Newcomers join veterans

It's shaping up to be a rewarding summer for new artists at the Sawdust Art Festival, which opens today.

First-time (and second-generation) exhibitor Sean Tiner put up his first "sold" sign an hour before the gates had even opened for the Sawdust's invitation-only preview night Tuesday.

"I'm so excited to be part of the show," Tiner said.

Tiner added that what intrigues him most is that the Sawdust is encouraging new artists, which he feels brings a new face to the summer festival and the Laguna art scene in general.

He joins about 200 artists in the summer show, which is celebrating its 41st anniversary. It requires all of its exhibitors to be local residents.

"There are people who move to Laguna specifically to be in the Sawdust," spokeswoman Rebecca Meekma said.

Tiner's father Peter is a longtime art teacher at Laguna Beach High School and exhibited at the Sawdust in the 1970s.

Tiner's photographs are manipulated in various ways and are laid with archival ink on canvas.

Although Tiner focused on surf and beach scenes in his Sawdust collection, the piece that sold before the show's opening was of an automobile.

A major portion of Tiner's spare time and energy goes toward the Mark P. Tiner Education Foundation, which he set up in memory of his younger brother, who died with classmate Max Sadler in an automobile accident a few years ago.

Tiner is one year out of Brown University. Since graduating, he has traveled and met with surf legends like Tom Carroll and Greg Knoll. He also works for MacGillivray Freeman Films.

"It's really been a magic year," Tiner said.

Another new artist this year is Mike Kershnar, whose acrylic and enamel work augments the graphic design he does for bands and on skateboard decks. The latter earned him a writeup in Juxtapoz Art & Culture Magazine recently.

The publication celebrates underground art, in the "lowbrow" and "pop surrealism" veins, but has given many artists their first "serious" break.

Standing in a brightly colored booth bedecked with decks and posters, Kershnar said he has attracted a lot of attention from teenagers so far.

"I'm very excited to be here," he said. "Hopefully it'll be a good time."

He compares his decks to rock posters, which started out being scoffed at but have since become regarded as a more "substantial" form of art. Kershnar cited the current Rick Griffin exhibition at Laguna Art Museum as an example.

One deck on the booth wall featured a sunflower, which is a tribute to his early days, Kershnar said. He began drawing that exact sunflower every day in eighth grade.

The classic "starving artist" does his best to make ends meet each month; on those where he ends up a little short, he said he sells his decks at local skate parks.

Kershnar is currently trying to have the Sawdust allow him to sell his custom skateboard decks at the festival, whose artists sell original artwork.

The decks are decorated using a heat-transfer technique, but Kershnar compared them to prints or giclees, which are sold at many booths during the festival.

"This is who I am," he said, gesturing around at the decks. "This is why I'm in Juxtapoz."

Tiner and Kershnar's work joins the festival's countless examples of painting, jewelry, art glass, sculpture, textile and drawing.

One of the festival's most popular aspects is its constant and varied music lineup, with genres from Zydeco to acoustic rock.

Other features include an "Up Close and Personal" theme and related booth featuring portraits of the artists; "Walk About Wednesdays," featuring docent-led tours and artist demonstrations; the "Sawdust Scholars" booth, featuring the works of high school students who have been paired up with Sawdust mentors; and Project Skimboard 3, which is now a joint venture with the Festival of Arts.

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