It was somewhere between an art safari and a scavenger hunt. Carloads of Marco Islanders toured the area on Wednesday, tracking down artists as they daubed paint on their canvases, in this year's Wet Paint Live.
Nineteen local professional artists took up the challenge in this, the sixth annual outing for the Wet Paint Live event, working "en plein air" and completing a painting from start to finish in one day. The resulting canvases were then auctioned off in a fundraiser, held for the first time at the Rose History Auditorium at the Marco Island Historical Museum, with celebrity auctioneer Chris Lombardo presiding. Proceeds from Wet Paint Live were apportioned among the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce, their Leadership Marco Scholarship Fund, and MIFA, the Marco Island Foundation for the Arts.
There were artists, artists everywhere, from Isles of Capri to Goodland, where five painters – Paul Arsenault, Sara Jane Foltz, Mary Moran, Tara O'Neill and Karen Swanker – plied their brushes. Some were harder to find than others.
Crossing the Jolley Bridge onto the island, Phyllis Pransky could be seen at the top of the span painting the view which, she said, inspired her to relocate here. From the bridge, one could see Lee Horton on the dock at the Marco Island Yacht Club, and J.J. Stinchcomb on the beach at the foot of the bridge. Judy Chinski was there as well, painting up a storm; she had already finished two watercolors in riotous colors by 1 p.m., and was shifting location to start on a third.
Not all of the artists were comfortable turning out work at that pace. Artists have a perhaps well-earned reputation for their less than rigid adherence to deadlines, and knowing their painting had to be ready to go on the auction block that night, "wet paint" and all, could be tough.
"I'm going to get it done just in time," said Horton, painting a view of trees and sky at the yacht club. Event organizers, he said, stamp the canvases to be sure they are actually painted the day of the event. So buyers they are indeed getting fresh work, and the Marco art world avoids the equivalent of professional sports' doping scandals.
Betty Newman, who along with fellow painter and Wet Paint Live participating artist Chinski just opened a gallery at the Esplanade, joining Jo-Ann Sanborn who has her own space there, set up her easel strategically right outside the new retail space.
"I'm a little tired," she said. "We opened Sunday morning, and we've been going nonstop since Friday." Apparently, her creativity didn't suffer – the abstract painting she delivered to the auction was purchased by Vip Grover for $1,000 that evening.
Sanborn, William Ward Mosely, and Judy Harthorn also painted at the Esplanade. Caravans of art lovers made the rounds, following the handy map passed out and printed in the newspapers, and many were determined to track down each and every artist.
Paola and Bob Nisonger got a classy ride in Mark Ryan's 1998 Jaguar convertible. The Nisongers live in Michigan, where they said the temperature was 10 degrees Fahrenheit, so they were happy to be enjoying Marco's balmy breezes.
Carol Zeiler and Jane Fotopoulos, also making the rounds, would ordinarily be producing their own art "en plein air" on Wednesday, their regular outdoor painting day, but instead were touring and seeing other artists' interpretations of island scenes. Among what they described as excellent work they had seen, Jane singled out Sara Jane Foltz's painting as one she would like to own.
Thursday morning, no tally of the auction proceeds was available. Volunteers and chamber staff were still adding up the receipts from last week's "Souper Bowl," which also benefited the Leadership Marco Scholarship Fund.
But chamber volunteer Susie Walsh said she was very impressed by the readiness of attendees to open up their pocketbooks for both the live and silent auction items, and predicted a strong showing when the final count comes in.
"We were amazed at the way the bidding went. People were very generous," she said.