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2 days ago, 10/30/2014 at 5:04pm

Paint The BeachArt is in the Air –
‘Paint the Beach’ Next Week

The island will be awash in art next week as the Fort Myers Beach Art Association's 5th Annual 'Paint the Beach - from Sandcastles to Shrimpboats' begins on Tuesday, November 4th. From Tuesday through Thursday, 60 artists from all over the world will set up at various locations all over Fort Myers Beach and San Carlos Island, creating beautiful images 'en Plein Air' -meaning 'in open air'. This event has grown exponentially from its inception in 2010 - with so many artists wanting to participate that the Fort Myers Beach Art Association now has a waiting list!

The event begins on Monday evening at Nervous Nellie’s, when many of the artists will gather to pick up their goody bags chock full of things like gift certificates and coupons provided by local businesses and friends. These art supporters include Gavin's ACE Hardware, Fish Tale Marina, Smokin' Oyster Brewery, Good Time Charters, Michi's Arts and Crafts, The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel, the Island Sand Paper, Plein Air Magazine, Gorilla Painters, Lover's Key Resort, and many, many more.

The following morning, participating artists will check in at the Fort Myers Beach Art Association Gallery between 7am and 10am to have their canvasses and/or paper stamped. Each artist will then have until Friday morning, November 9th to produce one or two framed and ready to hang pieces of art, all of which must be done without the assistance of photography. In past years, artists have been seen painting from the top of the Matanzas Bridge, in Time Square, Bowditch Point Park, the Matanzas Pass Preserve and Shrimpboat Lane (Main Street on San Carlos Island) just to name a few.

Islanders will get their first glimpse of the artists' efforts at the Award's Ceremony and Preview Party on Friday night between 6 and 9pm at the ‘Propeller Lounge’ (located behind Santini Plaza), where folks will listen to live entertainment while noshing on hors d'oeuvres provided by the restaurants of Santini Plaza. A silent auction will be held during the reception, where folks can bid on things like sunset cruises, power tools, baskets of wine and art supplies and handmade jewelry. There will also be a cash bar, and attendees will have the opportunity to purchase art and/or raffle tickets for paintings donated by FMBAA artists. On Saturday morning, the artwork will be moved to the Festival Tent set up in the Santini Plaza parking lot, where it will be available for viewing and purchase for the remainder of the weekend.

Tickets for Friday's gala are available in advance for $30 at the Association's gallery, online at or at the Fish Tale Marina Office. They will also be available at the door for $35.

On Saturday, the tent will be open and free for anyone to see and/or purchase artwork from 9am to 6pm. Harold Antoine will be performing on his steel drums from 1-3pm. A special treat in the Festival Tent will be a display of artwork from Beach Elementary's 4th and 5th grade classes. The students created the artwork last week with the aid of art teacher Holly Nichols and FMBAA members, who donated the materials and offered tips to the young artists. All the students' work will be on display throughout the weekend.

Saturday is also the day for the popular 'Quick Draw' competition, where artists will have two hours to create artwork in Time Square.

" We're so happy this year to have 27 local high school students also participating in the Quick Draw Competition," the Art Association's Michelle Buelow told us. "They will have their own judge and set of prizes and will be painting alongside 31 of our artists. All of them will have between 9am and 11am to complete their work, after which it will be judged in the Square from 12:30-1:30pm, after which it will be moved to the display tent in Santini Plaza.”

The festivities continue on Sunday, where all art will be on display and available for purchase between 11am and 2pm, with the winners of this year's raffle being announced at 2pm.

"We also have t-shirts this year, which are available now for $15 at the FMBAA's gallery on the corner of Shell Mound and Donora,” Michelle told us. "They were sponsored by the Beach Pub, created by Krusty Pete's and have last year's winner - Neil Walling - on the front.”

To give folks a little creative taste of what to expect during this year's Pain the Beach, we decided to showcase two of the talented artists that folks will see painting on the island next week.

