Artists Bring their Best to Arts, Beats & Eats

Artists Bring their Best to Arts, Beats & Eats

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Sept. 2, 2017)

Royal Oak, MI – When people walk in to Conni Tongel’s booth at Royal Oak’s Arts, Beats, & Eats festival, smiles are inevitable.  her bright-colored paintings show characters she says appeal to people’s childhood imaginations.

Her preference is for sheep.  “Sheep are a common denominator around the world,” she said.  “You can find sheep anywhere. You put them in any situation and they instantly make things seem more peaceful.”

Tongel lived in Germany from age 8-21, and brought her skills graphic design apprenticeship skills with her to the United States.  She now lives in South Carolina, but spends her summers in Michigan doing art shows because the weather is cooler.

Her advice for aspiring artists is to let go a bit can create work that sells.  “Artists start out and it’s like their art is their soul’s work.  And we have to do the work that our souls want. But it is work, and you have to look at some of it as work.  You have to adjust to what’s current. You have to be willing to learn. And you have to paint what people are willing to buy,” Togel said.

The sheep seem to work.  “People like coming in and smiling.  It makes people feel relaxed,” she said.  “Serious art has its place, but if you take things too serious, you miss the best of life.”

Philippe Iaine of Palm Beach, Florida also dabbles in the whimsical.  He travels the world selling hand-painted silkscreens and pillows.

As part of Arts, Beats & Eats the Detroit Institute of Arts hosted artist talks and demonstrations.  At his Saturday afternoon talk, Iaine shared insight into his process, and the secret to keeping silks looking lovely.  “You see in Europe, in France and Italy, these big, beautiful canopies.  They’re still in pretty good condition. Someone, some genius, figured out to wash them in the ocean.  The salt water is the key. ”

Next to Iaine’s booth, a man was engrossed in the process of painting.  Sidney Carter of Marietta, Georgia comes to Arts, Beats, & Eats every year.  “I love it,” he said.  “I’ve built a good following.  I come back and it’s like seeing old friends.”

The work in progress was mainly white with vertical lines.  Carter explained that it would be a fishing scene – two people in a boat fishing on a tree-lined marsh.

“I listen to a lot of jazz music and I get my inspiration from that,” he said.

While Carter’s work was very realistic, other artists like Tim Gralewski of Rochester Hills, leaned more toward the abstract.  Gralewski’s largest painting, “Past Noon,” started with an interpretation of an old newspaper photo of a main in a fedora, broken up by “chaos and illusion.”

“I see him as a businessman,” he said.  “And all these things a businessman feels.”

Another demonstration later in the day featured Lou Hii of Indianapolis, Indiana who shared his love of papercutting.  Hii learned papercutting at a young age from his grandfather.  With a lot of patience and care, Hii creates multi-layered images.  “Papercutting is not like some other art.  Here you cannot make mistakes or they will be very hard to fix,” he said.  “When Van Gogh made a mistake, he could cover it up.  But papercutting is different.  You have to get it right.”

Hii is an architect by day, artist by night. He also loves going to schools to teach kids the basics.  His favorite subjects are nature scenes and traditional Chinese images.  For his live demo, he chose a piece that featured a pair of Koi fish.  “Koi is a symbol of luck,” he said.

Arts, Beats, & Eats also featured rows of food and beverage vendors and multiple stages for music performances.  The event continues through Monday, with a full schedule of features that can be found at


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