A widely cited legend about the vagaries of putting a price tag on art goes something like this: Pablo Picasso was asked by a woman at a cafe if he would sketch her. The artist quickly drew the woman’s likeness on a napkin and told her his fee. The woman objected to the cost, pointing out that the famous artist had spent only a minute or two on the work. “No, madam, that sketch took me 40 years,” Picasso corrected.
The story — true or apocryphal — illustrates a point about the show opening Nov. 4 at Nelson Fine Art Center. Time spent putting ink on paper or paint on canvas isn’t an indication of the quality or value of the work.
Here’s another lesson of the monthlong exhibit: You don’t have to be wealthy to collect original art.
The show will feature the work of the artists of the Forest Avenue Fine Art Studio, who have borrowed the name and the concept of an online marketing trend known as “A Painting a Day.”
For the show, four artists — studio founder Bennette Rowan and members Monique Carr, John Charles and Julia Rogers — each have produced 30 oil paintings. The 6-inch-square framed pieces will sell for $150 each. Rowan, Carr and Rogers are donating half their proceeds to charities.
The painting-a-day idea was pioneered in 2004 by Virginia artist Duane Keiser, who challenged himself to create an art work each day and offer it for sale online. The paintings would be small — the laws of time and space still apply to art — and inexpensive. Keiser reasoned that he’d be free to experiment without being concerned that gallery owners wouldn’t consider the pieces marketable. Plus, by selling his work himself, he would keep the standard gallery commission of 30 to 50 percent.
The idea caught on, and now thousands of artists sell their work on their own websites and on auction sites like ebay and Etsy.
“Our exhibit reflects our distinct styles and motifs and is based on this Internet marketing concept,” Rowan said. “We’re excited about having so much variety of reasonably priced artwork to offer, and about having the chance to support some of community organizations.”
The show also will include larger pieces by the Forest Avenue artists and will include a tribute to group member Barbara Whisnant, who died in August. Whisnant was a local business woman who painted under the name Emanuel Scott.
Dean White, a charter member of the group, is coordinating the Whisnant tribute. White, a retired educator from Elizabethton, didn’t participate in the painting-a-day exercise but will be showing her work in the exhibit at the Nelson gallery.
A 7 p.m. opening reception at the gallery will be part of Downtown Johnson City’s First Friday events. Live music will feature Evie Andrus, a violinist who studied bluegrass music at East Tennessee State University, accompanied by guitar.
Here’s a quick look at the artists who undertook the painting-a-day challenge:
— Monique Carr
Monique Carr grew up in Montreal thinking she’d be a fine arts artist, but life and the need to earn a living took her to a career in graphic design. Two years ago, after loosing the job she’d held for 15 years, she decided to “follow my life passion and start painting people, animals, landscapes and still life as a full-time artist.” And, she says, she’s never been happier.
Carr moved to East Tennessee 12 years ago by way of the Cayman Islands, where she met her husband, Johnson City native Hank Carr.
She is donating profits from the show to the Johnson City mentoring program Rise Up! which is dedicated to helping kids get post-high school training and education.
“So many sacrificed so much to make us a nation that believe that the least I can do is to contribute in my community in helping kids,” said the mother of two. “That’s why I want to donate through my art.”
“I have been mentoring a young girl from Rise Up! this past year and it has been a blessing to see the relationship between us grow stronger and to know that I can make a difference in another person’s life,” Carr said.
— John Charles
John Charles has connections to famous names you don’t hear together very often: Andrew Wyeth, Sonny & Cher and Charles Schulz. It was Wyeth, in fact, who encouraged Charles to quit his day job — teaching art — to concentrate on creating art. Not bad for an East Tennessee kid whose first art class was through the mail in high school. His formal training began at ETSU, where he earned a fine art degree and a teaching certificate.
“While teaching high school art in Maryland, I met the great Andrew Wyeth,” Charles said. “He encouraged me to not teach art, but draw and paint with total dedication as a full-time artist. I stopped teaching and enrolled at the Art Students League, the world famous art school in New York City.”
The Sonny & Cher connection was made when Charles was working in Los Angeles as a freelance designer and he was hired to add animation to the Bonos’ movie “Chastity” in 1969.
While operating a gallery in Northern California, Charles met the creator of “Peanuts.” “Charles Schulz lived close by and gave me praise for my pen-and-ink work,” Charles said.
He came back home to retire and in 2000 won the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Purchase Award for “Picking Flowers,” impressionistic oil, which is in the TVA’s permanent collection in Knoxville.
— Julia Rogers
Jonesborough artist Julia Rogers works in a variety of media. Many of her paintings are in gouache, a water-based medium, similar to traditional watercolors, but has an opaque, matte finish. She also works in pencil, ink, scratchboard, cut paper, printmaking and recently has tried her hand at oils. Her primary focus for paintings has been the natural world.
Her work includes a 14-foot mural for the Trust for Public Land in Tallahassee, Fla. For three years art director for an interfaith non-profit peace and justice organization in Atlanta.
She received her bachelor of science degree in visual communications from Florida State University and spent a year at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale and studied at Ohio State University, Florida Junior College and University of North Florida. After moving to Texas she took private watercolor lesson from Mary Doerr and Sue Kemp in Austin. She continued her education by studying printmaking at Temple Junior College in Texas, children’s book illustration at the Art Institute of Chicago and several oil painting classes at East Tennessee State University.
“Art is part of who and what I am,” Rogers said. “It is the way I express wonder and awe for being a part of Creation. Each painting or drawing that really works for me starts out as a response to a significant relationship.”
“I chose the local Parish Nurse program to donate a portion of the profits from my paintings because I have been watching Marie Cope in action at the Shepherd Storehouse at Cherokee United Methodist Church for the last five years,” Rogers said. “Watching Marie in her capacity as parish nurse each time is watching a unique ministry in and of itself. She is a registered nurse by training, but she volunteers her time to the Parish Nurse program and she is invaluable to both our church and the community at large. I am sure all of the parish nurses make themselves as useful as she does, but it is her that I get to watch close up and personal.”
— Bennette Rowan
Johnson City artist Bennette Rowan is widely know for her paintings of dogs — she’s one of the few artists chosen to exhibit at the American Kennel Club’s Museum of the Dog — so, it’s not surprising the charity she’s supporting is devoted to rescuing animals. Rowan is donating profits from the show to Brother Wolf Animal Rescue, the largest no-kill shelter and adoption center in Asheville, N.C.
“Interestingly, 30 percent of the dogs at Brother Wolf are transported from the Johnson City area by three dedicated Johnson City ladies,” Rowan said after a recent tour of the facility. “It was heartwarming to see how truly dedicated Denise Bitz (BWAR founder and director) is to caring for these cats and dogs. Three times a week volunteers take the dogs out for walks or for hikes in the mountains.”
Rowan began her painting career after college and studied at several art schools, including the prestigious Art Students League. She’s a Master Gardener and much of her art — exhibited in juried shows and galleries around the country — features local flora rendered in a loose, gestural style. She’s one of only 200 artists selected for the AKC’s registry and is often commissioned by dog lovers to immortalize their best friends.
She considers teaching and mentoring other artists part and parcel of the artist’s life. “It’s like a big circle. You have teachers in front of you, peers at your side and students at your back.”