmentalists. There are countless examples.

Plein Air painting engenders community. If you paint outside, you attract attention from passers-by and like-minded artists. Plein air events have become more and more popular, especially in our area of Pinellas County where the weather usually permits outdoor painting year-round.

Plein air painting is very popular in Pinellas and it’s fairly common to stumble upon a group of painters just about any given day. The beaches, gardens, historic sites and parks team with wildlife – and painters trying to capture them on canvas.

by Shawn Dell Joyce

There are many beautiful places to paint here, but one of my favorites, and a favorite of many other plein air artists is Brooker Creek Preserve. What makes it special is the magical combination of free parking, clean bathrooms – and Old Florida landscape and wildlife.

Pinellas County is one of the most densely populated counties in Florida, and this is 8,700 acres of undeveloped wilderness. Brooker Creek Preserve is in Tarpon Springs, in North Pinellas, and boasts wetlands areas, grasslands areas and forested paths, all of which are easily accessible and populated with creatures who don’t mind posing for a quick painting.

The Friends of Brooker Creek Preserve, which is a fundraising arm of the County preserve, noticed the popularity of the preserve with plein air painters. This began a long and mutually-beneficial relationship.

Frank Pascoe painting at last year’s Brooker Creek Plein Air

Every year, Brooker Creek hosts a plein air paint-out where artists sign up in advance and have set amount of time to produce paintings that are judged in a contest, and winners are awarded prizes.

This event is coming up again on February 23 and 24, and it’s worth visiting the preserve to see the artists in action and the exhibit of works they create, even if you have no real interest in painting. If you do enjoy painting, it’s a great way to meet other artists with the same interest and possibly join the fun next year.

These paintings will be on exhibit at the Brooker Creek Preserve Education Center, and for sale, March 2-17.

Brooker Creek Plein Air curator Lynn Whitelaw with 2023’s plein air artists and their work

If you are further South, you can stop in at Morean Arts Center in downtown St. Pete and see the Morean Iconic exhibition. Plein air artists were juried into this competition and assigned spots to paint in downtown St. Pete that have iconic views. They will be painting on Saturday, February 24 from 10 am-2 pm and you are welcome to walk around and peek over shoulders to see works in progress.

The finished works will be on display at the Morean Center for Clay and auctioned off after 6 pm on February 24 as a fundraiser for the Morean Arts Center.

If plein air sounds fun to you but you’re not sure where to start, you can join us for a day. I paint every Wednesday morning at a different site in lovely Pinellas with a great group of 30 artists, some of which have never had a formal art class. You can email me for details. It’s fun, and free to try it once – and if you like it, you may have a new passion.

Plein air painting builds community. I’ve become close friends with many of the people I paint with – we trust each other, we’ve had fun adventures together, and we support each other. When you allow yourself to be vulnerable in front of other people, and they support you through it, it builds trust.

In an environment of trust, we feel safer and can be brave and attempt things a little above our skill level because we know that even if we fail, our peers will be there to help us.

A plein air painting of Shawn Dell Joyce’s Plein Air Adventure Class!

Our Plein Air Adventure class has its own Facebook group where members post their paintings, and painting dates. You can connect with other artists, even just once in a while.

Clubs are another great way to find your tribe. I’m also a member of the Pastel Society of Tampa Bay, and joined so that I could meet other pastelists when I moved to Florida.

I was grateful to be surrounded by like-minded artists, who were fun, and did fun pastel games at our meetings. Our pastel society is just one of many across the nation, and there are even more pastel societies around the world.


Brooker Creek Plein Air 2024

outdoor painting event
February 23-24 from 8 am-4 pm
Brooker Creek Preserve
3940 Keystone Road
Tarpon Springs FL 34688
Downloadable registration form here

Plein Air 2024 exhibition
March 2 through 17
Brooker Creek Preserve Education Center
Thursdays-Saturdays 9 am to 4 pm
Sundays 11 am-4 pm

Details here

The Preserve is open daily
from 7 am until an hour before sunset,
with free admission


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