Paint the Beach –
Art in Paradise
Beginning on Monday, residents and visitors to our beautiful island will no doubt notice all the artists who will be setting up easels outdoors at various places to paint as part of the Fort Myers Beach Art Association's annual Paint the Beach competition. Paint the Beach is sponsored by Santini Marina Plaza and Fish Tale Marina and is a non-juried competition and show of artwork produced throughout the next week 'en plein air' – outside – by about 50 artists from around the country. We spoke to FMBAA president Michele Buelow this week who told us about some of the exciting events planned for the competition, and met with a couple of the artists as they spent this week sharpening their skills down in Time Square.
"We're up to nearly 50 artists now,” she said. "Some of them are from our group and some are from far away and will be arriving this weekend. Everyone's real excited about coming to this beautiful island to paint.”
The artists arrive on Monday, when they are required to check in between 4:30 and 6:30pm, after which the public will get a chance to interact with them at a 'Meet and Greet' held at South Beach Grill at the same time. They will then spend the next three days painting at various places on Estero and San Carlos Islands before turning their completed work in to the Festival Tent in Santini Plaza for judging on Friday morning, November 9.
"The Awards Ceremony and Collector's Preview Party will be held that night in the Festival Tent from 6-9pm, where folks can come see the artwork that will be on sale all weekend, listen to music by the Cypress Lake String Quartet, enjoy delicious hors d' oeuvres from Santini restaurants, vote for People's Choice and see the work that won,” Buelow told us. "Then there are events being held all weekend, including a special Quick Draw competition in Time Square on Saturday.”
The Preview Party will also feature a live auction for a half day fishing trip – donated by Captain Phil Pica, a trip to Key West on the Key West Express, a 2 night stay at the Comfort Inn and a Tapas Party for 40 people donated by Skye's. Prizes will be awarded to the artists after being judged by Kevin Dean from Selby Gallery at Ringling College of Art. Tickets are available online at fortmyersbeachart.com for $20 before the event or for $25 at the door.
The Quick Draw competition is a one-day painting competition and is open to everyone, including novices. Artists will check in at Time Square from 8am to 9am, then paint from 9 until 11am. Costumed models will be onsite to add some character to the scenes being painted. At the end of the competition, the work will be turned in to the Festival Tent - unframed - for judging and awards at noon.
Artwork can be viewed and purchased all weekend at the Festival Tent, which will be open from 11am until 9pm on Saturday and 10am to 2pm on Sunday. The North Fort Myers Academy Steel Drum Band will play at 1pm, and Michelle told us that at least two FMBAA artists will be on hand all day doing demonstrations of their work.
"Alena will be there from 2-4pm doing quick portraits in watercolor and I will be there in the morning with my pastels,” she said. "There will also be an Imagination Station set up from 1-4pm for children to produce their own artwork, and at 6pm, the tent becomes a Jazz Cafe with the vocal stylings of Jo List - accompanied by a pianist.”
In addition, Michelle told us that artwork from the fifth grade students at Beach Elementary will also be on display.
"Principal Larry Wood and art teacher Holly Nichols have worked with the FMBAA outdoor painters to learn about 'plein air' painting and creating their own scenes, which will be displayed at the Festival Tent with the other artwork,” she said. "Also, FMBAA artists Randon Eddy, Mary Klunk, Pauline Healey and Mary Chaikowsky have donated paintings for raffle, and those can be seen at the Association's gallery at the corner of Shellmound and Donora during gallery hours (Monday-Saturday from 10am-3pm, Sundays from noon-3pm).
Neil Walling is an artist from Bonita Springs who won the Paint the Beach competition last year. A 1966 graduate of the Art Center College of Design, Walling worked for the Chrysler Corporation Design staff for 33 years until his retirement in 1999, during which he continued to paint and saw his work displayed in galleries throughout the state of Michigan, where he lives during the summer months and paints with the Glen Harbor Art Association.
"I've been involved with the FMBAA for seven or eight years now, and I currently serve on the Board,” Neil told us. "I love painting and have been doing it since I was 12 years old, even when I worked designing cars for Chrysler.”
Walling told us that he paints in either watercolor or oil, and prefers natural subjects – making his talents well suited to competitions like Paint the Beach.
"I'm not sure where I'll be painting next week, perhaps Time Square or Lover's Key,” he said. "I particularly love painting skies, and we have some terrific skies around here.”
Brian Christensen is last year's Merit Award winner at Paint the Beach. A long time member of the FMBAA, a lifetime of issues with his eyes nearly caused him to become declared legally blind this past summer until some special contact lenses saved his vision and his passion.
"The main things that influence my art are the things I've always struggled to see – like bright colors, sharp lines and detail,” he said. "I started wearing glasses as a kid, and have had problems all my life with my vision – the worst being that the contact lenses I had to wear were so painful. I almost had to have a 'Going Blind' sale this summer of all my artwork until I came across some lenses that make me pain free for the first time in years.”
Randon Eddy has lived on Sanibel for about 13 years, and says she loves painting 'en plein air'.
"I kind of stall in the summer, actually, when I can only paint in my studio,” she said, laughing as she worked on a sketch of a scene in Time Square. "I've been a member of the FMBAA on and off for about five years. I plan to be back in the Square next Saturday for the Quick Draw, then I will be painting shrimp boats.”
Eddy told us that she always tells everyone to paint for the sheer joy of it.
"It's not about how good you are, or comparing yourself to the next person,” she said. "Just enjoy yourself! If you're having a good time, just do it!”
Aways down from Eddy in the Square last Wednesday were Pat Franzak and Donna Bergeron, both FMBAA members who were 'practicing' paintings of the Gulf of Mexico.
"I'm a snowbird from Grand Rapids, Michigan, who got a place here 12 years ago because I love the magnificent beauty of Florida and of this island,” Franzak told us. "It's just heavenly here.”
Bergeron agreed, saying that she got into painting 11 years ago when she moved to our island from Chicago.
"This place is wonderful!” she said. "I love painting seascapes.”
Keri Hendry Weeg