QuickDraw is art in action

Art-in-an-hour challenge to be Saturday
By Stina Sieg | Apr 26, 2012
Photo by: Stina Sieg QuickDraw, a benefit for art education in Haywood County, is headed to Laurel Ridge Country Club this Saturday. The famed challenge — when artists must complete a finished piece of work in an hour — begins at 5. Pictured is artist Jo Ridge Kelley.

QuickDraw veteran Grace Cathey has a few recommendations for anyone taking the annual art-in-an-hour challenge. Copious supplies, a clear plan of action and countless hours of practice are all a must. So is a “backbone of steel,” she said.

“A lot of people pray,” the well-known metal artist added. “A lot of people pray before they start their work.”

Makes sense. Part sporting event, part theater — and entirely indispensible — QuickDraw is a fundraiser like none other. Every year it temps participating artists to sign up for a task that seems next to impossible: create a piece of art from start to finish in public in 60 minutes.

And every year, they succeed beautifully.

The pieces, made from painters, wood turners, sculptors and more, are then auctioned off in front of a crowd of bidders who’ve all watched the works spring up before their eyes. The night’s proceeds, which usually number in the tens of thousands, go to grants for every single public school art teacher in the county, as well as a handful of talented art students. This year, which will feature 19 artists taking the challenge and another 15 demonstrating work without a time limit, will start at 4:30 p.m. this Saturday at the Laurel Ridge Country Club. The challenge will begin at 5 and end promptly at 6 p.m.

Just as it has been for a decade, the 11th annual QuickDraw will be a memorable night — for artists and onlookers alike. Cathey, who did the challenge for two years, explained that having a time limit and an audience doesn’t take away from the work. Instead, it’s enhanced, seasoned by the sponataneity of the moment.

“The electricity that happens — it is an event that is so exciting,” she said. “The guests become a part of the creation, and they become part of the piece.”

That’s not to say creating art under the gun is easy. But it is special. The worry that it won’t turn out, mixed with the energy of appreciative passersby, by makes for something unique that can never be entirely planned out.

“It’s truly a freshness,” Cathey said of her QuickDraw pieces. “There’s such a freshness to it.”

While she now demonstrates her talents at the event instead of trying to fit them into a 60-minute mold, it’s clear she misses the jolt of the challenge.

“It’s addicting,” she admitted.

Lil Parks, a Waynesville painter, knows just what she means. Though Parks has been taking the QuickDraw challenge almost every year since its first, she never gets tired of seeing what that hour will do to her work. The night’s “high energy” and “pumping adrenaline,” as she described it, always take her somewhere in the spur of the moment, even though she always thinks up her paintings far in advance. It’s fun never knowing quite where she will end up.

This year, she’s planning on painting the mountain view that can be seen from her deck, though she can only guess about the nuances and emotions it will pick up on QuickDraw night. All she’s absolutely sure of is that her work will help promote school art programs, which have been severely defunded in recent years.

“It’s just a good deed,” Parks said.

Jo Ridge Kelley, the well-known artist and longtime QuickDraw participant, knows just how good. While most people probably know Kelley from her highly regarded and now-closed gallery, Ridge Runner Naturals, she was also a public school art teacher for almost five years. During that time she saw what a life-changing event art can be for youngsters, especially when they found a skill they didn’t know they had.

“It was a thrilling experience to see it all click,” she said. “It was really exciting and encouraging to see it happen.”

Often times, having a range of quality supplies made all the difference. After all, how can a child fall in love with a medium if he or she is never introduced to it? That kind of question is part of what keeps Kelley coming back to QuickDraw, which gives out increasingly larger grants every year.

Another draw to this arty evening is the challenge itself. QuickDraw is Kelley’s chance to do something a little different. While she’s well known for her large and lovely, and incredibly intricate, landscapes, her QuickDraw work is loose and abstract, made up of bright colors often laid on thick with a palate knife. Though she’s always well rehearsed by the time she makes it to QuickDraw, she delights in the what she calls “the magic of the hour.”

Even she never knows exactly what’s going to happen.

“It’s stressful but it’s just so exciting,” she said. “It’s pretty irresistible, actually.”

For more information about QuickDraw and tickets, visit www.wncquickdraw.com or call 456-6584.

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