Seeing the First Coast Through the Eyes of The Artist-A Plein Air Paint Out

Like stalking rare animals in the wild, I set out trekking through Hanna Park, hoping to capture a glimpse of an artist “Painting the Coast”. Hanna Park in Mayport, Jacksonville is a gorgeous area with a lake and beach access. After many stops, hikes and beautiful distractions, I spotted a lone artist. She was in such a remote spot-with a spectacular ocean view and I tried a couple of hike paths to reach her, to no avail. I settled for a distance shot and felt very inspired by the beauty I had seen and the images captured of lone surfers and stunning native views. It was the first day of the event where artists would spend five days in different coastal regions of Northeast Florida to create a painting a day with the culmination of all the art being seen and available for sale, on Saturday at a reception at the Ponte Vedra Cultural Center. All the proceeds go to the North Florida Land Trust.

The 3rd annual Painting the Region event in Northeast Florida featured coastal locations. Artists from around the region, the state, other states and even an artist from Italy, could be spotted throughout the week, painting in generally designated areas each day. The public was invited to watch the artists as they brilliantly captured the beauty of the area.

After I found the elusive artist in Hanna Park, I faired better in Old Mayport. With stunning views of shrimp boats and a quaint old fishing village juxtaposed with the Coast Guard and Mayport Naval Air Station on the other side of AIA, I found a group of artists painting shrimp boats and a pair of beautiful red vessels. Quietly they went about creating their art. What a great job! The weather was perfect on this first day of the paint-out.

Tuesday, I packed up my gear and drove to Old Atlantic Beach. Each day, just the drive along the coast on AIA was amazing. Old Atlantic Beach reflects the quaint old Florida beach town. I found one artist standing at a busy 5-way stop intersection, deep in the heart of the Atlantic Beach community, painting a grand sculpture of a Woman/Mermaid riding a giant sea turtle.

I was just about to give up on my Map Quest directions to the next artists location when I spotted Robert Leedy on a quiet road next to a park with children swinging and laughing. He was capturing a classic street scene of old homes and palm trees. I feel compelled to point out the obvious at this stage-there were palm trees at each scenic location, I mean it is after all, coastal Florida.

On Wednesday the artist were painting the Guana preserve in St. Johns County-a stunning, protected area along the west side of AIA on the intercoastal waterway with the Atlantic Ocean just across AIA. I easily found a large group of artists at the spectacularly scenic spot along the preserve, each staked out in a location to capture just the right view. Silent and windy, with blue skies, the marshy area was filled with brown reeds, greenery, blue water and birds. The occasional kayaker would come and go at the boat ramps but otherwise, it belonged to the artists.  He explained that his vision was to capture the sculpture gliding through the ocean. He was getting a lot of support from passerby’s with shout outs and honking horns of support.

I found several of the artists I had met the previous days I made new friends as well. All were willing to share their story, where they were from) one artist had driven from North Carolina) and their vision for the artwork they were creating. It’s quite calming and satisfying to watch artists do their magic and to see how they interpret what they see and how the same view can look so different from artist to artist.

Thursday the artists were to be found either at Guana or Hanna Park painting ocean scenes, lake views, and inter-coastal masterpieces. On Friday morning, the rain clouds were out so my journey to Vilano Beach in St. Augustine started in the early afternoon as the sun and blue skies came out.

Vilano Beach Village, the entrance to Porpoise Point-a piece of land that juts out into the ocean and the intercoastal, is a beautiful place where two bodies of water meet and porpoise are seen often, playing in the surf. Kelly, an artist from Italy was set-up on the pier, capturing the coastline of Porpoise Point, along the intercoastal, and the rain clouds that had filled the sky. Her mom, who lives in Florida, had made her aware of this event and the artist, based in Rome, who has been painting in Italy for seven years, was in Vilano Beach this day, capturing a different but equally stunning image-old coastal Florida.

At the other end of the main drag between the pier and the ocean, I found Stacey Breheny, an artist I had met at Guana days before, painting a run down, closed hotel with pink flamingos on the shutters. A true beauty in its day-and in the artists’ vision as it spilled onto her canvas. A man riding by on a bike stopped to ask her about her painting.

All in all, this is a truly unique event and a way to not only see with your own eyes, some of the most stunning coastal in Northeast Florida, but you also can spend lazy mornings and quiet afternoons watching artists capturing the same stunning views and watch in amazement as each canvass reveals a different interpretation of the same view.

The North Florida Land trust preserves historic and stunning property in Northeast Florida. This event, in it’s third year, will help fund the cost of creating the Land, Water, Energy Conservation Resource Center which will be created by purchasing and renovating the landmark Old Oar House Restaurant property on Mickler Road in Ponte Vedra Beach. For more information on North Florida Land Trust go to and for more information on this unique event go to: .

The event is free to visitors and local alike and was a wonderful way to explore some tucked away coastal views and to see them through the artists’ eyes.

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