Laguna Beach has been a surfer and artist hangout since the days the Spanish and white settlers started coming here. I have heard that many artists compare the light to that of France and to be sure, there is something a bit different with light here than further up or down the coast. California Impressionism got its start here and while once a wonderful sleepy beach town it draws hordes today.
Feeling we had nursed the dog enough, we headed out on what turned out to be a beautiful day and made good time despite this being a 4-day weekend. They have a relatively cheap parking lot above the art fairs and town with a free shuttle. You just hop on and go to the next stop. It is worth every penny!
The Sawdust Festival has a lottery for 200 spaces and the artists are drawn from around the area. Considering the number of galleries in town, I would imagine there are far more than 200 artists in the area. I believe this is the oldest of the three shows (there is also a gallery in front of the Pageant of the Masters plus the Art-A-Fair) as this is the 47th year of the festival.
I hadn't been in about 10 years and was surprised to find a lot less sawdust and fairly substantial spaces. More than a few cut around the native trees and did a good job of giving you the gallery experience. There were far fewer crafts than in years past and in fact it appeared to have settled in about four categories: painting, photography, jewelry and pottery-glass-wood with more emphasis on pottery and glass.
Its hard to criticize because what I like is certainly or not necessarily what you may like but there was nothing that reached out and grabbed me. I was surprised that many of the booths didn't have the artist present. I'm sure its an artistic drag as the show is open 7 days a week for about two months. However, there are far more people there than you would ever get in any gallery so I think it would behoove the artist to be there. Some were actually working and were chatty. In fact I learned a few tricks! People love watching an artist at work. Others, however, that were there ignored the crowds and one was reading Orwell's 1984, catching up on the recent NSA revelations I guess. He seemed unaware that it was written about a time 437 years in the future or that potential clients were literally walking by. So much for connecting with the artist.
Art-A Fair, just down the road from the Sawdust festival, is a more egalitarian affair. Artists are invited to submit art to be judged and about 125 are chosen to show from around the world. In my mind this had better art probably because it drew from a much wider area. However, it too seemed to have fewer crafts and concentrated on painting and photography. If there is any complaint, and it is for both, is that the way the spaces are set up is, well, strange. Everything is at a diagonal and it was easy to repeat an area and just as easy to miss areas. It seems that there has to be a better way to guide us through so that we see all the artists. In fact, if you go, make the circuit twice because it is that easy to get lost.
The one good thing with both shows however, is that you did see the actual original art. None of these giclee's that our buddy Thomas Kincaid used to make a killing from one painting by selling hundreds if not thousands of prints from that original. That was not the story in town, but that's another blog.
If you live in this area or are going to visit, the show is a must see (well maybe every few years). The town is great fun and has lots of shops. The arts and crafts are fairly priced and people were buying. However, since I can't even begin to hang all of my paintings, I went to look, get ideas and chat, not to buy.