APOLLO BEACH — Art lovers can conjure up an array of adjectives to describe the work of David Sigel — colorful, realistic and picturesque, provocative, inspiring and intriguing.
Seven years ago, however, you only needed a few — hidden, buried and unknown.
Sigel, who will be one of the artists at the 26th annual Manatee Festival of the Arts on Saturday (March 10) and March 11, had no idea in 2011 he possessed artistic ability. A professional sales person who had done inside sales and business-to-business work, he moved through life unaware of his painting prowess or that someone would pay for his works.
Now, he’s a 36-year-old man who has married purpose and passion into a pursuit he never plans to relinquish.
"I’ve turned a creative obsession into the best sales job of my life," Sigel said. "I love painting ... I’ve found something I want to do for the rest of my life.
"I never had that. It’s amazing. I feel it’s what I was built for."
Sigel says he can’t recall a single indication from his childhood that he had an eye for art. A self-described troubled student, he remembers no high school art classes, no middle school efforts, no kindergarten finger painting.
But he uses his fingers now, along with a set of palette knives.
How did it all come about? In 2011, Sigel and his wife at the time spotted a painting in a gallery and decided to go about creating a similar piece. On day one, Sigel discovered he had an uncanny ability. Drawing on his tendency to "hyper focus" on a single project for the entire day (and night), he dived in head first.
He still hasn’t come up for air.
"Once I start a project, I can’t stop. I have the ability to work 10 or 15 hours in a single day until I get the complete feeling or thought out," said Sigel, who once worked as a mechanic. "I would try and try to fix things, and I won’t give up.
"Now I’m using that part of my brain to work through a realistic landscape."
After tapping into his hidden gift, Sigel eventually referenced some YouTube tutorial videos. Self-taught, he set up a small tent at the Saturday Morning Market in Ybor City and began playing around with different styles. Even the salesman, he discovered producing works live during markets and festivals helps generate more buys.
Now he’s a fulltime artist, frequently traveling around the state to different festivals and enjoying big sales, he says. The combination of sales acumen and painting promise — he’s developed theories of landscaping, floral and abstraction — means he’s anything but a starving artist.
"I intermix the three styles. I like to play back and forth between them," said Sigel, who operates out of the Ybor Art Colony above the King Corona Cigars and Cafe in Ybor City.
An Apollo Beach resident, Sigel says he’s looking forward to connecting with local folks and promoting himself to the community. He’ll certainly get that chance.
Now in its 26th year, the Apollo Beach Manatee Festival of the Arts expects to draw thousands with a variety of artists and craft artisans. The SouthShore Chamber of Commerce works closely with the SouthShore Arts Council, which juries the competition for prizes.
The festival typically draws artists who are new to the event like Sigel, second-year participants like photographer Bob Bachman, and longtime participants such as Ruskin artist Ron Deel. The mix reflects the festival’s roots and its ability to grow bigger.
In addition, the festival will feature a free children’s creativity area where kids can make and take home their own works of art and a separate competition for emerging student artists. Not to be overlooked is food from vendors and music, including Kozmic Pearl and Damon Fowler on Saturday and Willow Hill and the Selwyn Birchwood Band on Sunday.
"Our live music is crazy good this year. Very good," said SouthShore Chamber of Commerce executive director Melanie Rimes.
Admission is $5, with children 12 and under free. Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation charges $2 for parking. For more information, visit southshorechamberofcommerce.org.
Contact Ernest Hooper at [email protected] Follow him at @hoop4you.