Authors Posts by Irene Ruddock

Irene Ruddock

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Mosaics are spellbinding; they bring forth a story by constructing together a thousand little pieces, just like life is created from thousands of moments, memories, and experiences.’

Gabriella Grama

By Irene Ruddock

Gabriella Grama

Gabriella Grama is an artist who specializes in fine art mosaics and whose artistic form of expression is a fusion of modern and traditional methods. Born in Romania, she has lived in Ronkonkoma for the past 25 years where she maintains her art studio. She has exhibited in many art galleries and shows on Long Island, mainly with the Women Sharing Art group, whose most recent exhibit was at the Islip Art Museum. Gabriella also enjoys commissions where she can do a special project for someone.  

How did you begin your love of art? 

As a young girl, I used to visit my grandfather who was a glassmaker in Transylvania, an area well-known for skilled craftsmanship in glass, wood, and pottery. The magical experience of seeing light filtered through colored glass ignited my life-long love for glass as an art form. 

When did you begin your interest in mosaics? 

I was a stained glass artist for ten years before I discovered mosaics. While remodeling my kitchen, I decided to try a mosaic backsplash, and, before it was completed, I was hooked with a new passion! To improve, to learn about the different types of materials, work methods, and tools, I started to study with mosaic masters both in the United States and Italy. Each year I take workshops in Venice, Ravenna, the Chicago School of Mosaics or continue my study with mosaic masters such as Carol Shelkin, Martin Cheek, Koko Mosaico, Carole Choucair Oueijan, etc.

How would you describe the art of mosaics? 

Mosaics are assemblages composed of tesserae which are small pieces of glass, stone, or other nature-based materials. These pieces are typically cut into squares or shaped using special tools. The fragments are then arranged into patterns, pictures and other decorative designs held together by an adhesive and then grouted.  

What is the history of mosaics? 

Mosaics have a long history. First made out of ivory, seashells, and stones, they have been around since the third millennium B.C.E. Later on, mosaics with patterns, motifs, animal and human pictures were quite widespread in Ancient Greece and Rome. 

What places have you visited that have inspired you to create mosaics? 

When I travel, I not only enjoy the different places, people and culture, but also seek out the mosaic treasures that inspire and educate me. Mosaic artists usually take the beaten path to Italy to visit Pompeii and Ravenna or travel to Barcelona, Spain or Istanbul, Turkey. But one could also travel to Vietnam to visit the Imperial Tombs outside of the city of Hue or visit the outstanding modern subway mosaics in Pyongyang, North Korea which I saw while on a cultural exchange. 

You mentioned that you were most inspired by your visit to Pompeii. What was it about this ancient city that pulled you into this art form? 

Mosaic ornamentation was widely used in the decoration of the houses in Pompeii and the workmanship was very skilled. The Pompeii mosaics are technically brilliant, showing refinement in their composition, great taste in color and superb selection of the tesserae used.

“Cave Canem,” The Battle of Alexander,” or the maritime scene of fish swimming around an octopus wrestling with a lobster are just some of the mosaics that are constantly brought forward in time, ceaselessly reproduced, and instantly recognizable.

Can you tell me about the organization Women Sharing Art and why it is so important to you?

 I am thrilled to be a part of this group of Long Island women artists who work in a variety of media: photography, watercolors, ceramics, pottery, etc. Since 2008, the organization has offered grants to its members, awarded scholarships to high school artists, while providing its members with numerous opportunities to participate in Long Island art exhibits. You may view my work and the work of all of our members at womensharingart.org. 

What was the theme of your most recent exhibit with the group? 

In February, we participated in the “I AM at the IAM” at the Islip Museum of Art in an exhibition celebrating the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing the right of American woman to vote. A video of the exhibition can be viewed on You Tube: “I Am at the IAM.”  Another way to see it is on a film posted on the Islip Art Museum Face Book page. (www.facebook.com/IslipArtMuseum/videos)

What was your experience working with Mercy Center Ministries?  

