A Studio Moment with Toni Slick

Toni in her home studio.

Toni at home in her studio.

Currently showing at the Global City Center, Cobb & Cole, 7th floor, 149 S. Ridgewood Avenue, Daytona Beach through the end of October 2014. Open for public viewing Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

I first met Antoinette “Toni” Slick through a painting from the collection of the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach while it was on display in a County administration building located in DeLand, Florida, more than ten years ago. The rich quality of her watercolor caught my eyes from across the broad rotunda and I took only a short time getting closer to see how it was created. Large swaths of shifting plates of pigment spoke of another place and the work did its job by sweeping me away from my daily business at least for the moment. This chance meeting demonstrates the value of art in public places.

Her art continues to take me to mysterious and joyous places today. I still can’t ever quite figure out how she has produced the work, but that is what I find most pleasurable. I think the greatest works keep you guessing, keep you having a conversation with them.

Her studio is designed to enjoy Florida light and the space perfectly reflects the unconfinable personality of this artist. All around the high horizontal windows above me frame blue sky and just outside the Halifax River is visible. Art works hang salon style throughout her spacious and well lit studio for she is a prolific painter with a career spanning over 35 years.

I am greeted with a brilliant smile, a bit of pre interview chat with wonderfully frank wit, and a cup of coffee. And so we began.

Hodge: When and why did you move to Volusia County?

Slick: I received my teaching degree from Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. After marrying David, we lived in Detroit Michigan while he finished his degree. Then we moved to Saginaw Michigan for a short time, followed by a return to Akron. David really hated the cold winters and my parents had moved to Florida’s west coast, so we moved to Volusia County in 1986. After driving around all of Florida we preferred this area for its friendly and active lifestyle.


Wall XXIII, 18 x 18, Acrylic and Graphite on Canvas

Hodge: Can you share a little bit about your family? Does family impact your art?

Slick: I don’t really approach my art in terms of relating to or being influenced by the people surrounding me. It’s more of a reaction to the environment surrounding me. My family, including my parents when I was a child, have always made it possible for me to pursue my passion. It also helps that my husband David thinks I am talented and is very proud of me. I have four very supportive children and 11 grandchildren, all of whom are proud that “Mom/Nini” is an artist.

Hodge: You work in what most artists would call a dream studio – how did that come about? 

Slick: When we built the house in 1995, I was painting smaller format, more traditional watercolors. All of that changed when I decided to paint larger more experimental and abstract acrylics. I kept finding paint all over the house, so knew I had to make a change and moved to the garage. I thought it was great. David hated it. He started to bug me about a studio. I finally gave in and really the studio changed my life. I think for the first time I took myself seriously.

Wall XIV

Wall XIV, 40 x 30, Acrylic and Graphite on Canvas

Hodge: Your husband seems exceptionally supportive of your art. Will you share something? 

Slick: He has always supported what I am doing, even when I make a big change in the work. Now sometimes he just shakes his head, and we laugh. He usually comes around to my way of thinking.

Hodge: Were you always an artist?

Slick: I think I always wanted to be an artist, but was never sure that I was really an ARTIST. I was the first person in my family to go to college. My parents were of the school that said “You need to be able to support yourself”. At that time the choice was teacher or nurse. Blood makes me sick so teacher it was. The art was put on the sideline for the next 17 years. One of my fondest childhood memories is the day, sitting with my mother, watching her paint a bird. I was mesmerized by how beautiful she painted it. Mine wasn’t so great.

Wall XI

Wall XI, 40 x 30, Acrylic and Graphite on Canvas

Hodge: What year did you turn seriously to art?

Slick: In 1978 I took my first painting class, just for fun with a friend, and that was the start of the journey. It was a learning maturing journey that I hope never ends. I got involved with other workshops and art groups along the way and learned what I like and what I don’t like by these experiences. Even today, I enjoy participating in long self-directed painting weeks with other serious artists at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach. I stay there in the apartments and paint with no interruptions day and night.

