ENGLEWOOD — Paul Findlay, who retired at the age of 40 to pursue painting full time, is reaping the benefits.
He recently won first place at the Aqueous Show Exhibition at the Venice Art Center, beating out 115 other local artists for top honors.
“I feel absolutely wild, super and on top of the world,” Findlay said. “It was a huge honor. I’m extremely fulfilled. When they awarded the prize, I choked up.”
Findlay, 74, is an abstract expressionist who won for his entry, “Florida Grasses.” He said he originally did not think much of the work and was surprised when it won.
Roger Parent, president of the Osprey-based Florida Suncoast Watercolor Society, said that during the judging, Paul’s painting was complimented for having vibrant energy and brilliant color.
“It was a loose painting and gestural,” Parent said. “You can really see the brush marks.”
Juror for the exhibition was Joseph Melançon, a professional artist whose career spans 60 years.
Melançon talked about Findlay’s winning piece.
“It was really exciting to look at,” Melançon said. “(There wasn’t) an amateur stroke in the painting. It looked like it was done quickly and he knew what he was doing. It was very competently done. It was a great design.”
Melançon, who teaches at the Art Center in Sarasota, said what he often looks for in a work is it has to grab your attention from far away, as well as up close.
“I’m attracted to paintings with craftsmanship and design,” Melançon said. “When I see something that’s exceptional, real or abstract, I take note.”
The praise is rewarding, especially in the art field, said Paul’s wife Trish Findlay, who handles the business side of Paul’s artwork.
“Paul has been at this all of his adult life,” Trish said. “Being in the art life is tough. He’s had a lot of success and failures. Whatever affirmation you can get is great. It’s been a while since he last worked on something.”
The Findlays hail from Buffalo, N.Y. They’ve been married for 55 years, and spend most of the year in Englewood.
“Paul is part of a rich art culture and history in Buffalo,” Trish said. “Florida is a funny area. You’re more likely to run into people who paint as a hobby.”
Paul works with super brilliant acrylic paints. He worked with oils in the past, but said he found it too toxic.
“People were very supportive,” Paul said. “Art comes with a certain amount of responsibility. You have to judge your own powers and limitations. Too often we are constricted and attached to labels in life. Whether it’s real or abstract, you have to go beyond them.”
Paul’s work is on display from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Saturday at the Englewood Art Center, 350 S. McCall Road.
Paul will be doing a home show from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at 560 Edward St. For more information, call 716-949-5809.