‘Mercy Has a Thousand Hearts’

This is an independent living shelter for runaway or homeless teens. Artists from Women Sharing Art, community members, staff and residents created Mercy Has a Thousand Hearts, a unique mosaic that was installed in the Sayville Shelter. Funded by a grant received from New York State Council on the Arts and the Huntington Arts Council, the mosaic was a true work of love that gave hundreds of people the opportunity to try this form of art to express their creativity.  

Is there another memorable project that has brought you fulfillment?

‘Nautilus Flowing’

I am most proud of collaborating in 2019 with a fellow Long Island mosaic artist on the concept and design of a mosaic sidewalk medallion in Patchogue. “Nautilus Flowing” celebrates the diversity of Patchogue, its people and communities.

Tell me about your favorite piece? 

One of my favorite pieces is “Effervescence”, a mosaic of a woman submerged just below the water surface. I wanted to bring to the viewer a woman experiencing a moment of solitude, serenity, and sublimity.

What are you working on now? 

While I usually work on mosaic portraits (pet and human) or kitchen backsplashes, I am also experimenting with a dynamic, less traditional take on mosaics: I want to incorporate the look of weaved texture, cloth, in my mosaics. The mosaic pillows I made for a recent show inspired me to venture into a new direction. I am having a lot of fun breaking all sorts of ancient rules used in traditional mosaics!

Are you interested in teaching? How may someone get in touch with you? 

Mosasics can be for everyone so all levels are invited to try it out. I currently conduct small group workshops at my studio. My contact information is [email protected], GabriellaGramaMosaics.com, womensharingart.org or  Facebook: Gabriella Grama Mosaic Art.  

By Irene Ruddock

Ron Becker

Ron Becker’s talent as a muralist was expressed at any early age where he designed and painted murals at his elementary, junior, and high school. Later, after he received a degree in art from Niagara County Community College (NCCC), he went on to be an art display director. His life took a dramatic turn when he successfully pursued a professional career in entertainment: modeling, acting, singing and dancing in summer stock, television and nightclubs.

Ron eventually began a 27-year career as Director of Therapeutic Recreation in hospitals and nursing homes, where he combined all of his skills in the arts. Today, he is immersed in the fine art world exhibiting leadership skills that have led him to become a former president of the Deer Park Arts Council, while currently serving on the Community Advisory Board of Suffolk County for the Arts, as well as board member on the Babylon Citizens Council of the Arts. Being a lover of the outdoors all his life, he started painting landscapes and nature scenes in oil and acrylic and, today, devotes much of his time to exhibiting in art shows and galleries on Long Island.

How did your art career evolve when you were young? 

Raised in western New York, my talent was supported and nurtured by my parents and teachers. I was asked by my fourth and eighth grade teachers to make murals using pastels, and stayed after school to work on them. I attended a summer art camp in Niagara Falls in ninth grade and as a senior in high school I attended a summer camp for artists near Watertown, New York. These opportunities helped expand my confidence and artistic talent. Finally, I attended NCCC and received my Associate’s degree with a major in art, helping to solidify techniques in drawing and painting. 

Your career as a muralist has spanned your entire life. What project was most rewarding? 

Overseeing murals in Deer Park allowed me to work with the Long Island Railroad, Deer Park Community Association and eight other artists, to complete twelve large mural boards under the Long Island Railroad  train trestle. It was very rewarding to help give artists a voice and give something lasting to the community. Painting murals in primary and elementary schools through the Eastern BOCES services gave me the opportunity to work with young artists and show them how a mural is done, start to finish. Their joy and ongoing interest was infectious. Painting murals in hospitals was a gift as well, seeing the therapeutic outcomes for the patients.

Are you working on anything right now?

I was recently involved with Splashes of Hope, an organization dedicated to creating art to transform spaces by painting murals in health care facilities, comforting patients during their healing process. I was asked to paint a ceiling tile of the Coindre Hall Boathouse, next to the home and art studio for Splashes of Hope, located on the grounds of West Neck Farm in Huntington. The finished tile will be installed in the ceiling above a bed on one of the units in Huntington Hospital. I encourage artists who want to paint, with a humanitarian purpose, to contact Splashes of Hope at www.splashesofhope.org.

I have learned that you work extensively for charities that supports the arts. Can you tell me about that?  

I became president of the Deer Park Arts Council, a non-profit charity that advocates for and supports the visual and performing arts in the Deer Park School District. I worked with the board to spearhead a variety of fundraising events to offer summer workshops and programs for students to expand their training in the arts, as well as offering financial scholarships to outgoing seniors.

Ron Becker with ‘Joyous Abandon’

What is your most recent charitable  contribution?  

Since I spent twenty-seven years as Director of Therapeutic Recreation at nursing homes and hospital, I fully understand the therapeutic value art has for the disabled or sick. Therefore, when I was asked to donate a painting for Mather Hospital’s newly renovated oncology wing, I chose a painting of wild horses galloping on the shore titled Joyous Abandon.  

Tell me about your years as Director of Therapeutic Recreation at nursing homes and hospitals. 

While Director of Recreation at two city hospitals, outside of my managerial duties, I taught the residents drawing and painting. I was amazed at their progress, joy, and commitment, which inspired me to curate exhibits and work with galleries to exhibit the resident’s work. The facilities also had auditoriums with stages, so I would create backdrops and environments for concerts and special events.

How did you become interested in the impact of art as a tool of social change? 

While on a retreat at Chapel House, I got a vision of doing an exhibit on social justice issues after listening to the song “God Weeps.” The first topic I selected was unjust incarceration. After completing my first three pieces, I was introduced to Bartholomew Crawford, a writer who is presently incarcerated at Sing Sing Correctional Facility, and reached out to collaborate.

How did the two of you proceed? 

After sharing the exhibit’s intent, Mr. Crawford agreed to send me four written pieces about his prison experience. I integrated them into a collection of visual and narrative pieces to help tell the experience of life behind bars. Four years of working on this has resulted in an exhibit entitled “My Block.” The exhibition will be housed in the jail of Babylon Old Town Hall, which was in service from 1918 to 1958, and is on the National Historical Register. The show will be rescheduled later this year when guidelines are relaxed and allow for public exhibits.

Can you explain what iconography is and what drew you to work in this genre?  

Iconography is the practice of creating icons in the ancient method used by monks centuries ago. Its main mediums are egg tempera and gold leaf on a board covered with linen and a plaster/gesso mix. I wanted to integrate my faith and spirituality into my art on some level and met Janine Manheim, an iconographer, at a local art gallery. She had an icon on display that intrigued me, so since that initial meeting, I have been attending her classes.

Could you explain a bit more about the process of egg tempera as a painting medium? 

Egg tempera is a recipe of egg yolk and water mixed with mineral pigment color. It creates a translucent look that I strive to create as shown in my icon, Mother of Tenderness. 

Why did you decide to devote your time to fine art creating landscapes in oil and acrylic? 

I love to interpret the beauty all around us, hoping to motivate others to slow down and see and feel what I experience in nature. Painting is relaxing and allows me to express my inner self, visually. A year before retiring, I turned half my garage into a studio, experimenting with different techniques in both oil and acrylic to help find my voice. Taking photographs while on trips or here on Long Island, I began to interpret what visually excited me. Once I felt confident in sharing some of my work with the public, I began to show my work in outdoor art fairs and in member shows on Long Island. 

What has been your best experience so far?  

I had a one- man show, “An Artist’s Nature,” at the Bayard Cutting Arboretum in 2019, allowing me to exhibit 43 pieces I had created over the last several years. It was an amazing experience to see all of my work in one space, that could really present my artistic style. I also exhibited at the Roosevelt Island Visual Arts Association, an ethnically diverse group of artists dedicated to enhancing cultural developments through the arts. Due to the success of these shows, I have ventured into exhibiting at several galleries on the Island.  I now sell my work through my website www.rbeckerart.com. 

