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What is En Plein Air?


In the mid-1800’s, Impressionist artists began painting on location, or ‘En Plein Air’ – a French term meaning ‘in the open air’.   Prior to the invention of the metal tube in the 1840’s, most landscapes were painted in the artists’ studios as they had no way to store or transport their hand-mixed paints.  Impressionism is one of the best-known art movements of the past two centuries.  It began to flourish as artists around the world left their studios to study the light and atmosphere in nature and paint on site with their now transportable tubes of paint.


Today artists seek to capture that same intriguing light and shadow outdoors, and gather in ‘plein air’ events across the country, turning ordinary scenes into extraordinary works of art.

What makes EnPleinAirTEXAS different from the other events across the country?

Our surprising and interesting 'Plein Air' history:  
In 1921, in tiny Christoval, just south of San Angelo, local artists founded the Texas Artists Camp which grew to be one of the leading plein air gatherings in the Southwest. Find out more under the "TOUR SAN ANGELO" button.

That same inspiration attracting those early painters when they arrived 'way out west', is alive today for the Competition Artists of EnPleinAirTEXAS. 

EnPleinAirTEXAS is a legend among the plein air artist community and in only it's 6th year, one of the top 5 plein air competitions in the country, attracting  award-winning artists from around the world.  How did this happen?  

The prestige and success of EnPleinAirTEXAS comes down to the details. Importantly, the artists are selected, and the competition is judged, by nationally respected jurors and judges in the field of art.  Also important is the fact that the event is run by a nationally awarded and respected museum, The San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts.  Awards given by a museum are more highly regarded among all artists.  Their paintings are exhibited and are for sale during the final weekend in the Quartermaster Building at Fort Concho, a National Historic Landmark built in 1868 and the first home of the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts. 

 In 2019, EnPleinAirTEXAS teamed up with the San Angelo Roping Fiesta to present a one-of-a-kind opportunity for the Competition Artists.  Artists may spend the day at the San Angelo Fairgrounds painting the top 30 roping cowboys in the WORLD, along with youth showing their prize goats and lambs at a Junior Livestock Show.   During the week, Artists are invited to historic private ranches to spend the day and PAINT as well as be welcomed by the ranchers themselves with their West Texas Hospitality.   The community and visitors alike have embraced the artists, housing them in their homes, and helping sales of artwork top over $200,000 the past two years.  From the beginning, volunteers committed to detail and generous community support have allowed us to offer substantial prize money, singular events and painting sites found nowhere else in the world. 

Visitors are wowed as well and entertained with a host of colorful events and special opportunities to meet and interact with the artists.  (see the Events tab for updates soon!) 

  • Stroll the International Water Lily Gardens among the artists painting on site.
  • Watch and learn at free "WATCH & ASK ME While I Paint" sessions with the artists.
  • Be the first to see and purchase one of the week’s paintings (more than 275) at the Art Collectors STAMPEDE*!
  • Come watch the Artists for free or PAINT in the Open "MORNING PAINT-OUT at the ROPING" ($10 registration for artists) held this year at the San Angelo Fairgrounds!
  • Watch as these award-winning artists from across the country try to capture the action of the top cowboy ropers in the world at the 64th Annual San Angelo Roping Fiesta*!
  • Bring the kids to "ART in the AFTERNOON" at the Quartermaster Building at Fort Concho for a FREE painting session in the exhibit building and an 'Art Walk' to view the 68 Competition Paintings.  Kids will vote on their favorite, paint what inspires them.  Painting supplies and a frame are provided as well as free gifts from Chick-Fil-A.  Sponsored by the San Angelo Cultural Affairs Council with special thanks to JFM Frames and Chick-Fil-A.
  • Enjoy a genuine Chuck Wagon Brunch* with the artists and view and purchase the paintings from the week in the free exhibit at Fort Concho. 

*denotes a ticketed event.
EnPleinAirTEXAS aspires to change and enhance the culture of San Angelogiving us a prominent spot in the international plein air movement and showcasing SAN ANGELO as a national arts destination.

The dream of the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts is to connect the area's unexpected plein air history with our West Texas community and with artists from around the world, and to create an ongoing artistic dialogue, increasing the visibility and participation in plein air painting with children, adults, and smaller West Texas communities. 


For information on how you can become a patron of this amazing event with your tax-deductible donation, click here.




Barbara Rallo, Coordinator/Co-Chair  EnPleinAirTEXAS
Treva Boyd, Co-Chair  EnPleinAirTEXAS