Suzie’s ARTiculation

Sawdust sizzles at 52, gets better with age

By SUZIE HARRISON

Sawdust Art Festival seems to get better with age. If Tuesday’s Preview Night is any indication, a barometer of this summer’s show, well, it’s my fave to date!

While checking out all the spectacular new art, the live music always adds to the cool vibe. Truly there are so many incredible artists, so little time…

To kick off my Sawdust ARTiculation, I interviewed two freshmen and two seasoned artists to get their perspective on the opening, preparation, their booth and their work.

Lisa Mansour, painting, first-year exhibitor

“I have wanted to be in the Sawdust for a very long time. Every summer I would bump into Tom Klingenmeier on the grounds and he would say “are you applying for next year?” Lisa Mansour said. 

Fast forward to this year her “Yes, I think so!” reply became definitive.

“I decided to take a leap of faith and submit my application last November for the 2018 Summer Festival,” Mansour said. “My preparations began from that point on.” 

Graduating last December from LCAD’s Post-Baccalaureate program, Mansour said she’s building on a series of paintings that she completed while studying at LCAD. 

“I tried to paint everyday, and finish at least one painting a week,” Mansour said. “Right now I have about 30 pieces of original art hanging in my booth, and about a dozen in the wings.” 

The charming tagline on her booth sign says “Donuts, Dress Forms, Other Delights.” 

“I love exploring the playful side of fine art and finding a balance between classic technique and exuberant expression,” Mansour said.

Sawdust Sizzles Mansour

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Photo by Scott Brashier 

Recent LCAD grad Lisa Mansour, excited to finally say yes to exhibit at the Sawdust, pictured joyfully with her husband John on opening night

Regarding her booth, “I chose my booth because it was on a shady corner on one of the main paths of the Sawdust, the one that leads to the glass blowing booth.”

She had it built with a triangle wall at the open corner and angled the wall so that when people are entering the Sawdust and walking down the path, they can readily see her work. 

“The great thing about the Sawdust is we can paint in our booths – in fact six hours a week of demo time is required of Sawdust artists,” Mansour said. “I plan on painting all summer long.”

Leading up to opening night, Mansour admits she was a little stressed out, but it turned out well. 

“My longtime dream to be in the Sawdust had arrived and I had art on the walls and donuts as my snack,” said Mansour. “So many friends and well-wishers were there – really the whole community of Laguna Beach – and it was such a warm and wonderful evening. It flew by.”

Catherine Reade, jewelry, 18-year exhibitor

Preparing for the Sawdust is not so literal – she does shows all spring, as well as the winter shows including Winter Fantasy. While she is preparing for the other shows she’s also preparing for the Sawdust summer show, with the end of May to the end of June, of course, the big push.

“I’m also making a lot of custom work, most people don’t buy ready to wear, they want something custom,” Reade said. “They want something that’s different, within my style more personalized to them, more intimate detail.” 

Sawdust Sizzles crowds

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Artist Catherine Reade loves the energy and the crowds, like on opening night

As for her booth, she’s coveted the same spot 14 of her 18 years in the show.

“The importance is to always have a corner booth and have my counter space, so people can walk up and have room to look at my work and spread out and talk to me,” Reade said. “My whole interest is to educate clients and prospective clients about what the materials are, how I’ve created this, what goes into it. I want them to walk away with a really positive feeling about my work.”

Because she is a fabricator she creates every piece from start to finish.

“Nothing is prefabricated. I make all my links, all my settings, I have to cast wax…so it’s all individually made, everything is a one-of-a kind piece,” Reade said.

Her booth is sort of minimalist. Reade said she just wants it to be clean and industrial like her jewelry.

“I love that space because it’s very energetic. I have all the energy from Studio One, across from me, with all these children and adults creating all these art projects,” Reade said.

“It’s very energized in that neighborhood. I love the energy, excitement and openness.”

Lisa Rainey, oil painting and painting, first-year exhibitor

“I started preparing last year before I submitted my artwork for review. I knew that I wanted to be in the show this year building a body of work the past few years since I moved back here from Chicago in 2015,” Rainey said. “There is a lot that goes into it. I always want to grow and I want my work to be authentic to who I am every moment I create.” 

Currently she has about 35 pieces and will be working in her booth all summer in oils and mixed media to create new work. 

“I choose the pieces that speak to me and make me feel something when I look at them,” Rainey said. “I constantly bring work home from my studio so that I can live with them for a while to see how they speak to me.”

She added, “Meditating on my subjects, I’ve learned more and more about color and finding techniques that were new and different.”

Sawdust Sizzles Rainey

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Photo courtesy of the artist

Lisa Rainey can’t wait to share her work as a new exhibitor at the Sawdust

Her large paintings, created within this last year, sparked something new in her. Rainey calls them dream-scapes.

“I mainly have worked in a style that I call impressionistic realism. I work from life so that I can really see the nuances of color and light in flowers and nature,” Rainey said. “I also have recently gone back to working in watercolors, I don’t want people to only see a pretty still life, I paint to tell a story.”

For her booth, Rainey wanted to have a light roof so the sun would shine through. 

“I wanted this space to be light and bright, a nice backdrop for the color in my work and choosing colors to help the work to stand out,” Rainey said.

“Opening night, I was nervous knowing how many people come to preview night, but once it got going I was feeling comfortable and having a great time,” Rainey said. “My friends came to support me, see my booth and my artwork. It was truly a celebration.”

Doug Miller, painting and photography, 48-year exhibitor

“This is my 48th summer at Sawdust – I got out of the Navy in 1971 and got a booth – I bought my booth space from a girl who was moving to San Francisco for $70, which was what she paid,” Miller said. “That was in the early Sawdust days before rules were adopted that would not allow such a transaction to take place.”

He’s been at the same location for 21 years, perfect to be near the music since Miller plays violin and with various musicians during the show. 

“I paint every day – I have painted every day without missing a day for 24 years. I number my paintings and record them in a book,” Miller said. 

His self-imposed rule is to at least begin a painting every day. 

A friend suggested that he record his pieces in a daily journal, that was the impetus he wanted to see how many days he could go in a row…24 years.

Sawdust Sizzles Miller

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Doug Miller is a staple at the Sawdust always wanting to make others smile

“I’m up past 17,500 paintings. There are days I have painted more than one. in fact, I painted an average of two pieces per day most of the time,” Miller said.

He paints about 400 to 1,000 acrylic paintings per year, mostly the small canvasses up to 6 x 8 inches. “I sell an average of about 500 pieces per year. My best year was 2008 when I sold 651 pieces, mostly beaches,” Miller explained.

Larger pieces go on the walls. “I finished painting of Crystal Cove in one evening, two days before the Opening party. A big quick piece that is a real attention-getter,” Miller said. “Opening night party, I sold five pieces and saw so many Laguna friends – several will come back and purchase during the show. They always do.”

Here’s the skinny on locals’ nights – interestingly, 15 places not Laguna Beach, such as Dana Point, the other Lagunas, and the surrounding cities, get in free on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, from 5 to 10 p.m., whereas Laguna locals only get in free Mondays, Thursdays, also after 5 p.m., and the First Friday of the month all day.

To check out Sawdust central, including the live entertainment schedule, art classes and workshops, theme days, special events and more, visit https://sawdustartfestival.org. Sawdust Festival is located at 935 Laguna Canyon Road. For information, call 494-3030.

Until next time…so much Sawdust art, entertainment, socializing, and so little time!