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Wednesday, 10 May 2006 00:00

A good cause brings together local artists

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As artist Ann Vasilik was nearing the home stretch in Quick Draw — an annual event in Waynesville where artists race against the clock to complete a piece of artwork in one hour — the blow-dryer aimed at her watercolor rendition of a Frog Level street scene suddenly quit working.

Other artists nearby who also had blow-dryers trained at their paintings were in the same boat, losing not only their crucial tool for drying their paint as they worked but also the lamps they needed to see by.

With just 10 minutes left on the clock, spectators responded in true Quick Draw fashion, snatching up programs and newspapers to fan the artwork while event organizers scrambled to find the circuit breaker at the Waynesville Country Club, where the event is held each year.

Artists diligently putting final touches on their pieces in an adjacent room were oblivious to the drama until organizers announced that all the artists would get an extra 10 minutes due to a power outage.

For Waynesville artist Stephen Savage, the extra time was a relief.

“The last three years, I felt like I wasn’t able to get finished,” said Savage, 30.

Unlike most artists, Savage does little if any prep work ahead of time and instead depicts the scene around him at the event itself.

“I really go there with no pre-conceived thought of what I am going to paint,” Savage said. “I sit down and try to paint what’s in front of me.”

Savage calls it “capturing the spirit of Quick Draw.” This year, that spirit happened to include Suzanne Gernandt of Textures Gallery, who was weaving on a loom nearby. Garnandt, who had long wanted a piece by Savage, decided it was the right time to strike and bought the painting during the live auction of pieces created for Quick Draw for $475.

Meanwhile, Vasilik had quickly overcome the power fritz and didn’t know just how to use the extra 10 minutes added to the clock.

“Because I had planned my painting so carefully, I was close to the end,” Vasilik said. “I am sure each artist reacted to that additional time differently. If you start doodling with it, it would be exactly that.”

Vasilik had done a practice run of her watercolor in her studio back home before the event.

“I didn’t want to find myself three-quarters of the way through the painting when they called time,” Vasilik said. “The last strokes are what pull the painting together. The first layer is large abstract shapes. As I move through the painting, it is the few last calligraphy strokes that describe what is going on and give the fun and the surface and texture, so I must be able to get to that point.”

Famous for her street scenes, Vasilik had chosen a scene of the Frog Level district of downtown Waynesville as her Quick Draw target. It was going to be a large painting with lots of activity — a mixture of wooden and brick store fronts and people in the crosswalk.

“I knew it was a challenge,” Vasilik said of the scene she chose. “In watercolor, the trick is to have drying periods between each layer of paint.”

Despite a little help from a blow-dryer, Vasilik didn’t finish in her hour-long practice.

“I put my brain to work and said ‘Where can I cut corners and what can I eliminate?’” Vasilik said. “It is like a Chinese puzzle. I love the challenge. I love to compete with myself.”

Dan Wright and Wendy Biller were indebted to the short circuit instigated by the blow-dryers — or at least the extra 10 minutes it afforded.

“We really needed it,” Wright said.

The artist couple had one of the more labor-intensive creations at the event. Their paraphernalia included wash tubs, jugs of water, soldering irons, wire cutters, pliers, paste wax, liquid patina, buffing cloths, dish detergent, copper tubing and plating and even a little duct tape. Their finished product is a framed bronze-like sculpture of a branch set onto stained glass. But getting there is a little tricky, especially in an hour.

“You glob the solder on to form the look you want. When you are done with that you wash it really well with soapy water and rinse it and then apply an acid wash liquid patina,” Wright explained. They rinse the sculpture again, then apply a paste wax and buff the finish before framing it.

“It is a multi-step thing. That’s what is so time consuming and horribly scary,” Wright said.

Another slightly nerve-racking aspect is not being able to chat with the spectators, Wright said.

“You want to, because people talk to you and you have to politely ignore them even though you want to talk to them, but you cannot because you are so engrossed with what you are doing,” Wright said.

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