Move to Laguna is first step to Sawdust

Artist's bucket list includes exhibiting at the famed art festival, but participants must be two-year residents of Laguna Beach. So Robert Holton takes the gamble.

September 19, 2013|By Michael Miller
  • Artist Robert Holton has always dreamed to showcase his work at the Sawdust Art Festival, which he hopes to be apart of next year. He uses a BBQ skewer to help drizzle paint onto a blank canvas.
Artist Robert Holton has always dreamed to showcase his… (KEVIN CHANG, Coastline…)

Robert Holton had the desire to be an exhibitor at the Sawdust Art Festival.

He had years of experience as an artist. He had connections in the industry. There was only one problem: Holton lived in Anaheim, and Sawdust rules require that participants live in Laguna Beach for two years.

Problem solved.

Holton, who runs a sign-making business and takes commissions through his side company, Drizzle Pop Art, signed a lease a month ago for a tiny apartment off Pacific Coast Highway. Whether he makes the lineup for Sawdust in 2015, his first year of eligibility, is up to chance. But the artist, who called appearing at the festival a personal "bucket list" item, is OK with making a gamble.

"It's a huge investment to get in," Holton said last week in his living room, relaxing on the couch in paint-splattered clothes and shoes. "As I've told some of my friends — worst-case scenario, if I don't get in, is I get to live in Laguna Beach for probably two years."


That's not a bad deal, whatever the sacrifices. At Holton's house in Anaheim, his studio walls could hold about 50 paintings; here, it's down to eight. Since the work space takes up his Laguna garage, he parks on the street most of the time, although he can wheel the art supplies back if he needs to fit his car inside.

With the Anaheim house converted to a vacation rental home, and the artist's son set to take over One Day Signs, Holton is practically starting over to make it into Sawdust.

But a bucket list is a bucket list, and he hopes to have an eye-catching set of entries — many of them vivid reproductions of cereal boxes, wrappers, signs and other consumer staples — ready for his first year in the festival.

So how good a chance does Holton have of making Sawdust? As good as any newcomer, really.

Every year, according to General Manager Tom Klingenmeier, about 240 artists apply for the festival's 190 booths. In February, the staff draws numbers in a lottery to determine who places for that summer. The most experienced artists — dubbed the "senior classes" — make the cut automatically, while newer applicants hope for a slot up to 190.

It's not a total loss if they don't, though — artists who draw No. 191 or higher sometimes still get in if another artist offers to share space.

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