By Irene Ruddock

After spending his childhood in Port Jefferson, artist Dino Rinaldi studied art at the University of South Florida. Upon graduating, he exercised his artistic creativity by pursuing a career in advertising as an illustrator and sales representative. While also creating television commercials, he devoted his spare time studying fine art with renowned artists at the Art Students League of New York City. After twenty-five years of intense study, Rinaldi moved to Setauket. While living on a nature preserve with his wife and daughter, he is happy to devote himself to drawing and painting. 

Were you interested in art as a child? 

From an early age I was attracted to art. I drew as a teen and some of my best pieces were created on desktops in high school. Boy, I would love to see some of them now! But what impressed me the most was my Italian grandfather’s pastel portrait and landscapes that sadly disappeared over the years. Both of my parents painted, so the talent apparently has been passed down. However, my mother was the driving influence in me pursuing art throughout my life. 

Who influenced you while you studied at the Art Students League? 

I started at the League where I discovered a world that I had no idea existed. The talent was intimidating but I was welcomed in by all and turned the intimidation into the goal of being the intimidator! I moved from one teacher to another until I discovered Costa Vavagiakis for figure drawing and Nelson Shanks for color theory, learning techniques that nobody had taught me before. 

How did you transition from the advertising world to full time painting? 

I noticed people were expendable in that business. I needed an escape plan and a second career that I could pursue anywhere in the world. While hitting my most lucrative stride, I quit the ad business at age 42 and went back to the art school full time, intensely learning for eight months. 

After living in New York, what drew you back to Long Island? 

At 48, I met my wife Hazel and at 49 my daughter Lia was born. Not wanting to raise Lia in the city, I returned to my home town area. Having grown up in Belle Terre and finding it magical, we found the artists’ dream setting, Miller’s Cottage in Frank Melville Memorial Park, East Setauket. I still work in the ad business, but now work in the seclusion of my studio. 

How does living in a nature preserve impact your painting? 

Although I hadn’t taken a course in landscape, I knew the allure and dreamlike beauty of the surrounding area would have to be painted. I watched instructional videos, while applying my previously acquired skills and set out with my easel. I love being outside so landscape painting was a natural progression. Hearing swans taking off on the pond and an owl that likes to say hello around 11 p.m. always makes me smile and gives me inspiration to paint.  

Tell us about painting local scenes. 

I have painted and drawn the Belle Terre Gates in Port Jefferson many times, loving every stroke and remembering back to my childhood. Painting the cove at the end of Cliff Road also holds some of my fondest memories.

You are also known for your paintings of animals. Do you have many commissions for those? 

I have a pretty steady clientele who commission me to draw their horses and dogs. The number of people requesting pencil portraits of a family member is gaining momentum. Relatives, famous musicians, artists, and celebrities are among the most requested.    

How would you describe your style of painting? 

I feel I have yet to hit my stride on one subject are or even one style, but continue to grow and hone my skills with the goal of creating something each painting better than the last one.  

You exhibit many beautiful still life paintings in a box. How did this genre come about?  

While living in SoHo, I took a walk to Houston Street where people were selling goods. I suddenly saw an old box with a wonderful patina. I was told it was from the 1800’s and “very rare.” After much haggling, we settled on $10. I told the man I was going to paint a still life in the box and paint so many that I would turn the $10 purchase to $10,000. I ended up selling the first one for at the Art Students League for $600. Only $9,400 to go! Since then, I have painted close to 100 objects in the box and the amount must be close to $100,000 in sales. 

Since you don’t often enter shows or work with a gallery, how do you seek out opportunities to sell your work or cultivate a collector base? 

When it comes to selling my work I found a worldwide audience through Facebook, Instagram, and Saatchi Art online. I love interacting with my over 4,500 friends from around the globe on Facebook: Dino Rinaldi Art. I also have lawn exhibits outside the cottage in the park where my daughter joins me.

Is your daughter following in your family’s footsteps? 

