George Kalwa had planned on painting more than just a jetty, but he was hoping to capture a fisherman pulling in a fish. He got a whole lot more.
Lead Image: George Kalwa and his painting of a rescue in progress
Kalwa was participating in the Quick Draw portion of the Artists Paint OC event, in Ocean City, Maryland. He was set up with a good view of a jetty populated by fishermen. The surf was rough. Another painter, David Simpson, suddenly noticed a boogie boarder getting swept out to sea by the rip current. The struggling surfer was nearly a half mile away from the beach. The lifeguards weren’t on duty at the beach yet that morning, but Simpson, a local, recognized one sipping coffee in her car before her shift. He alerted her, and she dashed to the scene, alerting other lifeguards. Soon, a full rescue operation was underway, with Coast Guard boats and brave lifeguards swimming in the surf with the beleaguered boogie boarder. Kalwa quickly got it all down on canvas.
“My intention was to paint someone pulling up a fish at the jetty, but when the lifeguard rescue happened, I just jumped on that,” says Kalwa. “I only had two hours to do a painting for the Quick Draw, and I was 45 minutes into it. The next thing you know people were screaming ‘Call 911!’ It was a really pretty scene, and then suddenly here’s the beach patrol going to action.”
His effort earned him Second Place in the Quick Draw. Lawrence Rudolech won First Place, with Maggii Sarfaty winning Third and Honorable Mention going to Laura Howell and Alison Menke.
Kalwa was the right painter to be in place for the drama. When he was a teenager, he painted 10-minute portraits on the boardwalk, and in his late 20s and early 30s, he was a courtroom artist in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., depicting courtroom scenes for national news organizations for seven years. “In court you only have minutes to capture a whole scene, so you have to make marks all over your page and go to it,” says Kalwa. “You get pretty good at getting things like perspective down fast. I just spun right into what I was used to doing, and painted the action. Everyone was directing with their arms to show the rescuers where he was. It’s hard to see in the ocean in the morning because the sun is coming right at you, but I have a lot of experience fishing, so I could pick out the guy.”
Event organizers report that 34 artists participated in the Quick Draw event, and 52 were in the overall competition. Ray Ewing won First Place in the overall competition for his piece “Assateague Dunes.” Ann Crostic won Second Place, and Barbara Stepura took Third. Bruno Baran, Diana Hurwitz-Specht, and Lawrence Rudolech won Honorable Mention.
Laura Era of the Troika Gallery in Easton, Maryland, served as judge. The event is hosted by the Art League of Ocean City. One piece from each artist is on view at the Ocean City Center for the Arts through the end of August.