The Coastal Star

Along the Coast: Artists enjoy rendering historic and natural objects in plein sight

Plein air artist Ralph Papa sets up his easel to continue working on a painting on a recent Friday in Delray Beach. Plein Air Palm Beach is partnering with the Delray Beach Historical Society to capture the city’s notable homes and buildings, with an exhibition of the works planned for November. Photos by Madeline Gray/The Coastal Star


By Lucy Lazarony

The Plein Air Palm Beach artists are a busy group.

They’re painting historic cottages and homes around downtown Delray Beach for a fundraising event for the Delray Beach Historical Society.

They’re painting the coast, the Intracoastal and the municipal complex in Highland Beach for an exhibition opening at the Highland Beach Library in early November. 

They’re having paint-outs in the Old Floresta neighborhood behind the Art School of the Boca Raton Museum of Art through the end of the year.

And their plein air paintings of the lush landscapes of South Florida will be featured in “Wild,” opening at the Cornell Museum of Art in Delray Beach on Jan. 14.

Plein air comes from the French expression en plein air, meaning “in the open air,” and these painters create their art outdoors in just a few hours, capturing the essence of a historic building or lush natural setting in the South Florida light.

Artists led by Ralph Papa and watercolor artist Donna Walsh have been meeting to paint outdoors in Palm Beach County since 2010. The two groups merged to form Plein Air Palm Beach in 2013.

“There’s a great synergy between history and plein air painting,” says Papa. “What better thing can you have over your fireplace?”  

ABOVE: A Delray Beach house is being rendered in oil pastels by Lorrie Turner of Delray Beach. 

ABOVE: Liz Magee of Boynton Beach works on a painting of a Delray Beach house.

Exhibit will explore Delray history in 100 paintings 

A 100-piece plein air art exhibition at the Delray Beach Historical Society opens with a preview party from 6 to 9 p.m. on Nov. 21. The theme is a French café, and there will be a five-piece jazz ensemble performing. Plein air painters will be painting the festivities as they happen.  

“We’ve been wanting to work with them for a while,” says Winnie Edwards, executive director of the Delray Beach Historical Society. “They have such a great group. Their mission is very interesting. They’re very tied to art and spontaneity and history. ” 

Each plein air painting of a historic home, cottage, building or landmark in Delray Beach will have its own accompanying story explaining its historical significance.

“Our mission is to preserve and share and celebrate Delray Beach’s rich history,” Edwards says. “Delray is and will always be an artist’s haven. People who live here and visit here respect art. So it seemed like a good match.”

Tickets for “Nostalgic Delray,” at the Delray Beach Historical Society, 3 NE First St., go on sale in early October. For more information, call 274-9578 or visit

ABOVE: Dagmar Ebert of Highland Beach looks at the arched walkway at Old School Square in Delray Beach as reference for her painting.

Highland Beach’s public sites to be showcased 

In Highland Beach, plein air painters led by Pati Maguire were invited to paint in the city’s municipal complex, which includes the library, and in some private condo locations with Intracoastal Waterway and beach access. 

“It’s not easy to paint Highland Beach because we have no public beach access,” says Suzi Hayes, interim director of the Highland Beach Library.

The opening reception for the plein air exhibition at the Highland Beach Library is from 4 to 6 p.m. Nov. 5. The show runs through Dec. 15.  

The library is at 3618 S. Ocean Blvd. in Highland Beach.

“You can view the show when the library is open,” Hayes says. “The best time is from noon to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Saturday.”  

All paintings are for sale with proceeds benefiting The Friends of the Highland Beach Library.

“It will be nice for the residents to get an original piece of art that references where (they) live,” Hayes says. 

For more information on Plein Air Palm Beach, visit and

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