Apart from the crappy food, the dingy rooms, and interminable lectures, the worst part of school for me was trying to get work done with someone watching over my shoulder. It was bad enough when my classmates were trying to sneak a peek at my muddled answers; if a teacher looked at my half-cocked compositions, I froze. There’s nothing that cramps your style like a snarky adult chuckling at your sums.

Some of the keener kids didn’t mind at all. They thrived on the attention and they always finished before I did. If they’d been highly skilled artists as well, then they’d have been perfect for Saturday’s Painting in the Park, where the public can watch painters create images from scratch, peer over their shoulders, and even chat with them if they dare.

This may not seem conducive to great painting, but event organizers for the CFADA (Charleston Fine Art Dealers Association) know different. The results will be auctioned that night, the oil still slick on the canvas, with proceeds from the auction going to eight local public schools.

This will be the third visual art-related auction in just over a week — the Charleston Art Auction and Through the Kaleidoscope both happened last Friday. Kaleidoscope, a ribbon event which included live and silent auctions, raised funds for the Hollings Cancer Center, while, like Painting in the Park, the Charleston Art Auction benefited art education in schools. So is there anything that sets the CFADA event apart for tapped-out bidders?

Park has one unique selling point — the chance to watch a painting coming together before your eyes, then getting a chance to own it. Plus some big hitters from local galleries are involved. CFADA has 14 members and typically invites two artists from each gallery to take part. With the event getting bigger every year, some participants were turned down for this one. That leaves 23 painters all lined up in Washington Park, no doubt jockeying for position to paint the prettiest tree or vista.

“I’ll be in the park every day of the week before Saturday,” jokes Kevin LePrince, who’ll be joining in the off-the-cuff, plein air activity. He doesn’t mind people chatting with him as he works; his biggest bugbear is weather-related. “The wind can be pretty bad in Charleston. It blows my supplies around, and sometimes it knocks my paintings over. There’s lots of debris. You can usually find a leaf or two stuck in my work — that’s part of the allure.”

LePrince is great at capturing that purply blue that can saturate the sky on fall afternoons, and his work should complement that of Karen Larson Turner, whose mauve-hued, large-scale art brightens the interiors of The Sanctuary on Kiawah.

Some of the attending artists seem better suited to the event than others. Odds-on favorite for completing a tasty piece of work is Gary Grier, who’s adept at rapidly creating highly detailed portraits on modest-sized canvasses. John Carroll Doyle, leading light of the local art scene, can tease beauty from the simplest of subjects. I’m not sure how the meticulous Scott Burdick will fare in this three-hour sprint, but he has plenty of plein air experience, and his upcoming Exotic Visions of India show at the Sylvan Gallery proves that he can find rich images anywhere.

Painting in the Park is part of CFADA’s three-day Art Annual this weekend (see Calendar page 34), all designed to benefit Charleston County High School Art Programs. If you get the chance to attend, leave your leaf blower at home and be sure to give the artists some serious breathing space.

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