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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 100 YEAR '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".

100 years later, the same inspiration that attracted those early painters when they arrived 'way out west', is alive today. EnPleinAirTEXAS is a legend among the plein air artist community and 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 an accredited nationally awarded museum, The San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts.  Awards given by a museum are more highly regarded among all artists.  The paintings are exhibited and are for sale during the final weekend in the Stables Building at Fort Concho, a National Historic Landmark built in 1868 and near the site of the original home of the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts. 

From the beginning, volunteers committed to detail and generous community support have allowed us to offer substantial prize money, singular events and access to painting sites found nowhere else in the world. 

Early in the event week, Artists are invited to historic private ranches to stay and PAINT and are welcomed by the ranchers themselves with their West Texas Hospitality.  

Over the years, EnPleinAirTEXAS has teamed up with the San Angelo Roping Fiesta and the Hispanic Heritage Museum’s "Dia de los Muertos" (Day of the Dead) festival along the river downtown.    

The community and visitors alike have embraced the artists, housing them in their homes, and helping sales of artwork to average over $200,000 each of the past years.  Artists donate back a sizable portion of every sale, supporting the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts children's education outreach programs.

Enjoy a host of colorful events and special opportunities to meet and interact with the artists!

  • Find Artists all over town and watch and learn as artists paint on site.
  • Exclusive opportunity* to visit a nearby Ranch while the artists are painting. Be transported around in ranch vehicles and watch the day's artwork being created. Limited tickets available, more information soon.
  • Local school children are treated to in-class visits with the artists.
  • Be the first to see and purchase one of the week’s paintings (more than 300) at the Art Collectors STAMPEDE*!
  • Come watch the Artists for free at the Saturday Morning PAINT-OUT at the Chicken Farm Art Center. You can also paint in the event for a $10 fee! Fun for the kids also with more details to come!
  • Bring the family to the Stables at Fort Concho with FREE entry to the exhibit on Saturday.  Lots of festivities during the day and always some 'pop-up' painting demos with some of the artists.
  • Judge's Talk - a free event at the Stables on Saturday, gives you insight as to her choices of the winning paintings!
                  *denotes a ticketed event.

EnPleinAirTEXAS is introducing young and old to the natural beauty and historical significance of our West Texas area and culture, as well as giving us a prominent spot in the international plein air movement and showcasing SAN ANGELO as a national arts destination.

A focus of EnPleinAirTEXAS and the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts is to connect the area's 100 year plein air history with our West Texas community and with artists from around the world, creating an ongoing artistic dialogue that increases the visibility and participation of plein air painting with children, adults, and rural West Texas communities. 

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

San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts
[email protected]