A race for the fastest paintbrush in the West was on Saturday morning.
The 2022 Fall Arts Festival QuickDraw artists were fast at work by 8:30 a.m., racing against the 90-minute clock and the numbness in their fingers from the morning’s chilly temps.
For the first time since before the pandemic, the QuickDraw event resembled the gala affair it is, with bidders, onlookers, artists, friends and family filling Town Square, stopping to talk to one another, and cheering the artists on.
Standing by Allie Zeyer’s tent while her barn and landscape came to fruition on the canvas, Jackson local Francesca Paolucci-Rice was watching with her friend, commenting to each other about how fun the QuickDraw is.
“I don’t go necessarily every year, but this really is quite the event, and it seems so celebratory this year, post-pandemic,” she said.
When the bell called time, the wet paintings were collected to wait their turn on the auction block. As the canvases made their way to the tent, so did the VIP ticket holders to find a buckskin-themed lounge complete with a fire pit and a topiary mimosa wrack. Enthusiasm continued to pick up as artists said hello to one another and longtime collectors found their seats and paddles.
This year’s sold-out bidding tent was expanded to 200 ticket holders and included a seated section and screen for art buyers who didn’t need VIP doughnuts and leather couches just inside the park fence.
Online bidding returned and gave in-person bidders a run for their money as bids went surprisingly higher and higher with each quip from auctioneer Tate Heinzerling.
Mark Jennings, who has a house in Alta, wasn’t sure who he was going to bid on.
Another attendee wasn’t sure if he had clearance for Saturday art shopping, but Steve Feldman’s phone was at the ready and on the BidSquare site.
“She gave me no authority to do anything whatsoever, but I might have to defy my wife,” he said.
The Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce changed the terms for this year’s artist roster, capping the number of artist entries to 30. That equation served some artists very well, with several surprise final bids that were higher than anticipated. Katy Fox’s flowers against an urban wall was estimated to sell for between $2,300 and $5,300. It went for $7,500.
A few paintings caused bidding wars.
Lyn St. Clair’s bear enjoyed 13 bids. Patricia Griffin’s “Taner” was caught in the crossfire with 16 bids.
David Frederick Riley’s “Big Boy,” a 36-by-48 inch piece, went 18 rounds before it sold for $14,000.
But the biggest commotion came from Connor Liljestrom’s cowgirl, with 20 bids. Lilejestrom was donating his portion of the $15,500 sale to Chelsea’s Fund.
The featured artist of the year, Troy Collins, had four of his seven children in for the event.
The Hamilton, Montana-based painter was anxious, according to his wife and marketing director, Gina Collins.
“He was so nervous when he first found out” about his accolade, she said. “The first 15 minutes after the announcement came out, he was so excited, and then it turned to terror. Troy didn’t want to let anyone down in this community that we love so much.”
Community is a big part of the QuickDraw, and according to Collins, the artist camaraderie found in the Tetons is unique.
“Troy and I were at The Russell last month, and this artist was speaking to us and said he had never seen anything like this, that it wasn’t competitive, that all the artists are friends and even paint together,” she said.
Troy Collins’ “The Grandest Journey,” a 60-by-60 inch oil painting of the Tetons in full autumn regalia did anything but let Jackson art fans down. Collins’ piece sold for $32,000 and is headed to Chicago.
According to the BidSquare auction page, sale totals from the QuickDraw auction totaled over $260,000.