My daughter has begun taking her art seriously, often accompanying me with her pink easel to paint various spots in this stunning park. She has already sold 6 pieces! A fine start indeed!  

What qualities does a painting to have to satisfy your standards? 

Before setting out to paint, I ask myself “Would it be something I want on my walls?” Another criteria is that it must be a great drawing or painting. If the work fails to meet these two criteria, I put it aside and re-use the canvas. I am my toughest critic. 

What advice would you give to your younger self?

 If I had a chance I probably tell a younger Dino to focus more on art at an earlier age, save your money for a rainy day so you could escape the city earlier for the peaceful life at Setauket, and to keep my head down longer on my chip shots! 

Is there one habit that helps or hinders your creativity?  

Determination! I paint and draw as many as a hundred hours a week, working late into the night while listening to music. I learned that when you can do something you love, it is no longer a job but a passion.  

What role does art have in society?  

I have used my art toward helping charities whenever possible. I began a friendship with Petra Nemcova, a model who lost her fiancé in the tsunami almost a decade ago. I was so moved, I set up an art show at Guava Studios and was able to raise $13,000 toward building a school in Thailand. 

That is a wonderful achievement! I have heard that you also give to other charities as well.

I have donated to horse rescues and other animal rescues. I think it is a natural progression to want to help people even as I sometimes struggle to make money; rarely do I question if it is the right move. 

What are your future aspirations as an artist? 

My goal has been to always to enjoy my life in the fullest manner possible while also being able to spend more time with my wife and daughter. I want to sell enough art to pay the bills and keep me in cadmium red! By continuing to study the old masters, I will someday reach my goal of fame and fortune. 

‘Art is my passion and lifetime adventure;

I relish being able to dedicate each and every day to the art of creating.’

– Angela Stratton

By Irene Ruddock

‘It’s Me’, self portrait by Angela Stratton

Angela Stratton, whose artistry is described as traditional realism, was schooled in the old master’s tradition at the Reilly League of Artists. She was mentored by Cesare Borgia who strongly emphasized portrait and figure drawing, painting from life, working from casts, and copying old masters such as Velazquez, Vermeer, Rembrandt and Rubens. 

After over twenty years of study, Ms. Stratton was asked to supplement Borgia’s teaching responsibilities and has since emerged as an award-winning artist who has exhibited country-wide. Today, she belongs to numerous organizations such as the Catherine Lorillard Wolf Art Club, the Portrait Society of America, the Salmagundi Club, and the Oil Painters of America. She continues to teach and to seek continuous study through workshops, demonstrations, and museum lecture series. 

I recently caught up with the artist to get her views on her prestigious career.

Was there a defining moment when you decided to follow the path of traditional realism?

Yes. I did draw as a child, but my true inspiration came in my early years of employment at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, wandering the great rooms intrigued by the old master paintings. It was there that I decided to become an artist.   

What do you remember most about the influence of your mentor Cesare Borgia?

He had so such love and enthusiasm for art that it became contagious. But I mostly remember his encouraging me to persevere and to pursue research. He encouraged me to develop my own style and to “be true to myself.” Through the years, I developed a such a strong bond with him and his wife Margy, that she told me I was the daughter they never had. Many years later, I painted her portrait and gave it the title ‘Beautiful Spirit’ as she was truly deserving of that title. 

What artists do you especially admire? 

That is difficult to answer as there are so many great artists with different styles who make each one unique. One of my favorites is John Singer Sargent, whose fluid strokes helped make him the leading portrait painter of his generation. He is often known for his scandalous painting of Madame X.  I also admire William A. Bouguereau for his superb draftsmanship and classical paintings of the female form. His painting of the “Birth of Venus” is often described as the epitome of classical Green and Roman form of the female body.        

You have a wide range of paintings which depict landscapes, portraiture and still life. Which are you most well known for?  

I have always been known for my portraiture and figures, but since retiring, I have been able to put more focus on still life and plein air painting as well. However, portraiture is still my favorite. As people we are all so different and yet so much alike. We all possess a magnificent spirit inside us. I hope to capture that essence whether in a child’s eye or an elderly smile. I enjoy doing commissions and strive to find the magic in each person.   