Nory McNelis has painted in all five Paint the Beach events. A winter resident of southwest Florida, she has been a member of the FMBAA for 7 years now because she loves to paint outdoors. "I like the natural light and how it plays on the beach, water and foliage,” she said. "It's a totally different sense than trying to paint from a photograph.”

McNelis told us that she has been painting her entire life.

"When I was a little girl I had a studio in my basement,” she said. "I went to college at the University of Northern Colorado where I minored in Fine Art and majored in teaching. When I left teaching I took more workshops in fine art and discovered that I best express myself in oils.”

Nory's paintings reveal her natural talent and understanding of all the colors possible in a beam of light. Featuring a delicate interplay of highlights and shadows, her pieces are Impressionistic in nature and allow the viewer to actually feel the warm sunlight on their skin.

"I was the project manager for the very first plein air festival in Pope County, Minnesota, that's how I became involved with these festivals,” she said. "Now I also paint on silk scarves, and my work is sold at 2 galleries -- Island’s Gallery on Captiva Island and Wild Child Gallery on Matlacha.”

Naples artist Lionel Heddy is thrilled to be participating in his first Paint the Beach. For the past several years, his plein air pen drawings have hung in galleries around Naples - including a popular showing of his portraits of local artists at ArtGallery Old Naples in February of 2012. Recently, he told us he's been moving away from pen and ink and concentrating on achieving success in color.

"When I first heard about Paint the Beach, I knew I just had to be in this event,” he said. "I'm really looking forward to the experience and meeting everyone there.”

Heddy told us that he majored in Fine Art at Queen's College where he went to school after the service, but the financial responsibilities of raising a family forced him to put his art on hold for a while.

"I knew that I was not going to get into the Metropolitan Museum of Art at my age, so I made raising my family my number one priority,” he said, laughing. "I moved to Naples in 1995 to continue my career in property management, then about 6 years ago I realized the fire and desire to create art was still there.”

Lionel, who told us he feels blessed to have found something he loves to do for the rest of his life, started his renewed love of art by doing plein air ink drawings and portraits.

"I had a one-man show with 35 ink drawings, then a year later I had a portrait show where I met about 25 local artists and did their portraits,” he said. "Now I'm working on my color skills and I've gotten very much involved in the colorist movement in plein air. I'm trying to accomplish a certain level of skill with this, and I've had some success - I've been painting beach houses in Naples, and have sold some of them!”

Heddy told us he would likely be painting the colorful landscape of Nervous Nellie’s during this year's competition.

"Win or lose, it doesn't matter - what matters is that I'm there and I'm working,” he said. "When I get into the rhythm of what I'm doing it nourishes my soul and makes me feel like I have a purpose - it really makes you feel good that other people can see and find something they like in something you've created.”

For more information on this year's Paint the Beach, visit Paint the Beach is just one event planned by this busy group for November. The first judged art show of the season for members of the FMBAA takes place November 14 through December 12. A workshop featuring watercolor artist Penny Fox is scheduled for 13th and the artists will gather on November 23rd to talk about their recent trip to Ireland.

"Specific to plein air artwork, a special Maya Bryant Award will be given out at the Fall Judged Show,” said Cindy Dobyns of AboveWater Public Relations and Marketing. "Created in memory of a local artist, this award and the annual Fort Myers Beach Art Association’s scholarship are funded from the sale of Maya's paintings. She faithfully painted outdoors each week with a group of plein air artists.”

Dobyns told us that a reception and award ceremony celebrating the artists’ works, judged by Anne Abgott, will take place on Sunday, November 23 from 2:15 – 3:30 p.m.

"Also on November 23 is an Ireland Tour reception,” she said. "The artists will gather and set up at 1:00 p.m. and tell the visitors about the members’ recent trip. Paintings from Ireland will be on display and refreshments will be served.”

Keri Hendry Weeg