The day was crisp, on the cusp of fall and winter, last week, as artists and appreciators gathered at The Red Piano Art Gallery. They had all come to enjoy the Holiday Showcase and Open House.
“We’re really excited about this work of our gallery artists,” said Ben Whiteside of the Red Piano.
Holiday celebration not withstanding, I planned my visit to see the masterful paintings of Lowcountry artist Michael B. Karas.
Just through the doorway and on the wall in the first gallery is his “Seaside Glory,” in oil, a generous 42 by 36 inches. The image is a kind of stop-you-in-your-tracks view to the water overlooking clusters of sea oats to the calm sea high above, an array of exquisite clouds fill the sky.
“This painting is fresh-off-the easel,” laughed Karas, known as a master of landscapes and marine settings. “I was determined that this particular moment in time just needed to be portrayed and put in place permanently for a lot of reasons.”
“From the very beginning of my close relationship with water views and marsh views, I have been completely thrilled by a very magical moment when I sense a unique image ... a moment in time,” he continued. “It has always been the case that I wanted to portray the idea that when I sense that moment. I must absolutely capture all of its elements because I know those elements will never line up that way again.”
Karas, now 40 years into pursuing his artistic career, experienced his earliest beginnings overlooking coastlines and marshlands in New England. It soon became apparent that he loved drawing and painting.
“I was the class artist,” laughed Karas. “It was kind of neat to have that designation when I was so young.”
Years later on his career path, Karas became even more dedicated to portraying in oil the landscape and rugged shoreline of his native New England. He focused completely on his painting and opened his own art gallery in Rockport, which he filled with his Northeastern water-oriented images.
But in 1989, he caught his first glimpse of the beauty of the South Carolina Lowcountry, its soft mud flats and dramatic waterways.
“It was 2004, when we moved to the Lowcountry and chose a home on Callawassie Island that offered a marsh scene in our very own backyard,” he said. “We were awestruck as we took in the setting ... these marshes, by comparison to New England, were kind of marshes on steroids.”
More than 3,000 of his paintings can be found in corporate and private collections throughout the country and worldwide. More recently, his paintings have also been included in a noted series of colorful coffee table books, portraying life in the Lowcountry particularly, living in a close relationship to our watery surroundings.
“He really gets what it takes to offer a landscape or a marsh setting,” said Whiteside. “The natural beauty of Lowcountry landscape seems to bring out his kind of self-established goals toward excellence that we know he sets for himself.”
I was also impressed by the work of the other gallery associates. That work includes “Winter’s Sunset,” in oil and 36 by 36 inches, by Charleston artist Betty Anglin Smith. She is known for her handling of color, her layered applications, and her resultant sumptuous compositions.
Other works include that of New York artist Milt Kobayashi. Note particularly, the 16-by-16-inch “Golden Dress.”
The work of Lowcountry artist Jonathan Green is also on display, including his oil, 18 by 24 inches, “Swing Break.”
Artist, musician, teacher and writer Nancy K. Wellard focuses on portraying and promoting the cultural arts, first in Los Angeles and, for close to 30 years, in the Lowcountry. Email her at email@example.com.
If you go:
- What: The Holiday Showcase runs through the New Year
- Where: Red Piano Gallery, 220 Cordillo Parkway, Hilton Head Island
- For more information: 843-842-4433