Art competition - Figurative drawings -
Detail of “The Pride of the First Nation”

Congratulations to Sarah Xu, whose work has been recognized in the PleinAir Salon, a bi-monthly art competition with many categories in which to enter your art.

“This drawing is a studio nude figure study, but I intend to make this more than just a figure study,” Sarah says. “The model is a very interesting person; he is a Native American martial artist from the mountains in New Mexico, and has a unique appearance, and an outstanding personality. When my friends saw this drawing, without knowing anything about the model, they told me that it reminds them of some historical pictures of old Indian chiefs. It is the gesture and the expression in his eyes that reveals the pride of the first nation in his blood. So it does become something more than just a figure study.”

Art competition - Figurative drawings -
“The Pride of the First Nation” by Sarah Xu, (17 x 28 x 0.5, Charcoal) won in the Best Student category of the Dec/Jan 2020 PleinAir Salon
Figurative artist Sarah Xu
Figurative artist Sarah Xu, winner in a recent bi-monthly PleinAir Salon art competition

About “The Pride of the First Nation” in the Plein Air Salon
by Sarah Xu

Having been raised in a family that placed great emphasis on learning art as a means to further one’s growth, I have been exploring with pencils and brushes since the age of 4. When I was only 10, I began Russian style academic fine art training in a private art studio.

After I entered high school, I pretty much left art aside for a long period of time because my family didn’t encourage me to pursue art as a profession. So I entered college and studied economics. However, I was depressed, and I constantly felt the desire for art in my heart, I wanted to present what I see and feel through art, and share my work with the rest of the world.

In 2016 I took some workshops in the Grand Central Atelier, and early in 2017, I finally decided to follow my heart, to pursue my dream of becoming a professional contemporary realism artist; I started my full time study at The Florence Academy of Art. The training from the Florence Academy of Art gave me a solid foundation of capturing the accuracy from life, and a thorough understanding of the old masters’ painting methods. My future goal would be painting multi-figure narrative paintings, like those of Jean-Léon Gérôme and William-Adolphe Bouguereau.

On Entering the PleinAir Salon

I have been following Plein Air Magazine for a long time, and when I noticed that the PleinAir Salon has both bi-monthly and annually art competitions, I felt it was a great chance for me to build up my resume and promote myself. Besides, it’s such an honor to compete with all those other wonderful artists that participate as well; their works are so stunning.

My advice for other artists is this: don’t hesitate, just go for it, keep submitting your works and don’t get discouraged if you don’t win, because you can always come back and submit more.

I felt very happy when I found out I won in the Best Student category. Right now I am just about to end my three years full-time study in the Florence Academy of Art, and this prize is like a milestone for me to fold up my study there.

Connect with Sarah Xu:
Website | Instagram


Other categories for this art competition include Best Building, Best Drawing and Sketches, and many more! Visit to view the complete list.

Why should a contemporary realist enter the PleinAir Salon?

Because this art contest 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.

PleinAir Salon art competition

The PleinAir Salon awards $27,000 in CASH each year! Learn more at, and enter your best work for your chance to win this art competition. Enter now – the next deadline is coming soon!

Enter Now

If you’ve never entered, it only takes a couple of minutes to create your own account. Once you do that, just upload the images of your best work and select the categories you wish to enter – very manageable to do!

All of our awards are CASH, with the grand prize winner getting called up on stage at the Convention & Expo to claim their check for $15,000. That grand prize winner will also have their winning painting featured on the cover of PleinAir magazine (can it get any better?).

There are smaller cash awards, too, and you can find out all about them here. Remember, even if a previous judge did not select your painting, our current judge just might find it to be a winner!

Related Article > Painting and the Search for Excellence


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