Humans of SWFL

Who Are The Artists of the Downtown Naples Art Festival?

Every year, hundreds of artists come from far and wide to showcase their masterpieces at the Downtown Naples Art Festival. We were fortunate enough to follow two painters and learn a little more about their art, what inspires them and how they prepare to partake in the festival.

Meet Anne: Anne Chaddock is a full-time painter, primarily in oil. Originally from Richmond, Virginia she has been living in Naples for five years. She and her husband moved to the Naples area for its art community.

Anne Chaddock
Oil painter, Anne Chaddock

Anne enjoys participating in the Downtown Naples Art Festival particularly because it is a high-quality show. Art has been a large part of her world for as long as she can remember:

“[Naples] is a marvelous art community, and I’m very blessed to be involved with the people here; the art associations, the volunteers, and the people that give their days and their evenings to the arts.”

Anne studied art and art education at what is now Virginia Commonwealth University. Anne’s paintings come across initially as photograph-like, reeling the viewer in to take a closer look at the grit and personality of the piece. Each brushstroke creates purposefully slick detail. Though she is involved in all mediums, she considers herself a contemporary realist:

“What [being a contemporary realist] means to me is that I’m not a photo realist . Realism is a big part of what I try to do and what I try to express in my paintings, but I want them to still be a painting. I want to paint, not photograph . I want to be a painter, not a photographer.”

Back in Richmond, Virginia Anne taught art to over 100 students per week. She continues to inspire artists locally teaching watercolor techniques at the Naples Art Association.

Aside from the local Southwest Florida residents who love her work, Anne’s husband is still her biggest fan. She tells the story of the time he once picked up sand from the beach for her to incorporate into a painting. He galavants around her gallery showing us every aspect of her paintings and the meaning behind each one.

In Virginia, Anne concentrated more on watercolor, but after returning to Naples, she realized that canvas oil works were more popular and started focusing more on the tropical subjects that captivate the inhabitants of Southwest Florida.

Anne wants viewers to connect with her work in a personal and emotional way rather than just being aesthetically pleased or thinking about how the piece will fit nicely in their living room. She feels it’s important to know where the painting came from and appreciate the origin of the work.

In talking about her aspirations for the future, Anne shares with us:

“I would like to feel like I have accomplished new directions and that I’m satisfied with what I do. All artists can’t end up in the Louvre, but [I am] satisfied with what I do.”

Anne believes her growth as an artist comes from being challenged during the creation of her paintings. She shows me a particular example of a painting which she created from a photograph that a teenage boy took. Anne explains that she was motivated to create the piece despite its difficulty:

“I don’t want to do things that are comfortable for me … You’ve got to keep challenging yourself, and hopefully [become] a better artist.”

See Anne’s work at her website and Instagram .

Meet Gary: Gary is a watercolor painter reigning from the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. Though he has always enjoyed expressing himself artistically painting portraits, Gary spent many years working in the steel business.

Gary Curtis
Watercolor painter, Gary Curtis.

He and his wife often moved for their work. They moved from Washington to Kansas City to Denver, and finally to Atlanta where they laid down roots. In part due to his new surroundings, and the “need to take life into his own hands,” Gary decided to pursue his art for a living. He attributes the ease of his career change to his wife:

“Without her support, I wouldn’t have done it. It took a lot; it was a gamble. Her moral support helped tremendously.”

Gary explained to me that he studied portraiture for three years and took a strong liking to the skills he learned. After gaining more technical experience, he wanted to experiment with selecting his subjects and decided on watercolor.

Gary has been attending the Downtown Naples Art Festival on and off for over 20 years. It was one of the first large art shows he attended in the 90’s. Gary enjoys the show and influence from all of the vastly different artists showcased. Having started his career in art selling through galleries, he admits that his work gains significantly more exposure from the Downtown Naples Art Festival than it ever would at a gallery.

Preparation for the show includes travel to the event itself. Gary relies on organizations that provide him with a list of shows and possible sales that will help him establish his market. He then develops a schedule and drives to each show baring his display and artwork. Not only does Gary produce original artwork he also creates framing to match, so that involves bringing necessary materials with him to each show.

Gary’s art often portrays glass; he is fascinated by how this material reflects the light on his artwork. As we walk over to a series of paintings, we can see how these perfectly capture reflections from the glass. His art captures the light in such a way that it evokes a sense of place as if I were in the room where the objects were painted. Gary strives to summon emotion with his work by sparking memories and creating emotional ties. He finds this process crucial to generating a personal connection:

“It’s not uncommon for [a viewer] to say ‘my wife and I met over this particular brand of wine’ so it evokes and emotion, it brings up an experience that they had, and so they want to have a piece as a celebration of those times.”

In addition to his usual high-end spread, Gary provides options that are more attainable for those who may not find themselves wanting to buy an original piece.

“I try to provide a variety of work; everything from reproductions, which are unframed, to the more expensive large original pieces. There are a lot of things on canvas which are reproductions that are affordable, and anyone can hang them in their home, and the work is every bit as good because the quality is high.”

See Gary’s work at his website .

See the artists in their element at the Downtown Naples Art Festival here: