Wielding a pencil between the toes of his bare left foot, Patrik Norstrom sat on the periphery of the Lowe Art Museum’s driveway on Saturday and sketched a remarkably detailed picture of a crowd of people.
“The secret to drawing a good crowd scene is to draw the background and elements around the people,” said Norstrom, as passersby stopped to look and wonder at his drawing and how he created it.
Born with no arms, the 48-year-old Norstrom relies on his feet for nearly everything—to drive, cook, use a smartphone, and create his beautiful drawings.
He was one of the thousands—mothers carrying their infants in strap-on baby carriers, children accompanied by parents, dog lovers with their canines—who attended the 63rd annual Beaux Arts Festival of Art January 18 and 19 on the grounds of UM’s Coral Gables campus.
Under clear skies and with temperatures in the 60s, the event featured more than 230 fine art juried exhibitors showcasing works in 10 media, from oil and acrylics to ceramics, photography, sculpture, and watercolor.
“I seldom come looking just to buy art but to enjoy the atmosphere, the people,” said Jan Fransella, of South Miami, one of the dozens who paused briefly to admire Norstrom’s work before moving on to visit some of the artists’ booths. Her daughter, Emma, 21, was a first-time attendee.
UM commuter student Tomomi Hiramine, an economics and math major from Tokyo, Japan, didn’t even know the festival was being held until she arrived on campus Saturday to visit a friend, and then saw the crowds. She decided to make a day of it, strolling the grounds to look at art and do a little people watching. “I’m not an art lover,” said Hiramine, “but the variety of work amazes me.”
The Beaux Arts Festival of Art started as the Clothesline Sale in 1952, when a group of women, interested in promoting the arts in Miami, hung clotheslines outside UM’s Lowe Art Museum and invited artists to come and literally hang their works for display. Proceeds from the art sales, as they do now, went to the Lowe. The festival acquired its current name in 1977 and has been drawing crowds from afar ever since.
“This year, we had a lot of our old, favorite artists coming back, but we also had 70 artists who had never exhibited here before, and they came from all over the country,” said Grey Bryan, festival co-chair.
Among the returning artists: Jacqueline Roch, who graduated from UM in 1988 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. “I love this show,” said Roch. “The people who come here are loyal to it.” Roch, who has exhibited and sold her pastels at the festival for the past 15 years, specializes in original artwork, never reproducing her paintings for sale. “When I sell something, it’s gone,” she said, admitting the practice is unusual in the art world. “But I don’t like prints. You can never be sure of the quality,” she explained.
Roch’s works on display included “Entre Nosotros,” or “Between Us,” a pastel featuring bromeliads; and “New Burn,” a work inspired by her visit to a section of the Everglades damaged by fire.
Palmetto Bay resident Julie Rocawich, a 1984 UM grad, stopped at Roch’s booth to admire her work. “She’s one of my favorites,” said Rocawich. “I’ve been coming here for more than ten years, and I always make sure to see her new paintings. Her use of color is just fabulous.”
Norstrom, an industrial designer from Sweden who has worked for automobile manufacturers such as Volvo and Geely, hopes to be among next year’s Beaux Arts exhibitors. He has drawn and painted since he was a little boy, winning his first art contest at 4 years old. The judges, he said, had no idea he used his feet to draw. “I don’t feel I’m handicapped. If I did, it would be a whole new ballgame,” said Norstrom. “I want to compete with what I’ve done.”
<i>Robert C. Jones Jr. can be reached at 305-284-1615.</i>