Marco Island got a paint job Thursday – and a professional paint job at that. Twenty-one talented area artists fanned out over the island, each choosing a spot to set up an easel and produce a painting, as the French would say, “en plein air,” or as we say in English, outdoors.
That evening, artists and art lovers converged on the Marco Island Center for the Arts, to turn the creativity into cash. The Marco Island Wet Paint Live 2012 auction, sponsored by the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce, was a fundraiser for the chamber’s scholarship program.
During the day, each artist started with a blank canvas, with the finished work due by the end of the day, a situation that puts some pressure on, said Jo-Ann Sanborn.
“Normally, if you make a mistake, you can throw it in the back room,” she said. “On this one, I thought I was done, but then I took it inside and didn’t like it.” She didn’t have far to travel – Sanborn set up about eight steps out from the front of her studio and gallery space at the Esplanade.
Artist Betty Newman joined Sanborn on the promenade outside the Esplanade galleries. She joked she wasn’t sure what genre her painting represented.
“If you hold it horizontally, it’s impressionist,” said Newman. “Turn it vertical, and it’s an abstract.” Out front by the Esplanade fountain, Judy Harthorn painted the view as one enters.
“These are acrylics, so this won’t actually be wet paint by tonight,” she said. Like many of the artists, she had made practice runs ahead of time, to address the concern voiced by Sanborn. “This is the fifth year I’ve painted this scene,” said Harthorn. “It’s just peaceful here. It makes me feel happy and energized.”
Some of the painters went further afield to find their bliss, and their vantage point. Phyllis Pransky trekked several hundred yards up to the top of the new span of the Jolley Bridge, to depict a scene that has a lot of meaning for her.
“This spot just says Marco Island to me. That skyline, and seeing it when I came over the bridge, is what brought me here,” she said. “I’ve wanted to paint this for 22 years, but we never had a walkway up here to be safe.”
High on the bridge, Pransky enthused about the sky overhead, with its mix of clouds and sun.
“The clouds are great. The colors are more colorful with less sun. Painters prefer an overcast day, you know. The sun bleaches out the colors.”
Even with the logistics of finding a parking space and walking up the bridge, she said she had had a lot of visitors stopping by to talk and take a look at her canvas. Canvases, actually, including one she said she realized after starting was six inches over the guidelines, and another she started and put aside.
While Pransky stood up on the bridge, looking down at the Marco Island Yacht Club, Paul Arsenault stood on the balcony at the yacht club, looking up at the bridge.
“I wanted to do something celebrating the new bridge,” he said. “I love the Marco Island art scene. People here are so enthusiastic about their island.”
A large percentage of the artists managed to find a spot to set up that has drinks available. Goodland attracted no fewer than seven of the painters, with Priscilla Coote and Gail Trent Risner at the Little Bar, Inez Hudson at Marke 8, and William Ward Mosely and Karen Swanker set up at Stan’s. Swanker called her painting “Backside of Stan’s.”
By the appointed time, all the artists had their paintings at the Art Center, and auctioneer Chris Lombardo, assisted by K.D. Lackey, helped find them new homes, with owners who presumably know to be careful of that wet paint. Oils, said Betty Newman, can take up to six months to dry.