PleinAir magazine presents the ninth annual PleinAir Salon Art Competition. In the spirit of the French Salon created by the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Paris, this annual competition, with six bi-monthly cycles, and three additional monthly cycles, leading to annual Salon Grand Prize winners, is designed to stimulate artistic growth through competition. The competition rewards artists with $27,000 in cash prizes and exposure of their work, with the winning painting featured on the cover of PleinAir magazine.

It is our belief that cash prizes provide further inspiration and an avenue for artists to thrive and create new work by helping alleviate financial pressure.

Winners in each monthly competition may receive recognition and exposure through PleinAir magazine’s print magazine, e-newsletter, and social media. Winners of each competition will also be entered into the annual competition.

Annual Awards:

$21,000 in Annual Cash Awards

1st place

$15,000 cash prize
plus the cover of PleinAir magazine!

2nd place

$3,000 cash prize plus a feature
in the digital edition of PleinAir magazine

3rd place

$1,500 cash prize

Three honorable mention finalists: $500 cash prizes — total $1,500
Plus, all annual winners will be showcased in PleinAir magazine!

Monthly Awards:

$9,000 in Cash Awards

1st place

$600 cash prize

2nd place

$300 cash prize*

3rd place

$100 cash prize*

*The 9th Annual Salon started with six bi-monthly cycles featuring $1,000 for the first place winner. Due to COVID-19, we decided to extend our competition by adding three additional monthly competitions. The monthly competitions will continue until the 9th Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo takes place. Due to this change, the cash prizes have changed. Beginning with April 2020, we are now offering three cash prizes for the first, second and third place winners for a total of $1,000. Unfortunately this does not apply to the bi-monthly competitions that took place prior to the monthly change.

Categories (Subject Matter)

Because this competition is created by PleinAir magazine, which features not only plein air paintings, but also studio paintings, all types of paintings are eligible and do not need to have been completed in plein air, but should originate from a plein air study or plein air experience.  As we know, many studio paintings start with plein air sketches. Our interest is in rewarding great paintings.

There are 19 categories to submit a painting in.


Paintings can be of any subject matter in the acrylic medium


Paintings can be of any subject matter, but only in the oil medium


Paintings can be of any subject matter, but only in the pastel medium

Watercolor & Gouache

Paintings can be of any subject matter, but only in the watercolor/gouache medium


Gardens, fields, or flowers, etc. (Plein air or studio work).


Landscape or outdoor environment without figures, animals, or birds (plein air or studio work).

Night scenes, sunrises, sunsets (plein air or studio work).
FIGURE & Portrait

Figures and portraits, including figures in the landscape (plein air or studio work)


Table settings, garden ornaments, etc. (plein air or studio work).


Seascapes, coastal, marine, rivers, and streams, etc. (plein air or studio).

Animals & Birds

Animals or birds (plein air or studio work).


Any painting featuring a Western theme, landscape or figure (plein air or studio work).


Must be completed en plein air, all subject matter eligible.


Cityscapes, farms, architectural elements (plein air or studio work).


Running or run-down (plein air or studio work).


Any subject matter. Must provide proof of enrollment in a HS, College or Atelier program.

Artist under 30

Any subject matter. Must provide proof of age if selected as a winner.


Any subject matter. Must provide proof of age if selected as a winner.

Drawing & Sketches

Any subject matter. Can include drawings, sketches, travel sketching, (any subject and medium including iPad sketching (plein air or studio work)

Bi-Monthly & Monthly Competition Awards (22 winners each cycle).

Artist Profile in weekly PleinAir Today newsletter.

The winner in each of these categories is automatically entered into the annual Grand Prize competition.

Overall Winner

  • 1st Place Overall
  • 2nd Place Overall
  • 3rd Place Overall

Category Winners

  • Best Student Artist (age and school verification required)
  • Best Artist Under 30 (age verification required)
  • Best Artist Over 65 (age verification required)
  • Best Plein Air Work Only
  • Best Building
  • Best Figure & Portrait
  • Best Floral
  • Best Landscape
  • Best Nocturne, Sunrise, Sunset
  • Best Outdoor Still Life
  • Best Water
  • Best Vehicle
  • Best Drawing & Sketch
  • Best Animals and Birds
  • Best Western
  • Best Acrylic
  • Best Oil
  • Best Pastel
  • Best Watercolor