Wet Paint Live: 15 artistic views in a day

For the 13th year, artists take to the outdoors and paint Marco Island in a day

Lance Shearer

Marco Island got a paint job Tuesday – and a professional paint job at that. Around the island, 15 talented area artists fanned out, each choosing a spot to set up an easel and produce a painting “en plein air,” or as we say in English, outdoors.

The next 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 auction, sponsored by the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce, is a fundraiser for the chamber’s scholarship program.

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During the day on Tuesday, each artist started with a blank canvas, with each canvas certified as starting the day blank, and the finished work due by the end of the day. Maps circulated showing the location of each artist, and potential buyers or fans of the artists were encouraged to make the rounds and visit them while they painted.

One new addition to Wet Paint Live, now in its 13th year, was a chartered bus tour around the artists’ locations, but it was cancelled due to lack of participation, said Donna Niemczyk of the chamber.

“I’m sure it has to do with what’s been going on,” she said, referring to the rampant spread of the novel coronavirus, but independent-minded folks also like the freedom to visit on their own schedule, and spend additional time with a favorite painter. So, visitors came by the carload, not the busload, and got a sneak preview at paintings they might bid on.

Chamber staffers including Niemczyk and volunteers such as Nancy Lambert also visited the painters, and they were perhaps the most welcome, as they brought out lunch to the “starving artists.”

Jarrett Stinchcomb set up at the Boathouse Motel, along the water at the island’s northern end. He painted the scene where he is used to passing by in a kayak or motorboat.

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“I’ve wanted to paint here a while,” he said. The only male among the participating artists, he has five works at the Marco Island Historical Museum, where Wednesday’s auction was held.

The only first-time Wet Paint Live painter, Karen McEwen found a spot tucked away beneath the Herb Savage Memorial Bridge for her vantage point. Joking that she was “the troll under the bridge,” she also pointed out that for last year’s event, the skies opened up with a downpour, and she had a solid surface over her head.

On Tuesday, though, the day was beautiful and mild, with just enough puffy clouds scudding across the sky to allow the painters to place them anywhere on the canvas they chose. Some painters went further in invoking their “artistic license,” such as Jo-Ann Sanborn, painting at the Esplanade, just outside the door of her former gallery.

She painted the courtyard scene, but “yes, I made the star bar disappear,” she said, giving her the chance to make the landscape into a waterscape.

Judy Harthorn, also at the Esplanade, returned to a favorite vista by the fountain in the front, although she was perturbed that the water had not been turned by noon. Phyllis Pransky also painted a marine scene at the Esplanade, including both the boat basin and the star bar.

“This is like a vacation for me, like going to the Riviera,” said Pransky, adding that right now is probably not the best time to travel to that other, European Riviera.

Judy Chinski and Betty Newman painted within steps of each other at the Shops of Olde Marco, but their canvases were very different. Chinksi worked on a vivid watercolor showing the scene in the Shops’ courtyard, while Newman could really have set up anywhere to produce her mixed media abstract, which featured actual beach sand and some ground glass. She used a portable hair dryer to set some of the layers.

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Last year, Wet Paint Live raised about $8,000 to provide scholarships for local high school seniors.