(Aug. 9, 2019) The 14th annual Artists Paint Ocean City Plein Air event began Wednesday and will continue until Sunday as participants capture the scenery around them on canvas or paper.

“En plein air” is a French expression that means “in the open air,” used to describe the art of painting outdoors. Plein air events take place wherever the scenery is inspirational. Artists congregate to paint or draw it, and watchers gather to see them make art right in front of their eyes.

The five-day event features 55 artists this year from at least seven states.

“We really developed a culture now of plein air artists,” said Rina Thaler, executive director of the Ocean City Center for the Arts on 94th Street. “Some of our artists have been attending all of the competitions. They’ve been following them and these people are so into them that they go into Easton and Brandywine and other plein air events.”

David Lussier, a renowned plein air artist, will be the judge of both the Plein Air and Quick Draw events. One of Lussier’s paintings will be raffled off this Saturday during the Wet Paint Sale.

kern bush

Barbara Kern-Bush of Berlin, Md. won Best Use of Light, sponsored by Royal Plus Electric during the Plein Air Quick Draw last year.

Last year’s plein air produced 223 pieces, which were available during the Wet Paint Sale.

Artists will paint through Saturday morning. The Art League of Ocean City’s Facebook page will list some locations the artists will be painting.

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

Several new and returning artists are participating in the Plein Air this year, including Barbara Kern-Bush, of Ocean Pines, who won first place in the Quick Draw last year. It was her second time participating in the Ocean City Plein Air.

“Everybody down here is so friendly and it’s a wonderful place to live. I’m thrilled to be here,” Kern-Bush said. “You meet so many nice people, all the artists are very approachable and I don’t feel a sense of competition ... instead I feel camaraderie.”

One of the hardest factors of the plein air event for Kern-Bush is finding the right place to paint.

“I was overwhelmed the first year because I was new to the area … I had never been to Ocean City before I moved down here,” Kern-Bush said. “I look for shade, where you won’t be bothering anybody and the most important thing is what you’re looking at ... so it’s all those things. This year, what I’m looking forward to is the ease because I’m more familiar with the area.”

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 be 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, where artists are required to paint a store, restaurant or any well-known resort business.

Last year, Dennis Young, of New Castle, Delaware, received the Best Hospitality award. He is participating for his eighth or ninth time this year.

“I participate in a lot of plein air painting in the tri-state area, especially in Ocean City because it’s such a lively place to paint in,” Young said. “I especially enjoy the interactions with the people and the crowds where people come to watch. Some painters prefer solitude and are hyper focus and steer away from talking to people, but I enjoy talking to people and encourage them to get into artistic endeavors too.

“The people at the Ocean City Center for the Arts, especially Rina Thaler ... they always make me feel welcomed,” he added. “It may be a year since I left but they always treat me like I just left a week ago and they’re happy to have me back. It feels like I’m coming home.”

Young was excited to receive the Best Hospitality award amid the array of talented artists last year.

“I was humbled and very happy about that because there are some really great painters that come to participate in this event,” Young said. “For somebody to pick out one of my paintings as worthy of an award means they had to pass by somebody else who may have been least as good if not better than mine ... so I’m thrilled to win and humbled by it.”


Mick McAndrews of Downington, Pennsylvania, won Best Maritime, sponsored by TowboatUS during the Plein Air Quick Draw last year.

Also returning to the event is Mick McAndrews, of Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Last year was McAndrews’ first Ocean City Plein Air.

“We had a wonderful experience last year,” McAndrews said. “My friend, Al Richards, who is also a participating artist, he and his wife, Karen, have a home in Bethany Beach, Delaware. He was interested in doing it because he was relatively new to plein air painting and he invited me to come down and spend the week with them. I drove from Bethany Beach down to Ocean City each day and had the pleasure of painting a number of locations around the area which was wonderful.”

McAndrews won the Best Maritime award, which excited the watercolor artist.

“I love painting marine scenes … It shows that when you love what you do it’s reflected in the result,” he said. “I’m looking forward to coming back and painting a couple beach scenes and the fishing boats. Most importantly, I’m looking forward to being back and spending a week painting beautiful Ocean City and the surrounding area and reconnecting with artist friends and hopefully being part of a successful plein air event.”

The artwork will be available for purchase during the Wet Paint Sale from 6-8 p.m., this Saturday. Artwork not purchased after the event closes will remain in the Galleria until the end of August.

The Quick Draw Contest will take place this Sunday on the Boardwalk on South Division Street. Registration will be available up until 8:30 a.m. There is a $15 fee to register for the contest.

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 Lussier. 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.

“There’s a chance to collect art that is original, individual to them and get to watch the artists paint it and purchase it,” Thaler said. “Those are the things that live on, because when you go home from Ocean City all you have left is your memories, but if you buy a piece of art work from the plein air event, you’ll have a lasting memory of your time in Ocean City.” 

The winner of the Quick Draw Contest will take home $500.

For more information, visit www.artleagueofoceancity.org, call 410-524.9433, or email info@artleagueofoceancity.org.

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