MOVE OVER, MONET. SPEED IS OF THE ESSENCE ON the Saturday after Thanksgiving, when an eager throng of artists will pour into Cambier Park in Naples for “Quick Draw 2021.” This fundraiser for the Legal Aid Service of Collier County is set to turn the downtown Naples park into a buzzing hive of creative energy, with just over 50 artists and three bands participating.
Although the artists can paint in every picturesque nook and cranny of the park, they are also welcome to fan out into the surrounding streets to paint cafés, cars, passers-by or whatever catches their eye. “They can paint from a photograph. They can paint from real life. One of the artists, Cory Patterson, is probably going to run a piece of neon through his painting on plywood,” according to event organizer Laura Barnard.
Giving artists maximum freedom to flex their creative muscles is one of the things that make Ms. Barnard an excellent herder of cats. A former elementary school teacher, she divides her time between Massachusetts and Florida. She’s a tireless champion for the artists who are donating their efforts to the fundraiser. The artists are associated with Art Aid Naples, a group founded and directed by Ms. Barnard to support the Legal Aid Service of Collier County.
“We have a huge range of artists, from traditional plein-air painters to some of the young, edgy, graffiti, street art kind of guys, who will be painting large-scale things,” she notes. “You’ll see abstract artists too, like Anna Rac, who paints to music. She’ll probably have her headphones on.”
“En plein air,” by the way, is a French phrase meaning “in the open air.” It refers to the practice of painting outdoors from direct observation. It was a favorite method of the French Impressionists and other 19th-century artists who yearned to capture the light, colors and atmosphere of outdoor settings.
Most of the artists in Quick Draw 2021 are from Naples and Fort Myers, including well-known local figures such as Paul Arsenault, Phil Fisher, Natalie Guess, Juan Diaz, Muffy Clark Gill, Popo Flanagan, Cesar Aguilera and Marcus Zotter. The group also includes intriguing but less familiar artists like Laurél Schmid, whose luminous semi-abstract seascapes feel like serene meditations. A full list of participating artists, with links to their websites, is available on line at www.artaidnaples.com.
In addition, Ms. Barnard has snagged several plein-air painters from other parts of Florida, many of whom know one another from taking part in similar events elsewhere. “Their stuff is just beautiful. It’s just gorgeous,” she says.
One of the out-of-towners to watch for is Manon Sander from Palm Beach County. Her fluently painted canvases include tranquil water views, Everglades scenes and the simple beauty of Florida cottages. She also likes to paint what she calls “shiny things” like motorcycles and classic cars as well as “yummy things” ranging from candy to oysters on the half shell.
The artists will paint live from 9 a.m. until noon, while three different bands play on the hour in the bandshell. Starting at nine is Moonstone Riders, playing pop, rock and Motown classics. At 10 a.m., the trio RaDar Kats, featuring Kat Epple on flute, takes the stage. Beginning at 11 a.m., the Naples reggae band Roots Almighty will have the crowd swaying to island rhythms.
Throughout the morning, visitors are welcome to wander the area, chat with the artists and watch their creations take shape. Admission is free, but the organizers request a voluntary $5 “entrance donation” to Legal Aid from those who attend. Of course, you can always donate more if the spirit moves you.
Then, beginning at 12:30 p.m., all the paintings made that morning will be auctioned by Elie Mero, a retired restaurateur and businessman. That process will probably take about 90 minutes but it will be worth the wait for the lucky purchaser of each freshly painted work of art.
“It’s a great opportunity to buy a beautiful piece of original art by a wellknown Florida artist at an incredible price,” Ms. Barnard points out. “Every painting sold and every donation collected, you’re helping children in need.”
Sixty percent of the proceeds will help support legal services for at-risk children, says Jeff Ahren, director of development for Legal Aid Service of Collier County. He explains that Legal Aid serves well over 500 children annually. It provides free legal assistance for children in the foster care system, those whose families are affected by domestic violence and children with mental or physical disabilities who need help accessing educational support at school.
The remaining 40% of the auction profits will be divided in equal shares among the artists whose pieces sell. “If an artist doesn’t sell their work, they own it and it goes home with them. If they sell it later and choose to make a donation to Legal Aid from part of their proceeds, it is entirely up to them and would be most appreciated,” Ms. Barnard says. “We hope and expect to sell every piece. We did in our first Quick Draw in November 2019.” That event raised almost $30,000 based on the work of 27 artists.
Three-hour art challenge
So, how do artists who usually spend days, weeks or even months in the studio working on an individual piece prepare to create something in a time span normally allotted to a first date?
Susan Anderson, an artist who winters in Fort Myers, is a first-time participant. She says she’ll prepare by scoping out the park in advance, driving around it and then walking the area to take photographs of scenes that interest her. She might even do a couple of practice paintings beforehand, if she decides to paint plein air rather than from a photo or still life setup.
“For me, personally, that just gives me a little bit more comfort, instead of walking in cold, obviously,” Ms. Anderson remarks. “I like to have a plan. It may not always turn out like what’s in my head, but that’s my goal.”
Naples artist Muffy Clark Gill took part in the first Quick Draw at the Naples Beach Hotel two years ago. She planned her composition in advance. “I came in with a pre-set design that I wanted to work on, and that I thought I would be able to get done in that time frame. I got it done well enough that it was passable, but in a more perfect world, I would have liked to have done a lot more to it. I’m going in prepared for this one as well with an idea I have in mind versus painting plein air,” Ms. Gill says.
On the other hand, Ehren Fritz Gerhard, gallery director at the Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers and an adjunct professor of art at Florida Gulf Coast University, says he tends to work from what’s in front of him. “I’ve been painting plein air for years now and have developed a way of working, especially in large-scale paintings, to depict an emotive landscape full of life. Using acrylic paints with their rapid drying time, I am able to quickly paint several layers of thin washes, glazing and impasto,” he notes.
Marvin Rouse, a painter and graphic artist from Naples, expects to channel his impressions in a more abstract way. “I never really know when I’m going into something what I’m going to paint. I draw off the energy of the environment and the people,” he says. “I call it imagination art.” His work, he adds, “is like a montage of different colors and symbols and things going on.”
Know before you go
If you think you might want to bid on an artwork during the auction, here are a few tips.
¦ There’s no need to register in advance. Paddles will be available but a raised hand is acceptable as well. Several rows of chairs in front of the bandshell will be reserved for bidders.
¦ Artists set the minimum opening bid for their work. At Quick Draw 2019, starting bids ranged from about $250 to $1,000.
¦ After the bidding ends for each painting, the purchaser and artist will be asked to meet an event team member at a table near the stage. The purchaser will be given a sales contract, and the buyer and artist will walk over to the park gazebo to make payment and, if necessary, delivery arrangements.
¦ Payment for auction items is by cash or credit card. All major credit cards are accepted.
¦ Know that the paint on many artworks probably won’t be fully dry. The Quick Draw organizers will have materials like plastic sheets or cardboard that buyers can use to transport smaller artworks home in their own vehicles. Buyers of larger paintings may wish to arrange delivery at a future date with the artist. If an artwork must be shipped out of the area, shipping costs are the responsibility of the purchaser. ¦
— Janice T. Paine is a Naples- based freelance writer who specializes in art topics.
In the KNOW
Quick Draw 2021
» Saturday, Nov. 27, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
» Cambier Park, Naples
» Admission: Free, but an entrance
donation of $5 is requested.