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Painter

‘Northport' by Bob DeSantis

By Melissa Arnold

Nothing defines a Long Island summer more than lazy days at the beach. And even though autumn is settling in now, it’s still easy to imagine the sun on your face and the water lapping at your feet.

Huntington artist Bob DeSantis has made a career of capturing beloved memories on canvas. Now, art enthusiasts of all kinds can imagine themselves in those scenes with an exhibit entitled Being There, currently on view at the Main Art Gallery at the Huntington Public Library.

“Most of my scenic pieces are fairly large, so when you hang them up in your home it’s like looking out your window and seeing, say, Shelter Island. That’s why people buy my paintings — they want to bring those feelings into their homes,” explains DeSantis, 69, who was born in Brooklyn but has spent most of his life on Long Island.

When you see DeSantis’ art for the first time, you might have to do a double take. Many of his paintings are photorealistic — painted in a way that resembles actual photographs.

Art has been a part of DeSantis’ life for almost as long as he can remember — he even listed becoming a professional artist as his future goal in his high school yearbook. He went on to receive an associate’s degree in commercial art from Farmingdale University (now Farmingdale State College) and a bachelor’s degree in fine art from Hofstra University in Hempstead.

‘Donnie Baseball’ by Bob DeSantis
‘Donnie Baseball’ by Bob DeSantis

That varied education enables DeSantis to combine the best practices of both fine art and modern technology, as he works with a combination of oil and acrylic paints as well as an airbrush for a smooth, almost flawless texture.

His lengthy career has included graphic design, commercial and fine art that’s been featured all over the country. His paintings have been displayed in galleries and even on products like phone book covers and light boxes. He also plays several musical instruments and was once a member of the band The Silvertones.

For the past 25 years, he’s worked as an art restorer, helping to correct and repair artwork that’s been damaged through aging or disasters. He has also worked closely with well-known landscape painter Diane Romanello and Civil War artist Mort Kunstler.

While restoration takes up much of his time, DeSantis is always looking for inspiration for his own art.

“I’ll take a ride out to the Hamptons with my camera and if I see something that inspires me, I’ll take photos of it. Then, I might take a photo of a barrel with flowers in it and incorporate that into the scene,” DeSantis explains.

Using the image editing program Photoshop, DeSantis will experiment with combining scenic photos with furniture, people and decorations. Once he’s satisfied with a concept, he’ll paint it on canvas. “I can duplicate anything I see and focus on replicating each little detail exactly, which is what makes it resemble a photograph” he said. “It’s a skill that has served me well, both in restoration and my own artwork.”

While some of DeSantis’ most popular art features Long Island hot spots, he’s also known for his portraits of famous people, particularly athletes.

“Years ago I was working for a company doing sports prints of small children wearing the jersey of a prominent athlete,” he explains, adding that the prints were meant to represent those athletes in their early years. He has done similar work featuring child athletes looking up into the sky at their adult selves.

DeSantis is a loyal Yankees fan, and some of his favorite athletes to paint are the greats from that team, including Derek Jeter, Don Mattingly and Joe DiMaggio, among others.

The exhibit at the library will feature more than 20 of DeSantis’ favorite paintings with a variety of subjects, says Laurene Tesoriero, coordinator of the library’s art gallery.

Tesoriero says that the library hosts a number of art exhibits throughout the year. She’s particularly impressed with how realistic DeSantis’ work is.

“[The scenic art] almost looks like [it’s drawn with] pastels. Everything he does is very interesting and draws people in right away. You feel as though you’re a part of the scene,” she says. “And typically you don’t see a lot of sports art around. It’s so crisp and vivid and I think that has a wide appeal.”

Being There will be on display at the Main Art Gallery at the Huntington Public Library, 338 Main Street, Huntington, through Nov. 22. The exhibit may be seen during regular library hours. Admission is free. For more information, contact Laurene Tesoriero at 631-427-5165, ext. 258, or visit www.myhpl.org.

Learn more about artist Bob DeSantis by searching his name at www.Art.com and www.Giclee.com.

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‘Icarus’ by Pat Ralph

Featuring rarely seen works, including large figure paintings, monotypes and pastels, Pat Ralph: Under the Radar opens with a reception in the Jeanie Tengelsen Gallery of the Art League of Long Island on Sunday, Sept. 27, from 1 to 4 p.m., and continues through Nov. 1. A gallery tour, led by the artist, will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 22.

Trained at the Art Students League in New York, Pat Ralph has lived on Long Island most of her life. She is a realist painter with a diverse body of work that includes landscapes, portraits, self-portraits and still life paintings. While Long Islanders know her mostly by her landscape paintings, this exhibit reveals a history of figurative work shown mainly in New York City and university galleries around the country.

Ralph has had solo exhibits at the Fine Arts Gallery at Southampton College, the Fine Arts Gallery of Suffolk Community College in Selden, Gallery East in East Hampton, Gallery North in Setauket, the Heckscher Museum at the Bryant Library in Roslyn and Noho Gallery in New York City. She also was given a solo exhibit as part of the Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series, at Douglass College, New Brunswick, N.J., and another at Douglass, as it celebrated its 75th anniversary.

