Becky Simonds

Ocean Pines resident Becky Simonds shows off her galleon arrival painting at the inlet during Ocean City’s annual plein air event last year.

(Aug. 10, 2018) Anyone who will be strolling along the Boardwalk or venturing into the area’s scenic spots this weekend may see painters huddling in front of easels, replicating what they see around them. These artists are participating in the 13th annual Paint Ocean City Plein Air event.

The activities kicked off with a welcome party on Wednesday at the Ocean City Center for the Arts on 94th Street. Artists began painting on Thursday and will continue to do so until Saturday afternoon.

“En plein air” is a French expression that means “in the open air,” and is used to describe the art of painting outdoors.

“It started as a one-day event we’d have in Ocean City and now it’s a five-day full-blown event where 50 artists from all over the country and local [area] come out and paint on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and half a day on Saturday,” Rina Thaler, executive director of the Ocean City Center for the Arts, said last week. “People travel great distances to participate in these competitions.”

Baltimore Magazine listed “Artists Paint OC” in its “50 Reasons Why We Love Our Beach.”

Artists will finish at 2 p.m. on Saturday and return to the Ocean City Center for the Arts with their completed works. All entries that will hang on display in the Galleria through the month of August will be juried at 3 p.m. and these works will be eligible for the competition prizes. Judging will take place from 4:30-5:30 p.m.

First place will receive $1,000. Second place will earn $500, and third place wins $250. Three honorable mention ribbons will be presented. Ribbons will also be awarded in five categories: best use of light, best maritime, best nocturnal, artist’s choice, and best hospitality.

“The hospitality [division] is sponsored by the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association,” Thaler said. “Artists have to paint a business in Ocean City – a store or a restaurant, some sort of iconic Ocean City business.”

The artwork will be available for purchase during the Wet Paint Sale from 6-8 p.m. on Saturday. Artwork not purchased will be hung in the Galleria throughout August.

The Quick Draw Contest will take place on Sunday on the Boardwalk on South Division Street. Registration is available up until 8:30 a.m. that morning. There is a $15 fee to register for the contest. The contest is open to everyone, including those not participating in the plein air event. 

Artists participating in the Quick Draw will have two hours to paint from 9-11 a.m. The artwork will be judged at 11:30 a.m. by artist Kirk McBride. It will be available for sale until 1 p.m. on the Boardwalk then until 4 p.m. at the Ocean City Center for the Arts.

“This year, we’re emphasizing the Wet Paint Sale, Saturday, Aug. 11, 6-8 p.m. and turning it into a big party,” Katie Brown, gallery manager for Ocean City Center for the Arts, said. “There will be a tent in front of the Arts Center with live music starting at 5 p.m. plus a bar with craft beer, really building up the anticipation for the unveiling of the artwork.”

David Simpson will be participating in his seventh plein air event and said that it is a really well organized competition.

“The Art League does a good job of just orchestrating the whole event from registration, marketing, just promoting, and the exhibit, and then a quick paint on Sunday down at the Boardwalk,” Simpson said. “It’s just a really well-rounded event. I’m also a local, and oil painting is my specialty. Oil painting and water color are pretty much the two premier mediums for plein air.”

Painting outdoors presents a variety of challenges, but he enjoys battling the environment and the conditions constantly changing.

“I’ve been trying to formulate a plan because this year is the first year I will actually be working during the event,” said Simpson.

Simpson is teaching summer school for art in Somerset County and the Ocean City Center for the Arts. He said he will probably do a beach painting somewhere close to his house in West Ocean City.

“The quality of painting across the board is going to be very professional because this is a well-intended event amongst artists who professionally paint,” Simpson said.

Not only are area residents participating in the event, but artists from other parts of Maryland are as well.

This will be Annapolis oil painter Andree Tullier’s second time participating in the plein air event.

Tullier said that she is more comfortable this year because she had only visited Ocean City as a child before returning to town in 2017.

“This year I feel more comfortable because I have a couple ideas where I’m trying to get to paint and I know my way around a little bit more,” Tullier said.

She got different ideas from people and went down to Ocean City to scout some locations this year. Friends who knew the area gave her suggestions of where to paint.

“I’m looking to paint early in the morning, hopefully down at the very start of Ocean City on First Street,” she said. “I want to paint some architecture. I kind of like the older part of Ocean City, that’s what I did last year.”

What Tullier likes most about the event is that she gets to explore an area that she isn’t familiar. She also looks for something that appeals to her to use as a subject for her artwork.

“That’s really nice because every plein air event is different, so you have variety in your life’s painting,” Tullier said.

Baltimore resident Crystal Moll is participating in the plein air event for the third time.

“It’s good to be going back. It’s a really pleasant event, and it’s more of fun event,” Moll said. “Coming back I have a little more familiarity with the location.”

In Moll’s opinion, plein air events range from kind of causal to extreme competitions. The Ocean City event is a nice, casual few days of painting at the beach, she said.

“I’m not in Ocean City very often, so I don’t have locations scouted, but I’ll just get there and drive around until I find something that will work for me,” said Moll.

Greensboro, North Carolina, watercolor artist Kurt Plinke is participating in the plein air event for the second time.

“I really like being at the beach. I like all the subject matter,” Plinke said. “The competition is really fun.”

The friendships he has made and the way that the competition is organized is why Plinke has come back for the second time.

“I go all over the place to draw,” Plinke said. “I don’t have a specific spot, but I like painting at the beach.”

Those interested in watching artists paint outside on location, visit the events Facebook page at

For more information, visit, call 410-524.9433, or email

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.