Hodge: You currently work in a non-objective style using mostly acrylic paints and graphite – was this always the case?

Slick: I actually started with oils and moved rather quickly to watercolor. Starting with art workshops in Ohio, I became a traditional Ohio Watercolorist; lots of barns and landscapes. There are many wonderful watercolorists in Ohio because American Greeting Cards was, and may still be, located in Cleveland. So I was very traditional, but then took a few experimental classes and that opened new areas of thought and practice. Long story short, the work kept getting more abstract, but always had something – a bird, a tree, a rock that folks could grab onto as recognizable.

The Warrior, 48 x 31, Acrylic on Paper

The Warrior, 48 x 31, Acrylic on Paper

Then I started to work with Steve Aimone, and all semblance of reality left. Here I began seeing line, mark, color, and surface as vocabulary, as content.

Hodge: The shapes in your works of art in 2013 and 2014 differ. What are you exploring?

Slick: In February 2013 I started a series influenced by the walls I see when I’m traveling. They started very simply, using a grid for the format. They have grown way more complex, colorful and less like walls and more like…I’m not sure. The possibilities are endless as I keep exploring this wall, surface, grid concept.

Hodge: How do you select colors for a painting?

Slick: Sometimes I find myself becoming too familiar with a particular color and I’ll come to depend on it. So mostly I’ll just decide on a color range and do it. Actually, I love black and white paintings and I don’t do nearly enough of them.

Wall IX

Wall IX, 40 x 30, Acrylic and Graphite on Canvas

Hodge: I noticed that if you participate in festivals you receive awards and recently you opened up a satellite studio at the HUB in New Smryna Beach. How important is marketing to you?

Slick: Festivals are fun and a great experience, but not at all important to me from an artistic perspective. Luckily, I have not had to make a living with art, which allowed me the opportunity to really go in any spirited direction I wanted. It has taken years, but I have a fair amount of confidence in the work I’ve been doing the last year and a half, and so I am making more of an effort to get some exhibitions and gallery representation. Besides, I would like to get it out there sometime before I’m too senile to appreciate it.

Hodge: Can you share a technique tip of some sort?

Slick: I use acrylics and graphite, big old Kimberly 9XXB very soft, very black and other drawing materials. I paint, draw, paint over, draw some more, paint some more, hate it, hate it, find a spot I like and go from there. Needless to say my work is very labor intensive and that is what I really love to do, make the journey and solve the problem. I best not charge by the hour as at that rate I would be making less than minimum wage.

Hodge: Do you have a philosophy on art to share? 

Slick: I believe you should seek experiences and feedback, then follow what is right for you. Don’t let anyone define art for you, and when you are asked to give opinion remind yourself and to whom you are speaking that the opinion is yours alone.

Wall V

Wall V, 40 x 30, Acrylic and Graphite on Canvas

Hodge: How do you describe “fine” art?

Slick: I believe my description has been around for some time. Fine art is permanent or it has at least real possibility of lasting. I am not saying other types of work are invalid. Art that falls apart, fades away, projects a trend, which is meant for “the moment” even when its decay speaks to time and destruction, does not meet my standard for fine art. I want to see a commitment to highly developed skills and archival materials.

Hodge: What makes work relevant?

Slick: Relevance to me is art that when confronted confronts me back. It creates more questions in my head than answers. The conversation never goes silent.

Hodge: What, if anything, do you want a viewer to walk away with?

Slick: I want the viewer to find their own story, their own relationship with a work. Sometimes relationships just are not meant to be and other times it feels like kismet.

You can see more of Slick’s work at the HUB in New Smyrna Beach or on her website www.antoinetteslick.com. Multiple paintings are on display through the end of October 2014 at the Global City Center, Cobb & Cole, 7th floor, 149 S. Ridgewood Ave., Daytona Beach. Open for viewing Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.