After watching en plein air artists, try it Saturday in downtown

Published 6:55 pm Monday, September 4, 2023

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Anyone driving around Suffolk is likely to notice lots of six-foot-tall red and sky blue signs that read, “Paint Suffolk Virginia.”

These banners serve as invitations to join the fun during Suffolk Plein Air Festival, Sept. 5-9. This year’s festival features 41 professional plein air artists traveling from across the U.S. and as far away as the Netherlands to capture the beauty of the city’s waterways, landscapes, and cityscapes, compete for prizes and sell their artwork.    

The festival is an opportunity for the community to learn more about en plein air – a 19th-century French style of painting outdoors, in the open air.

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Festival organizers encourage residents to watch the 41 artists in action. They can paint within Suffolk’s 430 square miles, but have special permission from 12 specific painting locations that include the Suffolk Executive Airport, Johnson’s Gardens Inc., Lake Prince Woods, Bridgeport, Suffolk Hilton Garden Inn, Sleepy Hole Golf Course, Decoy’s Marina and some private farms. 

It’s free to watch at any of the painting locations, which are listed at

From 6-9:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8, artists and patrons gather at the Suffolk Art Gallery for the much-anticipated Wet Paint Sale and Soiree awards reception. It offers the chance to meet the artists, view all their new artwork and purchase an special piece of Suffolk themed artwork to adorn their home or business. 

Tickets are $100 and include food, an open bar and live music. Unsold artwork will be available for sale at the Suffolk Art Gallery from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9.

Local residents have the opportunity to try their hands painting en plein air from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9, in conjunction with the annual Taste of Suffolk downtown street festival. All abilities are welcome at Paint the Taste. 

Suffolk En Plein Air Festival organizers said in the release that young and old, novice to experienced are welcome to try their hand at plein air painting all around Main Street. 

Paint the Taste is a quick competition with the goal of producing an original piece of artwork in only 120 minutes. After two hours, juror Karen Kinser reviews all the artwork and awards prizes of $300 for first place, $200 for second place, and $100 for third place. 

In addition, Artists can sell their artwork to the crowds at Taste of Suffolk. Registration is $10, and is open to youth ages 10-17 and adults of abilities.

After the close of the festival, residents and visitors to the city can explore the new En Plein Air Art Exhibition, hanging in Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts’ TowneBank Gallery Sept. 8-28. The exhibit is free and open to the public 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays.

Suffolk Plein Air Festival is presented by Suffolk Art League, Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, Downtown Suffolk and Suffolk Tourism, with more than 40 local sponsors. 

For information about the 2023 Suffolk Plein Air Festival, visit