Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer |
Local artist Doug Smith with Charles Schulz's sketches of Peppermint Patty and Schroeder and his piano, and a Norman Rockwell pencil drawing, the highlights of an art auction for Decatur Public Library. Smith was instrumental in bringing the pieces to Decatur through his partnership with an art collector.
NEWSPAPER IN EDUCATION
Drawings by famous artists at auction to raise funds for Decatur Public Library
By Andrea Brunty
firstname.lastname@example.org · 340-2448
The excitement was unmistakable in local artist Doug Smith's studio above Sykes Antiques on Bank Street Northeast.
Those who already viewed the drawings by famous artists Norman Rockwell, Charles Schulz and Dr. Seuss seemed giddy to share the rare finds with fellow art enthusiasts.
"It just tears me up. I just love that," Smith said, talking about his favorite, the Rockwell pencil drawing of an older man.
Scott Willis of Willis Gray Gallery nodded ecstatically in agreement.
"Who ever hasn't thought that Rockwell was the it?" Willis said. "And here it is on Bank Street here in Decatur."
So how does a former mechanical engineer find himself in possession of a collector's finest and most rare art?
"Why he chose me, I don't know," Smith said.
Well, he may have some clue. A prominent person in the Decatur community introduced Smith to art collector Tony Greco of Pennsylvania. Their shared devotion of art created a logical partnership.
In June, Smith became a liaison to Greco's collection, marketing drawings from visionaries like Matisse, Andy Warhol, Picasso, Renoir and Vincent Van Gogh to area art lovers.
While Smith, 62, was preparing his own artwork for Decatur Public Library's Pen to Paint Art Auction on Nov. 1, he explained the fundraiser to Greco. The art collector then decided to donate the four drawings to the auction, with half the proceeds going to the Friends of the Library.
Donating to charities is not uncommon for the Greco family, who has given items totaling about $4.5 million in the last eight years to various organizations. Throughout three generations, the Greco family has collected cartoonist drawings, fine art drawings, sketches and more than 300,000 autographs.
Greco can let go of these seemingly priceless works because he has another obsession he will never part with — memorabilia from "The Munsters." As president of the TV show's fan club, Greco devoted an entire floor in his home to a monster museum.
While he is generous with his family's collection, Greco only wants to sell his art to people who will appreciate it, Smith said. He usually finds buyers through word of mouth.
Building trust with the partnership is important in a jealous business like collecting, Smith said.
Smith doesn't take commission yet — every penny he sells goes straight to Greco.
"Some things are more important than money," he said, "and this is it."
"If he asked for (the works) back tomorrow, I would give them to him," he said.
Greco trusted the Decatur man enough to ask him to repair the edge of an original Van Gogh watercolor over pencil. Smith estimates the drawing of two farmers in a field is worth at least $1 million, but he said it possibly values anywhere from $3 million to $7 million.
"I was sweating bullets," he said.
The intricately detailed paintings hanging on the walls of Smith's own studio are not for sale, which probably struck a chord with Greco.
"They're too personal to me," he said, about the uniformed civil war soldier who is a cousin, or the "powerful yet feminine" samurai woman whose sword is poised to strike its viewer.
That attachment for his art expands to Greco's drawings as well.
"I can hardly let (the pieces) go," Smith said. "I cannot wait to get up in the morning and I don't want to go to bed at night."
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