Engines are revving for emerging contemporary abstract painter Bob Brown — who once drag-raced professionally and later brought Fortune 500 sponsors to NASCAR, Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500.
Born in New York City, raised in East Lansing, Mich., with stints in Houston, and Charlotte, N.C., and art school in San Francisco and Boca Raton, Brown is back at the Studio at Gulf and Pine, 10101 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria, for his second year of exhibition.
He is one of four featured artists at the Studio’s March 21-April 16 exhibit, Appreciating Abstract. An opening reception will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, March 23, with an out-of-the-ordinary technique demonstration 5-6 p.m. (See related story.)
After his show “Have You Tried Abstract?” last year, Brown apparently found his audience. He sold 65 pieces of his art.
His work has been acquired by private and corporate collectors, both in the United States and abroad.
Brown drag-raced professionally after high school before friends persuaded him to concentrate on art.
In 1979, he quit the drag racing circuit and began road racing, where he “made it to the minor leagues.”
The next turn for Brown came in sports marketing company startup in 1992, landing sponsorships deals for motorsport racing.
He did marketing for Porsche and Red Lobster at Le Mans, and for RCA, Penzoil and others while involved with NASCAR, Indy 500 and other motorsport events.
After 12 years of 12 hour days, he sold his company and started to seriously pursue art.
All along he’d been painting, Brown says. But not until being encouraged by a friend to sell paintings on e-Bay, and taking more art classes, did he start thinking about making a living at it. His first painting sold for $10, the second for $35, and the third for $350.
He then reconnected through a class reunion with a friend from high school, Janet Aubry of Anna Maria. He reached out to her one Saturday about two years ago with an e-mail that included some pictures of his work.
Aubry, working in interior design consulting on the Island after a career in marketing for a large Houston architectural firm, also was an award-winning founding member of the Society for Marketing Professional Services, headquartered in Washington, D.C.
Her husband, former Anna Maria Commissioner Gene Aubry, is an acclaimed architect, also recognized for his contemporary art works.
On opening Brown’s e-mail, she shared Brown’s work with Gene. As she did so, one by one, he became more and more impressed, and finally asked what Brown was doing for a living. When Janet said she didn’t know, her husband replied, “Whatever he’s doing he should stop, and do this full time.”
Brown’s work is all about bold colors, but, he points out, sometimes with soft colors laid on top.
He likes painting birds, palm trees and abstract faces. And buildings.
He is quick to make comparisons between his art and racing.
“In the races, I saw all these colors and that sort of struck me,” he says of how he first got interested in modern art. “I think it comes from my racing. It’s like a Super Bowl every weekend.”
His father, too, inspired and instructed him in art techniques.
“He was a cop” and a police sketch artist, he says. Brown tells a story of how a woman once described a suspect to his father, whose detailed sketch made it to the front page of the local paper. Due to the remarkable resemblance, he says, the suspect turned himself in.
Anna Maria Island, he says, also inspires.
“It’s very serene. It’s like stepping back in time. People still drive 10 miles under the speed limit. It’s quiet, not like living in a metropolis.”
Brown compares art to sports marketing, “I was asking for multi-millions of dollars. I can’t just say, I’m a good guy, give me that kind of money.
“It’s a lot like the art industry,” and about “waiting on the investment to mature.
“Racing is the same way, people invest money and expect to get a return.”
Brown warns others who may look to sell their art, to remember it’s important to have time to paint. If an artist spends 80 percent of his time selling and only 20 percent painting, he says, it won’t work.
“You have to have people who believe in you and what you’re doing … to help you sell yourself,” he says.
What’s next for Brown?
In addition to the Anna Maria studio, he continues to be represented by Florida galleries in Delray Beach, Dania Beach and Key West.
“I’m a marketing person by nature,” Brown explains. “I’m researching by reading magazines and collaborating with other artists.
“I try to figure out what wave of paintings will be appreciated,” he says.
