2 Pine Avenue Artists, with a Propensity for Whimsy

By: Leslie Joy Ickowitz

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Sunsets scribble pink, purple and orange across the sky as day turns to night on Anna Maria Island. Daytime reveals sparkling hues of green and blue. Like a paintbrush to canvas, waves lap the shoreline with colors from the Gulf, spilling into the art studios on Pine Avenue. Here are two of them:

At Bob Brown Art, the canvasses are splashed with contemporary, abstract art. Colors jump with joy, drawing viewers in for a closer look. Some paintings are energetic, textural celebrations without a clear subject, while birds, horses, sailboats and women emerge in others.

“All my birds have bracelets and painted toes,” Bob says, while we admire “Bird on Rock.”

 

At his gallery, you may be lucky to meet Boyd the Bird — an abstract fellow born in Central Park because that’s where Bob was when he dreamed Boyd up. Boyd doesn’t have a face and yet he’s got personality, wearing a signature necktie and bowler hat in all his appearances.

 

“He’s just so original,” Gallery Manager and Partner Janet Aubrey says of Bob. “It’s crazy how he has a sense of what people want.”

 

“I call this one ‘Two Guys with Nuthin’ to Say,’” Bob says, pointing to a pair of flowers standing side by side.

 

Lately he’s been working on commissioned pieces and his paintings find homes in Western Europe, sprinkled around the United States and locally.

 

“Abstract art at the level Bob produces is not very common around here,” Janet says. So they spend a lot of time educating the public about it and they make it accessible. “We have held our price points low so that we can make the art affordable to everyone.”

 

Painted personalities peek out from the gallery’s floor to ceiling windows on three sides. Step closer and you could find a lady, a parrot, a fish, a palm tree or a piece of outdoor fence art to take as a reminder of your enchanted island encounter.

 

If you go…

Bobbrowninc.com, 507 Pine Ave.

 

A stone’s throw down Pine Avenue, it’s easy to see why a daily dose of Emerson Quillin does good. Back in the day, he had a daily comic strip published in The Cincinnati Post but these days his humorous one-liners and vivid pop art play at his own place — Emerson’s Studio Store.

 

Snarky, wine-drinking women, funny dogs, fish and penguins are characters you might find hanging out with Emerson. And you can get them on canvas, on coasters, on aprons, on greeting cards and cocktail napkins. There are pillows and painted tables and nightshirts-in-a-bag which have already sold millions.

 

“My characters started taking shape when I started drawing on cocktail napkins,” Emerson says. Most of the drawings were of waitresses. “After a couple years of that, I started putting verbiage to them. That’s how my whole thing with women and funny sayings started.”

 

He says he conditioned his brain to think of one-liners. “And for some reason it worked with me because I am fairly good at doing stupid things.”

 

Good luck wiping the smile off your face while viewing decorated remarks like:

 

“I enjoy doing nothing but sometimes it overwhelms me,” and “Don’t worry about how you look. The sharks don’t care.”

 

There’s a cat on a pillow saying, “Have a mice day” and a man in a rowboat barking, “I’m in a meeting” into his cell phone. Then there’s, “How I take my coffee: Seriously.”

 

“I like to pull things off that are a little bit over the edge but a lot of people think it’s funny.”

 

Emerson’s main squeeze, the 1920s-era flapper-esque girl, shows up everywhere and looks sort of like his wife. “But she stays the same age,” he says. And he makes her look timeless — on T-shirts and paintings, and even on a Real Estate company’s “For Sale” signs dotting the island. 

 

“Cashiers are always checking me out,” boasts one version of her.

 

Emerson has over 30,000 sayings up his sleeve but here’s a one-liner full of good advice…

 

“Don’t be afraid to sit on the front row of your life,” Emerson writes.

 

If you go…

Emersonshumor.com, 317C Pine Avenue

 

Artistic Perspective on Anna Maria Island & Beyond:

 

2nd Favorite Local Art Gallery:

Bob: Artspace Anna Maria (above the post office)

Janet: The Studio at Gulf & Pine

 

Favorite Dining:

Bob & Janet: The Waterfront Restaurant

Emerson: The Sandbar and Hurricane Hank’s

 

Favorite Place to Contemplate:

Emerson: In the bathtub

 

Favorite AMI Landmark:

Bob: Anna Maria City Pier

 

Favorite Local Antiquing:

Emerson: Sarasota Salvation

 

If he could paint only with one color it would be:

Bob: Purple because I think that purple represents energy and it represents passion and it represents life. I just like purple.

Emerson: White

 

Favorite place to visit:

Bob and Emerson: New York City


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