Festival of Arts exhibitors share in platter painting to help other artists

Artists take part in the Platter Painting Party at the Art Center at Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach on July 30.
Exhibiting artists take part in painting platters and tiles during the Platter Painting Party at the Art Center at Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach on July 30. The finished fired platters and tiles will be available for viewing and bidding on Aug. 28.
(James Carbone)

On a cool summer evening at the Festival of Arts, several of the exhibitors gathered around, doing exactly what gave artists a special place in the hearts of Laguna Beach decades ago.

They expressed themselves through their creations and through their unity in purpose, as 16 artists participated in a platter painting party last Saturday night.

Artists stepped out of their comfort zone, many working outside of their typical mediums, to create platters and tiles that, once fired and glazed, will be put up for auction.

Longtime festival exhibitor Mike Tauber, a ceramics artist and an organizer for the event, takes pride in seeing his fellow exhibitors try their hand at something new.

Artist and event organizer Mike Tauber helps artists choose paint colors at the Platter Painting Party.
Artist and event organizer Mike Tauber, right, helps artists choose paint colors during the Platter Painting Party.
(James Carbone)

“I was very proud of the artists who tried it,” Tauber said. “I think it was kind of daring of them to do that, especially in public, and knowing that many, many people are going to be looking at their work — after they’re fired — at the auction. I thought that was really brave of them to try it.”

The auction will take place on the festival grounds on Aug. 28 from 6 to 8 p.m., with the proceeds going to the enrichment grant program known as the Artists Fund at the Festival of Arts. The enrichment grant is intended to assist artists who are looking to expand their careers. The nonprofit also issues hardship grants.

Opening bids for the platters will be set at $100. The auction falls on the final Sunday of the Festival of Arts, which runs through Sept. 2.

A partnership with Laguna Clay Co. has helped make the platter painting events possible. Since the inception of the annual parties, the platters have been donated by the ceramics business, which is based out of Los Angeles County’s City of Industry.

Elizabeth McGhee paints her platter "Spaghetti Western" during the Platter Painting Party.
Elizabeth McGhee of Laguna Beach paints her platter “Spaghetti Western” during the Platter Painting Party.
(James Carbone)

Bryan Vansell, the owner and president of Laguna Clay Co., said ceramics introduce a lot of unknowns, and he fields questions from artists eager to learn about how the process works.

“It’s quite fun,” said Vansell, whose wife, Joy, teaches at the printmaking workshop at the festival. “When we take the pieces back, it’s kind of like Christmas. Everybody is just so excited to see their work and see how the firing went.

“Then, of course, the auction comes, and everybody’s very proud that they can make some money toward the Artist Fund. So it’s been a really fun event, and the festival itself, they do a really nice job.”

Walking the grounds of the festival, the attendees take in diverse crafts, from ceramics to jewelry, from printmaking to watercolors, as well as a variety of subjects, from the human condition to the natural beauty around the globe.

Mark Jacobucci of Laguna Niguel paints his platter "Monarch Butterfly" during the Platter Painting Party
Mark Jacobucci of Laguna Niguel paints his platter “Monarch Butterfly” during the Platter Painting Party.
(James Carbone)

“All the artists, they’re all there for very different reasons,” Tauber said of the Fine Art Show. “I think that the common denominator is they are extremely dedicated to creating fine art. The number one thing that all artists would like to see at the festival is have many people come and visit them at their booths.

“They love talking about their work. There are so many stories behind each individual artist — how they got to their work and the meaning behind their work.”

Participation in the event has continued to grow. Lyn Hiner, a first-time participant in the platter painting party, looked to differentiate her design from others, especially with everyone dabbling in the same medium. Her platter featured a Le Mans racing car.

Others depicted wildlife such as butterflies, cartoon caricatures and even a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs.

Susan Jarecky, from Orange, paints her platter "Three Hens" during the Platter Painting Party.
(James Carbone)

Hiner generally does not paint with brushes, preferring to work with palette knives, but she branched out to support a good cause in helping other artists.

“It feels supportive, and I like that,” Hiner said. “I like community. I like the feel of community. I appreciate and value that, so something that only takes me a few hours, it seems like a no-brainer.”

Mary Aslin, a pastels artist who has exhibited in the Fine Art Show for a dozen years, said she found it “invigorating” to work alongside her fellow artists, as opposed to the isolation of working in a studio. She produced a floral tile at the event.

Carole Boller of Laguna Beach paints her platter "I'm in the Red" during the Platter Painting Party.
(James Carbone)

The Laguna Beach City Council honored the Festival of Arts with a proclamation recognizing its 90th anniversary at the start of Tuesday’s meeting. Aslin shared her thoughts on being a part of the festival.

“It’s unbelievably meaningful from the standpoint of history,” Aslin said. “There’s not a single day that I think I’ve been on the festival grounds that I’m not cognizant of the historical legacy and what the artists of 90 years ago did to say, ‘We love this area of the world, and we love the light and the beauty, and we would like to share that with the public.’ …

“We stand on the shoulders of these wonderful artists who paved the way forward for us here. Here we are 90 years later, a couple blocks from where they were painting, right on the ocean.”

Mary Aslin, of San Juan Capistrano, paints tiles called "Rose Delight" during the Platter Painting Party.
(James Carbone)

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