If Christopher Meredith wins the top prize at the Huntington Beach Downtown Artwalk's year-end showcase Thursday, he may make a gracious speech thanking his supporters.
Then, the next week, he may make another one over Thanksgiving dinner.
Meredith, a Fountain Valley resident, has been a visual artist for two decades. But if not for the urging of one patron — which is to say, his mother-in-law — he never would have created the image of the Huntington Beach Pier that will join other works from this year's artwalk at the Shorebreak Hotel.
"He's been doing a lot of artistic stuff, and he's very talented," the painting's owner, Luanne Diehl, said Friday in the living room of her Surf City home, where Meredith's "Sunset at the Huntington Beach Pier" hangs over the couch.
"He's been doing a lot of pencil work. And he started thinking that he wanted to do some paintings. He started with some oils, and I thought, 'You know, I'd love to have a picture of the pier,' and I figured he'd be the one."
For eight months last year, Meredith worked on a 3-by-5-foot depiction of the pier at sunset, with a blazing red and orange sky and the lights of Ruby's restaurant glistening at the end. Since then, he's sold giclees and prints of the image at the art walk and elsewhere. And if enough of those fans stop by to vote Thursday, he may win the Huntington Beach Downtown Business Improvement District's annual Favorite Artist of the Year prize.
Since 2011, the business improvement district has capped off each year by inviting all the art walk's participants to attend a celebration at the Shorebreak and bring their favorite piece to display. Visitors can vote at the event for their favorite artist, with the winner receiving a plaque.
The downtown group has been hosting the showcase in January, but manager Susan Welfringer said her team opted to move it to November to avoid working around the holidays and give the artists a break during the winter months. (The art walk, for the first time, will be dark from December through February.)
So far, Welfringer said, more than 50 artists have confirmed their attendance. Janessa Bookout's piece, made from a damaged surfboard blank and pieces of scrap foam, features a painted image of a "kelp goddess" underwater surrounded by seaweed. Fredy Dominguez will present his Italian clay sculpture "Forever Young," which shows a walking couple intertwined.
"I've had a very good experience with everyone, specially, the attendees and the people that come by to see the art," Dominguez wrote in an email. "It's priceless. When they identify with a piece and find that connection between their life experience and the sculpture, the expression on their faces and their excitement is overwhelming."
As Meredith knows, that excitement can take a long time to achieve. As a student at Edison High School in the 1990s, he found inspiration in an art teacher who wouldn't let him off the hook until he'd done his best.
"She's the one that taught me how to draw," Meredith said. "Every time I finished a picture, I brought it to her, and she would hold it up and we'd look at it, and she'd go, 'You're not done yet. You could do a little bit here and there.' Then I'd go sit down and take maybe a week of working. I'd finish it, and I'd get back up to her and I'm like, 'OK, I'm done,' and she'd go, 'Nah, let's do some more over here.' She really taught me how to use my eye to see what needed to be worked on."
Meredith, who works for the Huntington Beach-based technology company Robo-Stat, has launched a Huntington Beach Pier series since finishing the commissioned work for Diehl. Often, he posts images of his works-in-progress on Facebook to stay visible to fans — as he did with the showcase piece, which elicited some online comments seeking to outbid Diehl for the painting.
"When you first start something like this, people kind of look like, 'Where's he going?'" Meredith said. "And as you start building all the different layers and putting in the details, all of a sudden they're like, 'Oh, I see what's going on here.'"
If You Go
What: Huntington Beach Downtown Artwalk Invitational Showcase
Where: Shorebreak Hotel, 500 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach
When: 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday
Information: (714) 536-8300 or http://www.hbdowntown.com