Virtual Relationships Lead to Real-World Collaborations

The Faux Finisher by Patrick Ganino - 01/01/2009

When I first started mscan0024.jpgy business, I was filled with a determination to succeed and a passion for art.  Several years later, I felt I had lost a lot of the desire that makes up a good artist.  I had a successful contracting business, and it became more about making money than growing as an artist.  I remember sitting in my office with Jamie, my assistant at the time, telling her my plans for starting an online forum.  She said to me, “I don’t really understand what you’re doing.”  I said I wasn’t sure either, but knew it was a good idea.  I envisioned artists from around the world sharing ideas and experiences, supporting each other with advice, trading knowledge about classes and products, and helping each other develop skills.  Little did I know what kind of impact this virtual world would have on my real, day to day life.

I did know that starting a successful forum would only happen if I had some real talent heading it, so that’s where I started.  I was fortunate enough to have the early support of artists like Pascal Amblard and Sean Crosby.  As the Faux Forum grew and more artists began sharing their work, I was amazed at what people were doing and the variety of incredible techniques I saw, not to mention the amazing specialties of many artists.  This created an interesting inner battle for me, between the businessman and the artist in me.  I was now introduced to unbelievable talent paired with such generosity of spirit.  Here were people with years of experience willingly and happily sharing knowledge with other artists, everyone going out of their way to be helpful and encouraging.  It was all very positive, and the enthusiasm of Forum members started to lead to other exciting ideas.  We held online galas featuring new, unique works of art and a live chat.  We started a collaborative Art Book, with artists from around the world contributing original paintings.  The finished book will be made into copies and sold to raise money various Forum events, including scholarships toward classes.  Friendships were being formed, new ideas were being born, and suddenly the world of decorative painting became challenging and inspiring for me once again.

Around this time, I began producing “how to” DVDs using the very talent that had joined the Forum.  So many 1.JPGartists had different talents and techniques, it only made sense to create a method to share these more easily and in more depth.  Also, about a year after the inception of the Forum came the first industry event where Forum members could meet face to face.  SALI 2007 in San Francisco, CA, would be a memorable time for many Forum members.  Imagine meeting up with 20-plus people you’ve never met and instantly feeling like you were old buddies.  That’s exactly how it was.  The week was amazing, and the bonds created there have been lasting.  The Forum, the DVDs, and SALI together made such an impression on me, and to this day I’m constantly inspired by the effects the Forum has had on not only my business, but the lives of Forum members.  I’d like to share some stories of how Forum members have taken their virtual relationships and carried them into their real lives, benefitting from these relationships in both business and personal aspects.

 Shortly after the SALI event, I got a phone call from Forum member Erik Schlake.  He was putting together an artist retreat down in Florida and wanted to invite artists from the Faux Forum.  The whole premise was built around their Hermitage in Englewood, Florida.  Eight artists from around the country were flown in and boarded at the Hermitage with the support of the community.  We each created a unique panel for a mural that would later be hung on the exterior of a local building.  Those five days were quickly dubbed “Murals and Mayhem” by the artists involved due to driving rain, fire-breathing lessons at nights (courtesy of artist Tania Seabock), and friendly pranks involving the use of red string—the signature of artist Skip Dydra.  This memorable week resulted not only in fantastic public art for Englewood, but also a unified group of friends.

100_0069_169.jpgArtists from the Forum began collaborating on jobs, using connections made online to find support in the real world.  With such a great pool of talent to pull from, it now seems like a natural result of online networking.  One memorable job was headed by Stacey Olson Sachs, who called on Forum friends, the TALENT brothers.  These three artists worked on an incredible mural project for a large dining hall with spectacular results.

In April of 2008, I had the opportunity to work in a new home owned by TV celebrity Judy Sheindlin (“Judge Judy”).  The home was nearing completion, and we had 30 days to finish the faux work in this 20,000 square foot home.  Mike Sundell, my foreman, was more than willing to take on this enormous job, but we knew we needed the help of other professional artists.  Local artist Holly Whiting was on board with the project, and through the Forum I brought in artists from other areas to help us finish the job by our deadline.  We were joined by Ryan Sentz from Maryland, Craig Walsh from Delaware,  Tania Seabock from California, and Sherry Sparks, also from California.  We lived in hotel rooms for weeks at a time, worked 12 and 13 hour days, and still managed to have a good time.  These Forum members, fellow artists and friends, all gave 110% and completed the job with no real hitch.  From woodgraining to decorative plaster work to a plethora of fish, we had a home run on our hands.  The decorator and client were thrilled, and we all came away from the job with a new respect for each other’s skills and friendship.

 Other collaborations have been happening all over the country.  Lynne Rutter and Tania Seabock in California, Kim Senior and Lausanne Davis Carpenter in Pennsylvania, and several others that I would love to list.  Each collaboration has its own story, and hearing about them on the Forum has been amazing and surreal.  The Forum has grown from an exchange of ideas and information to an exchange of friendship, shared experiences, and collaborations.  I’ve even heard stories of Forum members dropping everything to bring paint to another Forum member working under a deadline.  The groups of friends on the Forum have been growing larger, and the only logical next step is for those friendships to cross oceans. 

 In December of 2008, we welcomed Forum moderator and renowned artist Pascal Amblard to Connecticut 16_298.jpgto teach two mural classes.  Being from France, Pascal has not had as many opportunities to meet and work with Faux Forum members, so we took advantage of his time in the US to plan an exciting event.  We decided to have a real Faux Forum Gala in the studio, limiting the guest list to 25 Forum members on a first-come, first-served basis.  The response was amazing, and I wish we could have opened our doors to anyone who wanted to join us.  Limited seating prevented this of course, but but we still somehow ended up with 32 artists in the studio that afternoon.  We had planned a series of demonstrations from noon until 5:00, featuring artists Marc Potosky, Kim Senior, Lynne Rutter, Arlene McLoughlin, Pierre Finklestien, and Pascal Amblard.  The demos ranged from marble to mural, woodgrain to fresco, clouds to ornament.  Each demo included question and answer sessions while our guests enjoyed wine, hors dourves, and warm crepes made fresh on-site.  The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly, with a large enough group to feel like a social event, but an intimate enough feel for people to absorb all of the ideas and information presented.  It was quite a sight; artists from all over the country finally meeting face-to-face.  The event ran two hours past the expected time, but no one complained or ducked out early.  The demos were so informative, and anyone who has had the pleasure of seeing Pierre or Pascal paint can understand the awed sighs that rippled through the room from time to time.  Before the paint had even started to dry, people were asking when we would have another Forum event.

 With the New Year at hand and the strength in this group of decorative artists, I am confident we will continue to work together toward a prosperous future.  New ideas and inspirational breakthroughs will be formed, and more exciting events are on the horizon.  I am currently working with Australian artist Ron Francis, an immensely talented man, to develop an event for 2009.  Ron will be teaching classes in our studio, and the timing will be perfect for another Faux Forum gala.  In the meantime, I look forward to seeing new collaborations built from the Forum and invite all decorative artists to join us.

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