With the Festival of Art nearing its 80th year and the Sawdust Art Festival and Art-a-Fair well into their middle-ages, the arts organizations still strive for vitality as they ready to reopen for another summer season.
Their energy exudes from a mix of established artists, old friends to many, and ambitious newcomers who win acceptance into the respective Laguna Canyon art festivals every year.
For example, Allison Goode, 30, of Laguna Beach, first experienced the Sawdust Festival sitting in a stroller. She will showcase her photographs for the first time during the 45th annual summer show opening today, Friday, June 24.
Glass artist Les Salva, 42, of Irvine, looks forward to his first summer at Art-a-Fair, as does newbie Ryan Heimbach, 23, of Laguna Beach, the youngest exhibitor juried into the Festival of Arts this year.
Heimbach, a Laguna Beach High School graduate, spent his early years shuttling between Florida and Laguna. While he never enrolled in art school, Heimbach is learning the old-fashioned way by apprenticing himself to Laguna Beach sculptor and Festival exhibitor Andrew Myers. “Andrew teaches me to draw and also to paint now, but the main thing I learned from him is how to sculpt,” said Heimbach.
His first bronze piece sold immediately. Thus encouraged, he sought increasingly challenging subjects, especially that crucible of figurative artistry, hands. “Andrew is pushing me to take subjects further,” he said. “The three sculptures I showed to F.o.A. jurors are based on a theme of ‘time’ and were designed to challenge me technically and also be beautiful,” he said.
Genetics may also play a role. His uncle is artist and gallery owner William DeBilzan. Now, Heimbach faces an equal challenge: producing enough salable work by the time the festival opens.
Goode follows in the tradition of luminist artists, whose subtly hued canvasses were distinguished by a mysterious inner glow. She creates “illumination photographs” that are printed with silver leaf on metal. By embracing photography, she follows in the footsteps of her mother, Laguna photographer Lauren Goode.
“I love getting into the Sawdust with its grassroots feel after seeing it first when I was 10 days old,” said Goode, who lived in Hawaii where Sargent’s Fine Art represented her.
For her Sawdust endeavor, she has created “The Zen Series,” luminous images of buddhas, lotuses, other flowers and landscapes. “I am constantly inspired by the beauty of nature and the changing cycles of light,” she said.
Salva finds himself in Laguna by following the suggestion of glass mosaicist Jason Cullmann, an Art-A-Fair regular. “Jason suggested it on a Sunday, the judging was on the following Monday and it was a real scramble,” said Salva, who had not considered entering. “It was a whirlwind especially since my glass work is still largely in experimental stages and now I have to create a solid body of work to show,” he said.
Salva, an artist since childhood, earned a living painting backdrops and murals for theme parks. He returned to fine art six years ago after his wife’s death.
“I got into painting as therapy for depression since I also suddenly found myself a single dad to a 1-year-old daughter,” he said.
Painting on canvas led to experiments in painting on glass. Having experience airbrush painting on metal, Salva figured glass wasn’t much of a stretch, but it proved a less forgiving medium. He taught himself paint science, learning how to make it adhere though firing, to adjust its viscosity to remain opaque, and to not clog his tools, he explained.
Salva paints portraits, mostly performing musicians, since his passion also lies in music, particularly jazz and blues. He plans a series on recognizable musicians from the ‘50s and ‘60s such as Miles Davis or Charlie Parker, from the most colorful periods in music, he said.
Meanwhile, he is looking forward to meeting the summer crowds with daughter Charlie, now 7, in tow, he said.
Acceptance procedures vary among the festivals: Art-a-Fair uses a 50-point scoring system; Salva received 40. The Sawdust Festival does not jury exhibitors, who get in by lottery and seniority. All work must be original and artists must be Laguna Beach residents. At Festival of Arts, potential exhibitors are initially screened from slides of their work. Jurors make decisions from actual works which are not identified by artist. “Jurying was blind and that’s a nice process. It’s is joy to just look at the art without knowing who the artists are,” said Kate Hoffman, director of the Huntington Beach Art Center and juror who is not a Festival exhibitor.