Lazin’s passion for photography followed her from one side of the camera lens to the other. After college in Washington, D.C., she moved to New York City, and was discovered by the Ford Model Agency. She was pictured in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle and Mademoiselle magazines.
A graduate of Yale University’s master’s of fine arts and architecture program, she launched a graphic design studio in Manhattan, with notable clients such as American Express, IBM, the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the United States Postal Service and Harvard University.
Following 25 years at the Manhattan studio, she transitioned into art photography.
She and husband Pavil Kapic, an abstract painter born in Prague, work from their studios in Lucca, Italy, and Sarasota.
Lazin’s photographic images transform an ordinary subject into a painting-like image. Her photography is in prominent galleries and held by collectors in the United States and Europe.
Pavel Kapic, an expressionistic painter born in Czechoslovakia, came to New York City in 1968, where he received his master’s in science at Columbia University and started his artistic career in sculpture. He attended the New School, and worked as an apprentice carver in Pietrasanta, a marble-carving town off the coast of Tuscany.
On returning to theStates from Italy, Kapic immersed himself in painting, having many abstract artists as teachers.
Kapic paints with bold strokes of unique color, adding vivid life to subjects. Kapic achieves a layered look by under-painting in gouache, watercolors or acrylic. His textural use of gesso — paint forming fresco-like surfaces — builds an added dimension, reminiscent of his early training as a sculptor.
Kapic’s art is in many private and public collections in United States and Europe.
Kapic realized his dream in 2003, moving to Italy with his wife, Alyssia Lazin, an art photographer. They live in a 350-year-old restored farmhouse in Lucca, and spend winters in Sarasota.
Jim Ladd is a professional watercolorist with 40 years of commission work of more than 300 garden and landscape scenes and 500-plus miniature paintings sold to collectors across the country.
His accomplishments include a 2009 signature membership to the Florida Suncoast Watercolor Society, 2000-2012, numerous awards in Florida and Ohio shows, and a 2004 American Gallery show in Sylvania, Ohio.
Ladd is affiliated with galleries in Haleiwa, Hawaii, and Indian Rocks Beach, and also a member of the Beach Art Society, Sarasota Art Society, Manatee Art Society, and American Watercolor Society.
Art demo, reception, talk
At 5 p.m., Friday, March 23, when Brown demonstrates painting at the Studio of Gulf and Pine, Anna Maria, it won’t be a typical artist’s demonstration.
Rumor has it, his tools may include more than the usual paint brushes.
It costs $100 to attend, and only 20 seats are available. And one lucky ticket holder will take home the artwork created by Brown during the event.
Proceeds will benefit the Studio, which Brown and Janet Aubry, his marketing professional, consider instrumental to encouraging the Island’s art community.
Brown will show his techniques, including application of thick impasto paint laid with a palette knife to create dimension.
He also expects to give each observer insight into the creative process. “You can almost say I paint by mistake.”
“I’ve never done this before,” Brown says, “in front of people,” that is.
He’s put together a 17-song playlist to accompany the demonstration, which he hopes will “elevate my creativity.”
And yes, there’s more. He plans to use squirt guns, ketchup bottles, and a spatula, and more.
The exhibit of four abstract artists, “Appreciating Abstraction,” will open at 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 23, with a reception featuring the Manatee High School Island Jazz Combo.
Featured will be the work of Brown, artists Alyssia Lazin, photographer and her husband Pavel Kapic, an expressionistic painter, and Jim Ladd, professional watercolorist.
The reception is sponsored by the Anna Maria Olive Oil Outpost. The show is sponsored by The Islander.
Prior to the reception, former Anna Maria City Commissioner Gene Aubry will host a talk on “The Art of Collecting Art.” He is the architect for the Rothko Chapel, board member of Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, and 45-year collector of contemporary abstract art. Aubry will discuss collecting for enjoyment and investment.
The exhibit will be on display 1-5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, March 21-April 16 at the Studio at Gulf and Pine, 10101 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria.