A Plein Air Day in St. Augustine

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“Ximenez-Fatio Gardens, St. Augustine, Florida”, by Robert Leedy, watercolor on Fabriano Artistico 140 lb. Cold Press paper, 22″ x 16″

Last Saturday, I participated in “Romanza on Aviles”, a plein air painting event with 16+ artists that was centered around locations up, down and around Aviles Street in our nation’s oldest city, St. Augustine, Florida (founded in 1565). (I smile as I write this because my proud, Puerto-Rican-born wife, Vicky, always puts in the disclaimer, “if you are not counting San Juan, Puerto Rico which was founded in 1521.”)

Aviles Street was closed to pedestrian-only-traffic and there was music, food – and of course – great art!  The artists met up at la Herencia Café at 8:30 Saturday morning where we drew cards to determine our painting locations. I bent the rules as I walked to my specified location and stopped short at The Ximenez-Fatio House where a woman in costume was opening the gates to the gardens and invited me in for a look around.  This immediately became my new painting location.

Cathy, dressed in period costume, was our gracious hostess at The Ximenez-Fatio House.

Cathy, dressed in period costume, was our gracious hostess at The Ximenez-Fatio House.

The Ximenez-Fatio House is one of St. Augustine’s most authentic historical properties. A large (by St. Augustine standards), 1798 coquina stone house with a detached kitchen and wash house are set around a beautiful garden/courtyard. There is also an impressive visitor’s center and museum on the property.

I set up my gear in the courtyard and squeezed fresh paint into my palette. By the time I was ready to start, my friend and fellow event artist, Paul Ladnier, who was painting near the detached kitchen, had already knocked out a small painting. Paul, along with Keith Doles and Randy Pitts were some of my regular, Jacksonville plein air buddies who were there enjoying the paint out for the day.

Robert Leedy plein air painting in St. Augustine, Florida.

Robert Leedy plein air painting in St. Augustine, Florida.

It was a delightful day and there was quite a crowd enjoying the festivities of a vehicle-closed Aviles Street. We finished up

our paintings, framed and  hung them in various assigned galleries up and down Aviles Street where they were offered for sale to the public.

I returned on Sunday to pick up my painting. I told Paul I would pick his up as well. Traffic in St. Augustine was unusually heavy – probably due to a busy tourist weekend and Mother’s day – and I had to park in the municipal parking garage which was quite a haul from the galleries on Aviles. I had no idea how I was going to get the paintings back to my car until I passed a young guy on a bicycle rickshaw:

“Hey, how much for a trip from The Aviles Gallery back to the municipal parking garage?” I asked, “and I might have an excess baggage charge…”

“Nothing, sir. I work for tips.”

“OK, you will have your work cut out for you, my man.”

We rode to the gallery and I loaded all of the paintings on the rickshaw. On the way back to the garage, I spotted an artist friend, Pablo Rivera, sitting in the outdoor cafe at O.C. White’s:

“Hey Pablo,” I yelled, “save me a seat – I’m coming back for a glass of wine!”

Pablo looked up in surprise, spotted me and grinned while he gave me the affirmative. I made it back to the garage, unloaded the paintings then headed back to O.C. White’s where I gave the rickshaw driver a good tip.

what a fun day.

to purchase my painting, “Ximenez-Fatio Gardens, St. Augustine, Florida”, click here

Paul Ladnier ready to start painting #2.

Paul Ladnier ready to start painting #2.

A peek inside the detached kitchen at The Ximenez-Fatio House.

A peek inside the detached kitchen at The Ximenez-Fatio House.


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