Plein Air Art on Cape Ann – Artists, Easels, and Competition

October 01, 2021 / Art and Music, Good to Know, Outdoor Adventures, Things to Do & See

Cape Ann’s rugged coast, natural light, and picturesque landscape are the enticing muse that draws artists from all over to paint a variety of familiar and not-so-familiar scenic landmarks and locations throughout the year. Artists can be seen setting up their easels to paint “en plein air” along Gloucester’s Back Shore, at Rocky Neck Art Colony, Good Harbor Beach, Rockport’s Motif #1, and the working harborfront just to name a few.  

Cape Ann Plein Air Competition

Photo by Lorne Bell 2017

Originated in the 1800’s, “plein air”is the style of painting that became popular with Impressionists. Artists painted out in the “open air” using the open space as their subject and capturing the movement of natural light and color. 

For centuries, Cape Ann’s stunning landscapes, seascapes, and city scenes have attracted and inspired master painters such as Winslow Homer, Henry Fitz Lane, and Edward Hopper.  The attraction continues with today’s plein air professional artists visiting the region creating artistic masterpieces in watercolors, oils and other mediums.

Cape Ann’s Premiere Outdoor Painting Competition

Every October for the past six years, renowned Plein Air artists from across the country come to Cape Ann to participate in the nation’s premier outdoor painting competition, the Cape Ann Plein Air Festival and Competition (CAPA). It has also become one of the region’s top art festivals attracting artists, festival-goers, and visitors to the area.

From October 3 to 11, art enthusiasts and festival-goers can attend open air painting demos, lectures, view the online gallery, and ideally, buy an art piece to take home.  The week’s highlights include the  QuickDraw, a timed painting event at Maritime Gloucester, and the Festival Gala Awards Ceremony, a celebration with the artists and the winners of this year’s competition. This year’s 7-day festival features 35 juried artists and 175 pieces of art.

Award-winning artist, Macario Pascual, who traveled to Cape Ann in 2017 from his home in Hawaii said in North Shore magazine that “there’s so much to paint here—so much color.” Cape Ann’s distinct light, natural beauty, and colors have made the CAPA Festival one of the top five major plein air festivals in the United States.

Learn Like A Pro

Have you ever wanted to paint en plein air like the professionals do? Here’s your chance to sign up for a free demonstration with a selected group of local artists during festival week. These artists will be your instructor sharing their knowledge, expertise, and experience of painting “en plein air”. Learn more here.

Dine & Live Paint with a Festival Artist

Tempt your palate at one of the festival’s Dine & Live Paint events. This delicious new Festival addition invites art enthusiasts to dine and watch a plein air artist at work at a featured local restaurant in Gloucester, Rockport, Essex, and Manchester-by-the-Sea. Learn more here.

Cape Ann Plein Air Festival and Competition 

Dates: October 3 to 11, 2021
Festival Details:

Related Topics

Gloucester Daily Times – October 4, 2021:  In-person Plein Air Festival returns to Cape Ann 
The Cricket – September 2021: 35 Artists Selected For Cape Ann Plein Air Competition
North Shore Magazine – September/October 2017: Cape Ann Plein Air 2017