BALLINGER - From the vast agriculture to historic architecture, Ballinger is becoming a destination for artists across the country and the world to paint.

BALLINGER - From the vast agriculture to historic architecture, Ballinger is becoming a destination for artists across the country and the world to paint.

Artists and art enthusiasts from across the Big Country, including Brownwood, Abilene and San Angelo, are welcome to come view and or participate in the EnPleinAirTEXAS Pre-Event Paint Out event from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the gazebo at Pioneer Plaza on 7th Street in downtown Ballinger, Saturday, Oct. 21. The event begins a week-long EnPleinAirTEXAS event in and around San Angelo and culminates Oct. 29 at Fort Concho in San Angelo.

The event, which is in its fourth year, is sponsored by EnPleinAirTEXAS and the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts. The Ballinger event, which is open to all artists, will feature some of the 34 artists who have been selected from all over the country and the world, who will be painting during the event. And, organizer Barbara Rallo of EnPleinAirTEXAS, said artists from around the area are invited to attend, participate or just watch.

“This gives the 2017 EnPleinAirTEXAS (EPAT) competition artists who have just arrived an opportunity to warm up their paint brushes and get inspired before the competition events start,” Rallo said adding that it is a “wonderful opportunity to meet the artists and be some of the first to welcome them to Texas.”

Artist Tom Orsak, organized an event last year, in which 18 artists painted scenes in Ballinger and several won national recognition in the “Plein Air” magazine. Last year a watercolor titled “West Texas Town,” by Richard Sneary, depicted the body of a bright orange classic car displayed in front a of an antique shop, won the 2016 Plein Air Salon Honorable Mention. Other artists painted historic homes and buildings as well as classic cars featured in a car show that day.

“They enjoy that it’s authentic Americana (in Ballinger),” said Orsak, who is from Harriett near San Angelo. “It’s so real. Every time I come here (Runnels County) there are new things to see and paint.”

En plein air, which is French for “out in the open air,” is a style of painting which dates back centuries where artists paint landscapes, buildings and scenery outdoors in various lights. It is most recognized within the works of legendary French impressionist painters like Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro and Pierre-August Renoir, who all practiced this style.

The San Angelo area has been an attraction to artists from around the country for almost 100 years. In the 1920’s the distinctive emerald green Concho River south of San Angelo, attracted artists and nationally recognized faculty from 22 states to paint “en plein air” at the Texas Artist Camp, which became one of the leading institutions of its kind in the Southwest.

“EnPleinAirTEXAS rekindles that original spirit with a week-long juried competition that is attracting participants with national reputations for winning top awards at every major plein air competition in the country,” Rallo explained.

For this event, 30 artists were selected from hundreds of applicants for the 2017 competition in San Angelo. Kenn Backhaus, past president and signature member of the Plein Air Painters of America, and this year’s juror, selected the artists who will compete along with the top four winners from the 2016 competition, including Jason Sacran of Arkansas, the 2016 Grand Prize winner and winner of the Elta Joyce Murphey Award; Patrick Saunders of Missouri, 2016 Second Place Award winner; Shelby Keefe of Wisconsin, 2016 Third Place Award winner and Jill Basham of Maryland, 2016 Artists Choice Award winner. The artists hail from 18 states and two countries and include Zufar Bikbov, Tina Bohlman, David Boyd, Jr. Lon Brauer, Carl Bretzke, John Caggiano, Fran Ellison, Bill Farnsworth, Frencesco Fontana, Paul George, Carole Gray-Weihman, Karen Ann Hitt, Kathleen Hudson, Erik Koeppel, Kirk Larsen, John Lasater, Christopher Leeper, Chuck Marshall, K T Morse, Mary Pettis, Jo Nell Richardson, William Rogers, Lauren Sansaricq, Mark Sasha, Richard Sneary, Gregory Stocks, R. Gregory Summers, William Suys, Nancy Tankersley and Sherri Thomas.

While the paintings from the Ballinger event will not be entered in the official competition, the People’s Choice Award, sponsored by Ballinger artist Susan Mansell, will be selected from the work painted during that day, which will also be available for sale. After the voting and the award is presented, artists may stop and paint scenes in Rowena and other Runnels County locales on the way back to San Angelo.

“It is such fun to see these artists painting,” Mansell said. “It’s just wonderful.”

After the Ballinger painting event, artists will travel back to San Angelo where they will spend the week painting around the city and on selected private ranches. Rallo said interested onlookers will be able to interact with the artists throughout the week, while they paint, at special community events and during free talks and demonstrations in area schools and public venues.

The highlight of the EPAT event will be “Rope Yourself a Painting,” event Saturday, Oct. 28 at the San Angelo Fairgrounds & Roping Arena. It will be an “Open and Quick Draw” event from 9 -11:30 a.m. The public is invited to attend the event. The EnPleinAirTEXAS Artist Exhibit exhibited Oct. 27-29 at Fort Concho, where more than 320 works, painted throughout the week, will be displayed and available for purchase. An awards party will be held Friday Oct. 27 and Awards Judge Roger Dale Brown of Tennessee, a signature member of Oil Painters of America, will present $16,000 in cash prizes.

Proceeds from the event support SAMFA’s education activities offered free to over 33,000 student participants in an 18-county region in West Texas.