For some, summer vacation starts with picnics, bike rides and trips up north to a cabin. I started mine by once again, traveling to the other side of the world to hang out with some of the finest painters and artists in the world, being wowed and amazed.

Enter The Salon: An Annual Gathering of International Decorative Painters.  This group of individuals whose reach extends to most corners of the globe converges once a year to showcase the art and craft of decorative painting.  Faux Bois, Marbling, Calligraphy, Trompe L’oeil, Grottesca, Gilding and Embossing.  These are merely a taste of the artistry that Salon brings together.

Each year, The Salon is hosted in a different city around the world and is given a theme for the artists to work around.  This year, Randolph Algera and Gabriëlle Westra hosted The Salon in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, and chose the fitting theme of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Alma-Tadema spent his youth in Leeuwarden and became a noted nineteenth-century painter of classical luxury and decadence.

The Opening Ceremony is always a special and unique affair, with each city and host doing something a little different.  This year, the Opening of Salon was particularly delightful.  First, the Mayor of Leeuwarden welcomed us to his city and expressed his interest in the arts all across the Netherlands.  We were then treated to a dance specifically choreographed for this event.  Finally, this year’s Salon was coordinated with a very special event all across the Netherlands: The Liberation Day Festival.

Mayor Ferd Crone delivering opening remarks at the start of Salon 2018

Dance performance marking the official beginning of Salon 2018

The exhibition room is at the heart of Salon.  Here, the artists work on current pieces throughout the day and mingle with each other.  Various vendors are on hand with a myriad of tools and materials.  To be able to walk up to an artist in the midst of a painting and ask questions, watch them work, is an amazing experience, to say the least.  The artists also come together and work on a giant mural, each bringing their own expertise to the piece.

The Salon is also host to educational sessions throughout the day where artists will demonstrate a particular skill or technique.  Heidi Zilmer, a master of stencil and wallpaper, showed off her award-winning designs.  Pierre Finkelstein gave a lecture on the vein structure of white marbles.  Jean Sable performed a jaw-dropping display of a verde marble column in under an hour.  Dru Blair, a master airbrush artist, demonstrated portrait work using nothing but an airbrush.

Salon is more than a group of people showcasing their work.  It is a family built around art where they share stories, exchange techniques, and pass along their knowledge to budding artists.  It would be an understatement to say that its sum is greater than its parts.  I have had the opportunity to experience three Salons, and each one has shown me how strong a bond we all have, even though at the end we all go our separate ways, back to our jobs, our lives, carrying with us a little piece of Salon.

Jason Strom is a graduate of North Carolina School of the Arts and has been with FSU as the Paint Shop Manager and Adjunct Faculty for 7 years.  Jason’s experiences includes painting scenery for The McCarter Theatre, Maine State Music Theatre, John Creech Design and Production, LIV Design, Inc., Carnegie‐Mellon University, University of Pittsburgh, and for productions both on and off-Broadway.  To see more work of his work, please visit his website.


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