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William Graf

By Melissa Arnold

Art exhibits draw crowds for a host of reasons, often as varied as the people who attend them. For some, it’s the work of a particular artist they enjoy, while for others it may be an intriguing theme or interesting medium.

This month, the Setauket Artists have put together a collection that not only shows off local talent, but does so in a space that is attractive all on its own — the Deepwells Mansion in St. James.

The Setauket Artists hold an annual fall exhibit at the Setauket Neighborhood House, an event that’s become an important part of the area’s culture. “As the exhibit and the number of visitors grew over the years, we found the need to extend our viewing time. We were delighted when the opportunity came along to have an additional show,” said Irene Ruddock, president of the Setauket Artists in a recent interview.

“There will be close to 100 works of art on display including oil, watercolor and pastel paintings, as well as soft-ground etchings, collage and hand-painted photographs and all of them are for sale,” she added. 

Participating artists include Ross Barbera, Eleanor Berger, Catherine Bezas, Joan Bloom, Renee Caine, Al Candia, Gail L. Chase, Anthony Davis, Bart Deceglie, Julie Doczi, Jeanette Dick, Marge Governale, William Graf, Peter Hahn, Melissa Imossi, Laurence Johnston, Anne Katz, Deborah Katz, Flo Kemp, Karen Kemp, Michael R. Kutzing, Joanne Liff, Celeste Mauro, Jane McGraw Teubner, Terry McManus, Eleanor Meier, Fred Mendelsohn, Muriel Musara, Iacopo Pasquinelli, Paula Pelletier, Demerise Perricone, Denis Ponsot, Joan Rockwell, Robert Roehrig, Irene Ruddock, Oscar Santiago, Carol Link Scinta, Sungsook Setton, Barbara Jeanne Siegel, Patricia Solan, Angela Stratton, Mac Titmus, Marlene Weinstein and Patricia Yantz.

“The Setauket Artists have been in existence for 38 years . . . many of their paintings reflect the beauty of Long Island — the rivers, lakes, ocean, and bays that make this island so unique,” said Ruddock. “When curating the show, I look for paintings that touch the soul and bring the beauty of nature or a magical moment to the viewer. Every painting in the exhibit reflects our group’s motto, ‘Art is for a lifetime.’”

 Setauket Artist member Robert Roehrig agreed. “Although there is no particular theme to the exhibition, the Setauket Artists always display many beautiful scenes of our local Long Island landscape,” he said.

“The Deepwells Farm Historical Society is pleased to welcome the Setauket Artists to Deepwells Mansion for their first spring art show,” Denise Davis, a board member for the society, said. “The mansion, which is part of the Suffolk County Parks, was built in 1845 in the 16th century Greek-Revival architecture   for Joel Smith, a descendant of Smithtown’s founder Richard ‘Bull’ Smith. Deepwells is the perfect venue for displaying and sharing with the community the many local scenes of beautiful Long Island,” she added.

The community is invited to an opening reception on May 4 from 1 to 4 p.m. Refreshments and appetizers prepared by the artists will be served.

The exhibit will also include a small boutique gift shop with handmade wares from the Setauket Artists featuring jewelry, cards, scarves and small paintings. The group will continue its tradition of raffling off three different paintings on May 26, the exhibit’s last day. Visitors can enter the raffle throughout the exhibit’s run and do not need to be present to win.  Robert Roehrig, vice president of Setauket Artists, is donating his oil painting titled “Still Afloat,” and Anne Katz and Paula Pelletier will each donate a watercolor painting.

“It’s an exciting new venue for us,” said Setauket Artist member Joan Rockwell. “There will be something for everyone and the show will be open for Mother’s Day weekend too!  We’ll serve refreshments and have a flower for all those special Moms.”

Sponsored by Bryant Funeral Home, the Setauket Artists Spring Exhibit will be on view from May 4 through May 26 at the Deepwells Mansion, 2 Taylor Lane, St. James. The mansion is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.setauketartists.com. Private group or single showings can be arranged by appointment: call 631-365-1312 or email peace2429@optonline.net.

By Irene Ruddock

‘My goal as an artist is to seek beauty and truth in my paintings and to find an element that viewers can relate to.’

  William Graf

William Graf is a fine artist, professional illustrator and instructor of drawing, oil, acrylic and watercolor painting at The Atelier at Flowerfield in St. James, the Art League of Long Island and the National Art League of New York. His extensive art career began after completing his drawing and old master painting studies at the Art Students League of New York and in Florence, Italy, at the Cecil- Graves Studio. 

Graf continues to be commissioned for work as an illustrator for major publishing companies. One of his noteworthy commissions was for a mural depicting a scene of President Theodore Roosevelt’s children in the White House, which was painted to be displayed in the Museum of American History. 

Recently, I had a chance to chat with the Huntington resident about his journey from graphic design to the fine art world. 

 How would you describe your work? 

Having studied with realist art instructors in the states and in Florence, Italy, my work echoes the classical realist tradition. I paint simple images in life, hoping to bring a certain poetry to my artwork.

How has your painting evolved over the years? 

I feel that my painting has matured from photographic realism to a more naturalistic style all the while incorporating good realistic principles.

What do you feel has been the most gratifying about the art world? 

The thing that gives me the most gratification in art is teaching people all that I have learned during my career. I love to impart my knowledge to students seeking to become better artists. I enjoy watching the progression when the practice of good drawing and painting come together, and the student has that “breakthrough moment.”  

In this diverse art career from graphics and design to illustration for major publishing companies, can you describe a turning point that lead you to pursue fine art? 

I’ve always kept my hand in fine art, continuing to paint landscapes, portrait commissions and still life while working as an illustrator. The crossover stemmed from the fact that most of my illustration work was figure oriented with landscape backgrounds, so, for me, it was a natural crossover. 

You still are actively commissioned by major publishing companies for illustration. What fine art qualities do you bring to this? 

Yes, I am still actively taking on commercial illustration projects, such as book cover design, illustration and children’s books. In my illustrations, I try to incorporate a higher aesthetic, whether it be in composition or drawing. I strive to make my illustration and fine art synonymous.

Your awards and scholarships are from prestigious organizations —The International Miniature Portrait Society, etc. Is there one award that is most meaningful to you?

There was one award that had a meaningful impact on my fine art career. A few years back, I painted a self-portrait and decided to show it at a juried portrait show at the Huntington Arts Council. Well, the judge was Kevin McEvoy, director of The Atelier at Flowerfield and he awarded the self-portrait “best in show!”

You now teach at The Atelier at Flowerfield in St. James. Why did you choose to teach there? 

After winning that best of show award I was approached by Kevin McEvoy to consider a teaching position there. The timing was perfect. We both studied in Florence with the same instructor so our backgrounds were similar. What we teach is classical realism with emphasis on “sight size” drawing and painting. The type of study is in the tradition of the European atelier system where students can observe the techniques as demonstrated by the instructors. All levels of students are in my classes from beginners to professionals who wish to learn the old masters’ techniques of painting. 

What about your future excites or inspires you? 

I will be teaching a plein air workshop in Cortona, Italy, in June 2019. This will be a Tuscan landscape workshop with some portraiture.The following September I will teach a workshop in Maine where we will paint in various locations that Winslow Homer painted. Come join us! I am also looking forward to having a solo exhibit at the Barnes Gallery in Garden City in October. For details, visit my website at www.williamgraffineart.com.