Ten, nine, eight … Quick Draw pushes artists to the wire in spectator event

Finnegans Wake took James Joyce 17 years to write, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel consumed four years of Michelangelo’s time and Beethoven needed about five years to complete his Fifth Symphony.

But artists participating in one of Waynesville’s most popular art events, Quick Draw, will get just an hour to create and complete their works of art.

Now in its 11th year, Quick Draw challenges regional artists to create a finished piece, ready for sale, in under one hour. Some 40 artists say they are up to the challenge, though it’s just the two-dimensional artists who are actually under the time gun. Metal, fiber and clay artists bring a pre-completed work to be auctioned off, in addition to  the timed works, at the end of Quick Draw to support arts education in Haywood County.

“Every year I say, ‘Never again,’” said oil painter Sarah Sneedon who travels to Waynesville to participate each year from the Caesars Head area in Upstate South Carolina. “It’s a lot of pressure. You sweat it, and you worry about it, and you try to plan down to the brush strokes and colors.”

Sneedon said she grew up in a family that was not artistic, one in which her father regarded those who were artists “as bums.” That background has made Sneedon all the more eager to support art education in the schools.

“I don’t have a lot of money to give, but I can torture myself once each year,” she said.

Some artists prepare for the competition racing the clock using kitchen timers. The practice — seeing how long their envisioned works will take them — can stave off the unfortunate problem of not quite being done when the bell goes off. That doesn’t always work, however. Real life can throw some real curves even at the most prepared of artists.

Last year, Sneedon remembered, she made the mistake of picking a technically challenging composition — two girls building a sand castle by the ocean.

“We got to five minutes to go and I didn’t have an arm on one of the girls,” she said, adding that she was forced to simply paint an arm in “fast.”

This year, Sneedon plans to paint sunflowers in the mountains. She’s yet to paint a trial run of the composition in the hour slotted for Quick Draw, but Sneedon expressed confidence that when the adrenaline kicks in she’d be able to complete the painting in the time required.

Artistic travails aside, QuickDraw has gotten so popular among area artists that the event — it’s not technically a competition — is now invitation only, said organizer Faye Wagoner.

“We have been blessed in that now we have such a following among artists and attendees we have more artists who are interested than who can actually participate,” Wagoner said.

This is the only event of its kind in the region, Wagoner said. There is a Quick Draw in the Highlands area, but that one allows artists a three-hour window instead of just 60 minutes.

Wagoner described Quick Draw in Waynesville as “an exhilarating evening. It’s just a terrific evening of fun.”

Some artists, like watercolorist Ann Vasilick, enjoys the challenge and competition of working beside other artists. She has selected a landscape in the Waynesville area to paint, which is out of this well-known artist’s bailiwick. Vasilick’s is best known for her buildings and street scenes, including those of Waynesville, and they are considered highly collectible.

She said she drove around the town until finding the particular view that attracted her, used photographic elements and did thumbnail sketches on the spot. Vasilick then returned to the studio to render a full-sized sketch of the painting. When this artist is unable to sleep, she would mentally paint the scene dozens of times.

Vasilick might be painting a landscape that is a little different than her best-known works but she plans on using the techniques that got her to the party: the meticulous and loving use of light and dark, volume and texture.

“I’ll use all the same elements I always use,” Vasilick said.

Complicating the task for Vasilick is the medium, watercolors, that she works in. She must be aware of the wetness of the painting and the necessity for it to dry within the required time. Many artists have blow-driers at the ready to hasten the process.

Oil artist Joyce Schlapkohl of Waynesville is looking forward to the competition with, perhaps, a bit of dread, too.

“I love it,” Schlapkohl said. “It’s stressful but exciting. When it’s over, it is nice.”

Schlapkohl, who has participated every year in Quick Draw, said she keeps trying to prepare a bit more each time.

“That hour really zips by,” she said in explanation, adding that she no longer says “hello” to spectators or friends milling past during the event. “I just try to stay focused.”

Schlapkohl said she believes all the artists involved are painting increasingly difficult paintings for Quick Draw. When the event started, she said, it was so new and unfamiliar everyone simply ensured they had a composition that could be completed within the required hour.

Schlapkohl’s technique is to break her anticipated painting down to basics.

“And I try to pick something I’m familiar with and that I feel that I can do in an hour,” she said.

Schlapkohl said she’s had people tell her before they actually enjoy her Quick Draw paintings more than her standard work, because it’s fresher. The artist also believes there is a value, beyond the important goal of supporting arts education, to the competition: “Anytime you push yourself as an artist that’s probably useful,” Schlapkohl said.


Art comes to life at annual Quick Draw in the Mountains

WHEN: 4:30-9:30 p.m. Saturday, April 28  

WHERE: Laurel Ridge Country Club, 788 Eagle Nest Rd., Waynesville

HOW MUCH: $50 in advance

MORE INFO: www.wncquickdraw.com

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