Island images: Artists’ canvases painted and sold in a day

Lance Shearer

Thursday was a “chamber of commerce day” on Marco Island, with blue skies, and puffy clouds drifting across them in a soft tropical breeze. This worked out well, for the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce held their annual Wet Paint Live event, with 17 area artists spending the day outdoors, or “en plein air” in art speak, painting their own vision of the local scene.

Tara O'Neill with her palm tree variations. The 2018 Marco Island Wet Paint Live event saw artists fan out all over the island and capture it on canvas, with the resulting paintings auctioned off to raise scholarship funds.

The resulting canvases – and for the painters using oil paints, the pigments were still decidedly wet – were then quickly framed, and hung along the walls of the Rose History Auditorium at the historical museum, and auctioned off to raise funds to help send area high school students to college.

With each artist’s location publicized, laid out on a map handed out, art lovers were encouraged to come and visit the artists where they worked, which in many cases, was also where they live. An increasing number of painters found inspiration right in front of their own dwellings, which in many cases serve as informal galleries and studios.

Phyllis Pransky gives lessons at her waterfront home, as well as displaying her work there. Her canvas depicted the house, with hibiscus in front and the Marco River behind, although from the angle she chose, you couldn’t see that the roof is in the process of being replaced, post-Irma. Students including Warren and Becky Kendall, who said she came to Marco Island just to study with Pransky, watched and chatted with her as she daubed.

Jo-Ann Sanborn and Tara O’Neill also painted at home. O’Neill created a dreamy triptych with a single palm tree on each panel, repeated in hues of mustard, mauve, and French blue. She also invited visitors to check out her living room/gallery, filled with examples of her many different approaches to art, and her studio, with pieces including a leopard-spotted mannequin in a leopard-print bra, curlers, veil, and blindfold.

Sanborn also focused on three palm trees, a grouping across the street, but bumped up the wilderness quotient to create one of her trademark impressionistic nature scenes. At the Esplanade, Judy Harthorn painted the fountain in the courtyard for the 203rd time – if she was correct in her statement during Wet Paint Live in 2015 that she was then painting it for the 200th time.

At the reception/auction in Rose History Auditorium, members of the public came by for a look at the completed paintings, along with a silent auction of additional works by the artists, not painted that day. The live auction paintings, though, were, as each artist had to check in at the chamber office first thing in the morning to have their canvas stamped, to ensure their entry was indeed brand new. There was no mention of requiring urine samples, a la the Olympics.

Attendees enjoyed hors d’oeuvres from Kretch’s, as well as the open bar which is the auctioneer’s secret weapon for raising paddles and loosening wallets. That auctioneer was Tom Wagor, assisted by “spotters” including Center for the Arts executive director Hyla Crane and chamber executive director Dianna Dohm. Dianna’s husband Kevin had the job of gingerly, with white gloves – wet paint, remember – walking the live auction paintings around the room before each was up for bidding.

Robert Amirault’s view of the Goodland waterfront was the first canvas to reach the $1,000 mark, on a phone bid called in by Little Bar co-owner Ray Bozicnik. Kim Belange’s painting, also from the Little Bar in Goodland, was the top-priced painting, selling for $1,300.

With proceeds shared among the Leadership Marco Scholarship Fund, the Marco Island Center for the Arts, and the Marco Island Foundation for the Arts, after the 50 percent of the proceeds that went to the artists, bidding was down a little from recent years, with the island still perhaps recovering from Hurricane Irma’s effects, or bidders not seeing a piece they just had to take home.

“I think we made more on the silent auction, though,” said Dohm.

Artists participating also included Victor-Hugo Vaca, Inez Hudson, Kathy Graf, Malenda Trick, Donald Sunshine, Nancy Norman, Judy Chinski, Betty Newman, Dave Klocke, Karen Swanker, and Carolyn Burger.