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updated: 4/22/2013 12:44 PM

Performance artist to help Naperville CARES raise funds at benefit

Performance artist to help Naperville CARES raise funds at annual Cuisine for a Cause

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  • Performance artist Elliot From of Arlington Heights paints a variety of subjects in anywhere from four to 15 minutes, but is best known for his sports figures and particularly the Chicago Blackhawks insignia.

       Performance artist Elliot From of Arlington Heights paints a variety of subjects in anywhere from four to 15 minutes, but is best known for his sports figures and particularly the Chicago Blackhawks insignia.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Performance artist Elliot From displays some of his works, including portraits of Jimi Hendrix and Barack Obama, in his Arlington Heights studio.

       Performance artist Elliot From displays some of his works, including portraits of Jimi Hendrix and Barack Obama, in his Arlington Heights studio.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • "One thing I like to do is not practice too much," performance artist Elliot From says. "I kind of like spontaneity onstage. You feed off the energy of the crowd."

       "One thing I like to do is not practice too much," performance artist Elliot From says. "I kind of like spontaneity onstage. You feed off the energy of the crowd."
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

 
 

Elliott From is not one of those painters who contemplates each stroke, who carefully watches his art take shape over long periods of time.

Calling himself an expressionistic speed painter, the Arlington Heights performance artist instead uses both hands and brushes to slap -- and sometimes literally throw -- paint on a 4-by-5-foot canvas. His painting is choreographed to up-tempo music and he creates images of rock icons, public figures or celebrities within minutes.

From -- who calls his company Artbeat Live! -- does his work at venues that have taken him from the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and all the major sports stadiums in Chicago to network news shows, concerts with big-name performers and multiple charity events.

Guests at Naperville CARES' 10th annual Cuisine for a Cause will have an opportunity to bid on two or three of From's paintings from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, April 27, at Tellabs corporate headquarters, 1415 W. Diehl Road, Naperville.

From said his paintings have helped raise more than $500,000 for charities over the past several years.

"The same painting can go for $200 (or) we've had some go for a little bit over $20,000," he said.

From doesn't reveal ahead of time what figures he'll paint at an event to keep guests guessing. Bruce Springsteen, Jimi Hendrix, President Obama and a host of others are all within his domain. But he's especially fond of sports subjects and has become best known for his images of the Chicago Blackhawks' Native American profile that appears on the hockey players' jerseys. He performed at the Blackhawks' first playoff game in 2010 raising thousands of dollars for Blackhawk Charities, and a couple of the players own paintings he's done.

"They know me on a personal level because they enjoy what I do," he said.

From was recommended to Naperville CARES after organizers mentioned the possibility of having a performance artist at the event, said Angela Bender, the group's marketing and communications associate.

"As this is the 10th year for our event, we thought adding Artbeat Live! would be something new and unique to add to Cuisine, keeping the event fresh and fun," she said. "When we mentioned the idea to our steering committee for Cuisine, many had seen him on WGN Channel 9 and were enthusiastic about including him."

Working energetically -- sometimes throwing paint and sometimes carefully filling out red lips on a canvas -- From completes a painting in anywhere from four to 15 minutes. The images are planned ahead, but his performance techniques at any particular event are not.

"One thing I like to do is not practice too much. I kind of like spontaneity onstage," he said. "You feed off the energy of the crowd."

The crowds at Cuisine for a Cause have been generous and supportive of the Naperville charity that provides financial assistance and referrals to families in crisis. The first nine events raised $860,000, said Janet Derrick, executive director of Naperville CARES.

"Our goal is to reach $1 million in total funds raised at our yearly Cuisine event, which has become known as the largest cocktail party in Naperville," she said in a news release.

In addition to From, the event will feature signature dishes from more than 25 Naperville restaurants, an open bar, wine and beer tastings, and live and silent auctions. New to the event, this year's auctioneer is Keith Jones of Sayre & Jones Auctioneers, who appears in BMO Harris Bank commercials. Jones recommended From to Naperville CARES.

A native of Skokie, From, 45, holds a bachelor's degree in fine arts and spent the first 20 years of his career as a graphic designer. While going through some life changes in 2006, he remembered an artist he had seen paint to music in the 1980s and knew what he wanted to do. He just didn't know what it was called.

"I don't like the term speed painting. I like the term performance art," he said.

An invitation to perform at a charity event in 2008 opened up a whole new avenue in his career. From estimates that 80 percent of his work is with charities, with the rest for corporate clients and private parties.

"The biggest satisfaction I get is a smile on people's faces when they see the painting and they purchase it, especially for a charitable cause," he said. "I just want to keep performing, expanding and raising money for charitable organizations."

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