Art Attack Meets Sand Sculpting

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Enter Sandman!

“Tuck you in, warm within; keep you free from sin; Till the Sandman he comes,” is a verse from Metallica’s iconic and hypnotic “Enter Sandman.” A national production company brought their own version of “The Sandman” to the Wyndham Garden Fort Myers Beach last week, when “Art Attack” and its zombie-loving star, Rob Ortel, spent the weekend learning sand sculpting, of all horrific things!

Rob comes from a family of artists with both parents still active in the arts. “I was exposed to artistry my entire life. I took up airbrush art and fell in love with it, and that eventually led me to work for ‘Orange County Choppers’ and ‘American Choppers.’” The popular Discovery Channel reality series featured Rob’s in-your-face personality as well as his airbrush works. “I did it for four or five years, where I airbrushed art on hundreds of motorcycles, with celebrity clients all across the country, and it was a great experience.” What he likes about “Art Attack” is it is so different: “This appeals to my artistic interest, is an excellent vehicle and completely the opposite of my previous experience.”

When asked what he knows about sand sculpting, Rob answers, “Umm – when I was 3-years-old, a lot! All I know now is it is very sweaty!” “What he doesn’t know yet,” interjects director Matthew Pellowski, “is we are gonna kill him, by burying him up to his neck in sand and covering him in sugar!”

The funny – or disturbing – thing about “Art Attack” is, Matt may not be kidding!

Potentially-Deadly Art

“Each ‘Art Attack’ episode has two parts,” Matt explains. “One that is a diverse and underappreciated art form, and the other that features a potentially deadly one! We do anticipate this segment being the diverse and underappreciated part, but you never know!”

One of Rob’s most ominous claims-to-fame is he survived a leap from a helicopter without a parachute, landing in a pond. “I love zombies and horror movies, to get that adrenalin rush, like when I dove out of the helicopter and almost dying, so any kind of art that comes with a little bit of horror to it adds to the experience and really gets me going. After my helicopter encounter, I now have an intense fear of flying, so in the last episode, for the near-death experience, they arranged for me to skydive from 2 miles up while taking free-fall photography. It was traumatizing, but I loved the rush, so I guess I will still try anything!”

Rob calls sand sculpting “very cool! I am a meat-&-potatoes kind of guy and artist, so something that is so out of the ordinary like this excites me. What I hope to get out of it is to understand how a sand artist thinks, because when I create art in my medium, I want it to last forever and withstand the test of time; what they make, they know will soon be destroyed, and I find that cool and sad all at the same time.”

In addition to his television work, Rob has his own studio in Walden, New York, and oversees Rotten Icon, a zombie-themed clothing line that infuses his two favorite styles – sexy and creepy!

The Best & Amazing Artists

“We met with Rob, and he is the perfect host, because of his love of art and horror and crazy attitude,” explained director Matt Pellowski, whose Red Line Studios in New York City produces “Art Attack.” “Sand sculpting is great for us because it takes hours and hours, requires engineering, sculpting and putting together millions and millions of these small pebbles into something 15 feet or higher, and the fact that Bill and Marianne Knight are a husband & wife team is even cooler. They are some of the best and amazing artists, and we are thrilled they agreed to work with us, as they are at the top of their game.”

Those familiar with Fort Myers Beach know Marianne and Bill as the Co-Managers of the American Sand Sculpting Championship held at the Wyndham Garden beach each November around Thanksgiving – November 17-26 this year. “This is exciting,” said Bill. “Not only for us but to promote sand sculpting. People don’t regularly see it and have no idea how we craft these magnificent works, so this will further their appreciation for this type of art and for the talents of the artists. What is kind-of cool is Marianne and I began sculpting sand in almost this exact same spot 16 years ago!”

Marianne said that Red Line Studios reached out to them about two months ago, and she turned the call over to “my business partner, Bill, as he takes care of all of these things!” “Matt and I hit it off right away, as we both appreciate art and that was the key to us moving forward,” adds Bill. “We get calls like this every three months or so, and can’t do them all, so it was important we made that immediate connection.”

Bill said he and Marianne are going to start Rob off “from the ground up, giving him some of the little secrets of how to mix sand and what you need to compete.” The Knights are master sand sculptors, completing masterpieces with up to 140 tons of sand, “and it is really fun,” said Marianne. “We enjoy the big stage. Sand sculpting allows us to go to places like the Bahamas and Virgin Islands and Saint Thomas, but we are not always on the beach like here, because many competitions are in parking lots and convention halls.” Bill describes a Master Sand Sculptor as “an artist who can craft excellent art in all conditions, working with all different types of sand. Give them five kinds of sand and they can make the same thing out of each.”

Tall or Not at All!

As for the masterpiece they will create with Rob, it will have a theme around the new Southwest Florida craft beer called “South of South,” or SOS, from Pinchers that has a restaurant in the Wyndham Garden. “We’ve learned from working with Pinchers with the American Sand Sculpting National Championship over the years that they do not do anything small,” said Marianne. “They do it tall or not at all!”

Matt estimated that it will take the balance of 2017 to film all ten episodes, so look for “Art Attack” near the holidays, but there is work before they will know the network and times.

“There are two ways to do these productions,” explained Matt, “The traditional way is to sell it straight to a network, but then you lose creative control. If we turned ‘Art Attack’ over to a network, I guarantee you the final product would be Jerry Springer flinging art all around the studio, or have it turn out to be some pathetic game show. This way, we will license it directly to various networks, so it may appear on the Disney Channel in Europe, the Discovery Channel in Canada, and National Geographic in the US.”

“We see ‘Art Attack’ as a sophisticated version of ‘Dirty Jobs,’ because we get to pick and choose the art we feature in every episode.”

Gary Mooney