Ralph’s works have been included in group exhibitions at the Heckscher Museum in Huntington, Silvermine Guild in New Canaan, the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio, the Fine Arts Gallery at Southampton College, the Mason Gross Center for the Arts at Rutgers University, the Parrish Art Museum, the University of Delaware, San Jose State University in California and Pace University Gallery, Marymount Manhattan College and the National Academy of Design, all in New York City.

In 1985 Ralph had two paintings, both of which will appear in Under the Radar, in an exhibition titled RAPE, originating at the Hoyt Sherman Gallery of Ohio State University and traveling for three years to nine university galleries, plus the Philadelphia Arts Alliance. Most recently, her painting “Heading West” was featured in 75 @ 75: Treasures from the Collection at the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook to commemorate its 75th anniversary.

Of Ralph’s paintings, Beryl Smith, in her Women Artists Series catalog essay, wrote, “The timelessness and crystalline quality of her landscapes reflect her interest in light and atmosphere.” Malcolm Preston, in Newsday, remarked, “Her work is in the new realist mode — cool, objective, sharply realized. There is about them a directness and forthrightness uncluttered by sentiment.” Of her work Pat Ralph has said, “In my paintings I seek a stunning image, expressed with clarity and augmented with hints of mystery or wit. My landscapes reflect an interest in light and atmosphere. I am particularly intrigued by the singular light of early morning or late afternoon or evening — the hours in which natural effects are most fleeting, which makes the attempt to capture the moment fraught with paradox.”

The Jeanie Tengelsen Gallery is open free of charge Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and weekends from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Art League is located at 107 East Deer Park Road in Dix Hills. For more information call 631-462-5400 or visit www.artleagueli.org.

Louise Brett explains a painting of a ship called the Enchantress. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Louise Brett often paints and draws scenes from the past — a horse walking through the Belle Terre gate, ships in Port Jefferson Harbor, a buggy on East Main Street and the cottages at West Meadow Beach.

The area “is changing so fast,” she said. “I wanted to show everyone what it looked like when I was here.”

Louise Brett does drawings of the area in the past, including this one of a horse walking through the Belle Terre gate. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Louise Brett does drawings of the area in the past, including this one of a horse walking through the Belle Terre gate. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Some of Brett’s works are on display in Edna Louise Spear Elementary School, in the same room the Board of Education uses for its meetings. At the last session, the district presented Brett, who attended the high school but did not graduate, with a certificate of recognition and she received a standing ovation from the crowd.

Brett said in an interview at her home that the acknowledgement was exciting.

It isn’t the first time her work has been displayed — her paintings of a Victorian Port Jefferson appeared on the covers of the Charles Dickens Festival guides for 2006 and 2007. Under sunset skies, she included characters found in both Dickens novels and the village.

Brett, 83, was born in Old Field and moved to Port Jefferson 10 years later. She said she has always been able to draw well, but didn’t always have the resources — including pencils and paper. When she was growing up during the Great Depression, if she saw her teacher throw away a piece of chalk, she would take it home and — with her twin sister, Gussie — draw on the sides of their piano.

Louise Brett, above, paints almost every day. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Louise Brett, above, paints almost every day. Photo by Elana Glowatz

She got some help when she was in her teens while working as a soda jerk, operating the soda fountain at a local shop. On paper bags in the shop, “I would sketch anybody that walked in,” she said. The owner bought her a paint set and she took art lessons in Mount Sinai. At the Board of Education meeting, while presenting the certificate of recognition, elementary school principal Tom Meehan said Brett would walk to the lessons with her brushes in her boots.

While she was learning, she got in trouble with her mother for keeping dead birds under her bed to draw. “I had to know what they looked like,” Brett explained.

Years later, she still paints almost every day, even with her cats, Bonnie and Clyde, wandering around the room that holds her easel and past works. She said art is an outlet for her. When her husband of 54 years, Nicholas, had health problems a few years ago, she painted the Roe House using descriptions in letters former village historian Rob Sisler collected. Brett used details such as the fact that the Roes owned two oxen and carts — which led her to paint a barn with a thatched roof — to determine how to illustrate the scene. “You have to use your imagination,” she said.

Louise Brett's first oil painting was of the house next door to her childhood Port Jefferson home.
Louise Brett’s first oil painting was of the house next door to her childhood Port Jefferson home.

Brett signs all her paintings “Lou Gnia,” for her maiden name Gniazdowski. Her father, who died when she was 3 years old, came to the United States from Poland just before World War I. Brett once took a trip to her family’s village in Stare Miasto, in Poland’s Leżajsk County, a few hours southeast of Warsaw. The village name means “old city,” and she took photographs of various scenes to paint once she got home. In her Reeves Road house she has a “Polish room,” in which there are paintings of houses, cattle drinking from the San River and wagons with rubber wheels, like those on cars.

Paintings also line the walls of the rest of her home, including depictions of ships and beaches and a mural of grazing horses on the far side of the living room.

The artist said painting calms her, to the point where she can forget she is in the middle of cooking dinner. “I just go into a different world,” she said. “I love to paint. It’s just like a sickness.”

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