Lawrence artist’s celebrity portraits among huge variety of creations as Art in the Park returns for two-day event this weekend

photo by: Mike Yoder

Lawrence artists Patrick Schlotterback and Maria Martin will be two of the 120 artists at this weekend’s Art in the Park event Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 18-19, in South Park. The two are pictured in their shared studio Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. The figure in Schlotterback's oil painting above is the 1950s pinup legend Bettie Page, painted from a postcard Schlotterback found at a garage sale.

The two artists couldn’t be more different — he paints celebrity portraits; she paints abstract landscapes — and that’s why sharing a space has been such a breeze, says Patrick Schlotterback of his studio mate Maria Martin.

“It’s perfect because it’s so eclectic. She’s completely abstract, and I love her work, and I’m more realistic, almost a Norman Rockwell type,” Schlotterback says.

The two, along with dozens of local artists, have been getting ready for this weekend’s Art in the Park, a popular Lawrence event that dates back to the 1960s and that typically draws thousands of people to South Park to enjoy art, listen to live music and eat.

While Martin is an event veteran, having participated for years, Schlotterback is a first-timer at Art in the Park, even though, at 55, he’s been painting for decades and has taught art for 30 years in the Ottawa school district.

He’s hoping to soon make the leap to full-time professional artist, and events like Art in the Park are helping him dip his toes into that new life before he retires from teaching.

Martin, who is also president of the Lawrence Art Guild, encouraged Schlotterback to get a booth at the event and give it a go. Art in the Park is a guild event and also the guild’s primary fundraiser.

Visitors to Schlotterback’s booth this weekend are likely to see familiar faces like Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and University of Kansas basketball coach Bill Self — not in the flesh but in oil paint. Pin-up legend Bettie Page will also make an appearance — again, not in the flesh, but in decidedly more flesh than Mahomes or Self.

Schlotterback’s portrait of Page, which he copied from a vintage postcard he found at a garage sale, features the 1950s icon in a blue bikini and her trademark black bangs, suggestively holding a piece of nautical rope.

Schlotterback says he “did a lot of research” on Page and guessed that the photo on the postcard arose from the young Page’s common practice of posing for amateur photographers on beaches and various venues. Page faded into relative obscurity after she converted to evangelical Christianity and battled mental illness for decades before dying in 2008. Since then, public interest in her career has dramatically revived.

Schlotterback says he’s “always been interested in painting people,” whether they’re famous like Page or not.

Depicting recognizable folks like Johnny Cash, Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix and Paul McCartney “is fun and gives me practice,” he says, but it also gives regular folks thinking about commissioning a portrait by him a useful point of reference for his ability to render a likeness.

“Each painting has a story,” Martin says of her own work, but it’s a sentiment that is likely shared by Schlotterback and other artists participating in Art in Park — whether they work with leather, metal, glass, jewelry, ceramics, wood or photography. “My ultimate goal is to create a work that is engaging and takes the viewer on their personal journey.”

Art in the Park is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at South Park. About 120 artists will be participating, including 35 artists from out of state. Multiple bands and musicians will be performing throughout the event, and food trucks and vendors will also be on hand.


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