The Art of Joy: For Destin’s Banner Artists, Creating is Like Breathing

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By Ron Sandstead, Flutterby Antiques on Main St.

What seems to really push artists is a desire to create. It is elemental. For them, it is like breathing. If you know an artist, you know what I mean. Their studio is their happy place and where they are truly “home.” If they don’t have a studio – their kitchen, garage or corner of the living room will do. Filling their homes with art makes them happy.

This doesn’t mean creating art isn’t work. Artists were not born knowing how to handle a paint brush or how to mix colors. They had to learn. To be good takes dedication, concentration, study and practice – lots of practice.

The next two artists I am featuring know the value of practice. They have both spent years perfecting their skills and techniques. Let me introduce you to Kathy Schumacher and Jennifer Viaene.

Kathy Schumacher is a joy to be around. The first time you meet her, you are struck by how easy she is to talk to and her sense of humor. She smiles a lot. I first met her last fall at the Mattie Kelly Festival of the Arts. She was standing beside her booth talking to customers. I had to wait my turn. Besides her wonderful paintings, two things I remember most were her big floppy hat — and that sunny smile.

Kathy Schumacher is a happy lady. She is married, has two adult children, teaches art, participates in art shows, displays her art at the Foster Gallery, and sells her art on her website: shumacherfineart.com. Spending 5 to 6 hours a day in her studio, she works with oils using a pallet knife. Like she says, her paintings are a “cross between a painting and a sculpture, having almost 3D attributes.”

Kathy’s painting of sea oats on the beach is a good example of her painting technique. It is a picture of peace and calm and reminds us of the reason most of us moved here – sand – beach – and water. How many of you have walked barefoot on the beach and rested on a sea oat covered sand dune? If you have, you will remember the feel and sounds – the rustle of sea oats in the breeze, the feel of sand between your toes and the gentle whoosh of waves pushing up the shore.

Jennifer Viaene’s inspiration for her banner art is the majestic brown pelican. This proud bird, once nearly extinct, is now a common sight in our bay and harbor. We have all seen pelicans flying or sitting on pilings. Although they look a little ungainly when sitting, they are grace in motion when flying. And they are fun to watch – especially when there is a feeding frenzy. A flock of them will start diving out of the air and smashing head first into the water in what looks like a group Kamikaze attack. Miraculously, they don’t break their necks and often have a meal for their suicidal effort. I love watching these amazing birds.

When we formed our Banner Art Committee three years ago, Jennifer was an early participant. Her encouraging comments, common sense and light hearted attitude have helped bring a positive energy to our project. A conversation with her is comfortable and easy and I am pleased to call her “friend.”

Jennifer grew up in Wisconsin, married young and had three children. After her divorce, her artistic adventure began when she moved with Mark to the island of Tasmania near Australia. While there, she bought her first art supplies and taught herself to paint. After nine months in Tasmania, they decided to return home and moved to Navarre. That was six years ago.

Jennifer has established herself as an artist and gallery owner. She owns the Emerald Coast Gallery near McGuires in Destin. She also displays her art in several businesses in Navarre, as well as Kahn’s Furniture. While “down under,” Jennifer became inspired by the aboriginal method of painting with dots. She has become a master at creating dot patterns and using them to enhance her artwork. Although her mandrels look impossibly tedious, she says painting with dots is calming and she loves painting them.

We have always known Main Street in Destin could be better. When people and businesses believe in a dream, good things can happen. I am reminded of Nancy Weidenheimer and her persistence in creating our Destin Dog Park. Because she knew what she wanted and wouldn’t take no for an answer, we now have a wonderful park named in her honor. Thank you Nancy for showing us the way.

And thank you Katherine and Jennifer for generously sharing your talents and believing in the dream.