Since artist closed his Westhampton Beach gallery in January and moved to his studio in Southampton Village, those who enjoyed stopping in have been waiting to find out when he would hold a show to feature his latest works.
On Friday, they will have that opportunity when Paraskevas debuts a solo show at the 4 N Main Street Gallery in Southampton Village. His show will run through May 31.
Paraskevas said the show will feature “some old and some new” pieces that stay true to who he is as an artist.
“The new paintings are of towns that I loved when I was a kid such as Ocean Grove, New Jersey,” Paraskevas said.
In addition, Paraskevas did new, little paintings of beach scenes.
For 25 years, Paraskevas Gallery in Westhampton Beach was a Main Street staple.
Sadly, for many in the area, Paraskevas, famed for the popular Green Monkey cartoon strip featured in Dan's Papers, and a wildly successful Nickelodeon series, decided to pack up and move to the village of Southampton, where he lives.
Paraskevas said he reluctantly moved all his works to Southampton primarily due to the shorter tourist season in Westhampton Beach.
"It is a great town, but it was time," he said. "I outgrew the space, and the commute was getting to be a lot."
For years, Paraskevas and his creative partner, his mother Betty Paraskevas, who is an acclaimed writer, made the Westhampton Beach gallery an informal community center and art salon where area residents would drop by just to hang out and catch up on local gossip.
Betty Paraskevas passed away in April 2010 and is sorely missed by her children and the many friends she had in Westhampton Beach, going back to the late '60s when the village was a “night-town.”
Reminiscing about the happy times on Main Street, Paraskevas said, "I was part of Westhampton Beach for 30 years. Mom even wrote a book that was centered around the town, ‘The Strawberry Dog,’ which was about a lonely dog who found an owner. The town was portrayed in the book.”
The book has been out of print for some time, but he said he still gets requests for it.
“But everything changes over time,” Paraskevas said. “I look back at all the time I spent with Betty — I always called her Betty. We use to open the gallery every evening for our evening cup of coffee, and mom would hold court. She told great stories and every so often she'd throw a kid out of the gallery for having Candy Fingers. She really was one of a kind. I miss our times at the gallery together, but it's time to begin the next chapter."
Blogger Sarah Maizes, who writes the popular MommyLiteOnline.com, remembers the gallery and Betty with great fondness.
"The Paraskevas Gallery was my favorite spot on Main Street," she said. "Part gallery, part behind-the-scenes studio. Betty was always manning the front desk, just finishing a cigarette, and Mickey was always excited to show his latest projects, bringing out ever more impressive and inventive pieces. You couldn't help but feel like you were in the epicenter of creative genius."
Longtime customer Jim Mendelson said, “We miss our Saturday evening visits with Betty and Mickey at the gallery. We would plop down in the wicker chairs and get caught up on the latest projects, the news around town and enjoy looking through all the fabulous artwork that Mickey had somehow created over the course of the week. What a fun pair. Westhampton Beach's loss is Southampton's gain.”
Friend and regular visitor to the gallery Eleanor Kobel spoke for many saying, “It was a moment in time that can't ever be repeated and will never be forgotten. I treasure them and thank Michael and Betty for those moments.”
Michael Paraskevas continues to be one of the busiest artists on the East End and examples of his prolific body of work in illustration, children's books and television are available at his Southampton studio as are many of his fine art paintings.
Michael has illustrated 23 children's books, all co-written with his late mother. Their biggest success came when Nickelodeon agreed to take “Maggie and the Ferocious Beast” into the world of animation. Betty and Michael produced and wrote 39 half-hours of animation that are still running on Nick Jr. They also produced "Marvin the Tap Dancing Horse" as an animated series for PBS and “The Kids from Room 402,” which was produced for Fox Family as a series.
Before she passed away, Betty Paraskevas, who was 58 when she wrote her first children’s book, summed it all up very proudly boasting, “I had a great run.”
Michael Paraskevas’ twin sister, Judy Paraskevas, is now working with him on a book, “Boardwalk Stories.”
“I love working with my sister, and I think Judy must have inherited my mother’s writing style. She’s very funny,” Paraskevas said.
Judy Paraskevas was equally excited about working with her brother saying, ”Being a twin is special. After our mother passed away, I thought I would try my hand at working with Mickey, and we've been having so much fun. I'm sure Betty would be so proud of us. Mickey learned how to write working with mom, but I've slowly been helping Mickey. I would like to think I inherited some of my mother’s ability.”
Currently, Michael is working on an animated TV series called “Danceteria.” He is also still making episodes of the popular “Maggie and the Ferocious Beast” and in another series called "Peter Pepper’s Pet Spectacular," which is currently in production. In addition, “The Green Monkeys” is being developed into a feature film.