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“The Elven Highlands” painting out of Spalted Maple from the “Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls” series. Photo courtesy Mac Hillenbrand
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Local woodworker among ArtWalk’s international artisans

CARLSBAD — ArtWalk Carlsbad will celebrate its second year on as one of San Diego’s prominent art festivals. Sidling sweeping ocean views on Armada Drive, the two-day event will take place on Sept. 21 and Sept. 22 and showcase paintings, sculptures, photography, jewelry, metal and woodwork from over 175 local, regional and international artisans

“ArtWalk Carlsbad, our newest fine arts festival, will provide national and international artisans a chance to connect with North County art enthusiasts,” said Sandi Cottrell, ArtWalk Carlsbad’s event director. “Carlsbad’s Armada Drive with its scenic, breathtaking ocean views and cool breezes, is a must-visit event for art collectors of all levels. Attendees will also love the one-of-a-kind colorful chalk art taking shape on the asphalt.”

Mac Hillenbrand, artisan and owner of Amber Waves of Grain, will be among the craftspeople showcasing their talents. The Escondido resident will display his Marquetry wood paintings, wooden inlay paintings that sidestep the use of paint.

Hillenbrand describes the unique renaissance art form from the “gilded age” as a “multi-dimensional” mosaic inlay process that uses wood sourced from “urban timber.”

Pieces, noted within the genre of psychedelic abstract expressionism, also utilize veneering techniques that uncover “nature’s hologram in the swirling eddies of the grain.”

Resins, woodworking dyes and paints are occasionally added as tints to change grain lines into rainbows. Hillenbrand can also reveal mountains and waterfalls through tinted shellac and create stained glass through resin and wood-dye concentrated over plexiglass.

“I create techniques to accommodate the aesthetic goal of the series that I’m working on,” he said. “For my wave series, I transform natural grain lines into surf waves and surf breaks by exploring the oceanic textures found within the wood. I can actually see surf breaks in the grain.

“People never ask why I create marquetry pieces, they only ask me how I do it,” he said. “The artist’s job is to make things pretty. Sometimes pretty things. Sometimes beautiful ideas. I strive to do both.”

Hillenbrand said that he arrived serendipitously into his life as an artist. Born and bred in Del Mar as the sole child of “civic minded, faux-hippy lawyers,” he spent his youth camping in the Sierras and surfing in Baja. His parents eventually opened a hostel in Mammoth where he “remained an un-showered feral canyon explorer often at odds with my well-kept classmates.” The mountains, the ocean and skateboarding became both refuge and inspiration for his present-day woodworking.

College gave way to learning how to paint and refurbish the large and unusual as a degree in filmmaking from the University of California at Santa Cruz also included a painter/contractor license.

“Happier” to be around musicians than his fellow filmmakers, Hillenbrand converted a produce warehouse into underground music venue and community arts space called The French Fry Factory. The area’s most “revered rock and roll and art venue” became an instant hit.

During the club’s successful tenure, the budding entertainment promotor worked as a painting contractor “to save himself from the agenda of outside funding.”

Despite its success, Hillenbrand moved back to San Diego to care for his aging parents. There he worked as a painting contractor until his health forced him to quit.

“For several years I enjoyed the simple life of painting and surfing until I developed an acute allergy to a chemical found both in latex paint and neoprene,” he said. “Poised to reconsider my livelihood, I used my trade skills to become a full-time artist.”

Hillenbrand tapped into his construction experience along with his love for “refinishing cabinets and wood furniture” for direction. Committed to perfecting his craft, he attended San Diego’s American School of French Marquetry and studied under the tutelage of Patrick Edwards, learning the art of wooden mosaic inlay from the “great.”

As his growing portfolio was readily accepted into juried art shows and woodworking competitions, Hillenbrand quickly established himself among art enthusiasts.

Although he readily admits, “Working as an artist while paying a mortgage and supporting a family with two children makes for an adventurous life. Festivals like ArtWalk Carlsbad have given me the opportunity to thrive.”

ArtWalk will also host interactive, family-friendly arts and crafts activities on its kid-friendly lane known as KidsWalk.

“KidsWalk gives everyone the opportunity to express themselves and tap into the artist within, which exists in all of us,” Cottrell said.

In addition to a street food and a wine and beer pavilion, ArtWalk Carlsbad will feature live entertainment including a “special engagement” from singer-songwriter A.J. Croce.

A portion of the day’s profits will be donated to ArtReach San Diego, ArtWalk’s nonprofit partner that offers hands-on art education to children from kindergarten to eighth grade — with a focus on Title One Schools — that would otherwise have no resources for art.

ArtWalk Carlsbad will take place on Saturday Sept. 21 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday Sept. 22 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are on sale