How do you choose your objects for your still lifes such as the ones in your well known painting Life’s Phases?

Each object in the painting tells a bit about the phases of my life from my childhood love of ice skating, to my toy and doll phase, and to the years when I discovered baseball. When I do still life commissions, I encourage people to bring symbols of their life so I can paint the objects that tell a story representing them in a unique way. In this way, a person can create their own painting.     

In today’s world of abstract, contemporary design, do you think the realistic tradition will survive? 

 I do not think realism will ever disappear with so many museums abundantly displaying wonderful traditional art. Even today there are many art organizations and magazines that continue to emphasize the realistic tradition. 

Are students lacking today if they are not taught a rigorous classic background?  

My belief is that some study on basic drawing techniques are vital regardless of one’s direction. ‘You need to know the rules before you can break them’!  

What awards have meant the most to you? 

All awards are special, but I do remember being extremely excited when I was accepted as a finalist into the 2015 International Art Renewal Center, which is the largest, most prestigious realist art competition in the world.   

Do you have a favorite painting? 

I remember once, while at the Met, I was asked if I needed to rescue one painting, which one would it be? I chose “The Wyndham Sisters” which was painted in 1899 by John Singer Sargent. One cannot help but to be in awe of such a masterpiece which was dubbed “The Three Graces” by the Prince of Wales.    

Where do you exhibit now? 

I am currently exhibiting in the Annual Invitational Exhibition at The Atelier at Flowerfield in St. James, Figuratively Speaking at the Salmagundi Club in New York City and The Big Picture at the Art League of Long Island located in Dix Hills. I encourage people to visit my website at strattongallery.com.    

By Irene Ruddock

The artist at workI am immersed in art in all I do as art is infused in my soul. I dream of creating beautiful works of art which combine the visual arts, music, dance, painting, color and light. ~ Kyle Blumenthal

Kyle Blumenthal is a fine artist, juror and illustrator who specializes in painting, stage and exhibition design, video productions, murals and illustrations. She received a bachelor’s of fine arts in painting and art education from Pratt Institute and a master’s in fine arts and a master’s in painting from C. W. Post College and now holds classes at The National Art League and the Nassau County Museum of Art. Among her many achievements was being named a Mark Fellow from the New York Foundation for the Arts.

I recently visited the artist at her studio in Stony Brook where she gave me insight into her prestigious career. 

What is your vision as an artist? 

I create work that can uplift the viewer’s emotions while encouraging inner contemplation. My paintings encourage social change.

 When did you first become interested in art?  

My father was my first instructor. He was a painter and a sculptor and the president of a local art league. He taught me how to paint in oils (at the age of 5!) to sculpt and to cast my sculpture. He also was a certified public accountant for New York State. My mother was a writer, a poet and an instructor of English literature. I was brought up with great respect for the arts and to honor my passion for my art

Who is your inspiration now?  

Michelangelo is my favorite artist and friend. All the artists I have studied have become my best friends. When I go to a museum, I am visiting old friends. My inspiration is always spiritual. Nature is also a big influencer in my art, as the Earth needs our help. 

How do you incorporate your art with your belief system? 

My paintings encourage the viewer to think about themselves and how they interact with the environment. My upcoming show at the Mill Pond Gallery in January will explore the ocean and the Earth in an abstract manner. The 3-D paintings enable light to pass through the paintings giving the subliminal message of the spiritual in life. My goal is to encourage people to care for nature and wildlife. 

Are there special projects helping others that stand out? 

Because I had found my childhood dog at the Little Shelter Animal and Rescue Center in Huntington, I wanted to do something to give a voice to the animals. I created an illustration for Little Shelter in the style of Norman Rockwell. The painting has been printed as posters and sold to people to encourage donations.

What is one of your many exhibits that meant a lot to you? 

Hurricane Sandy devastated my studio at the Nassau County Museum of Art. I was chosen to exhibit my painting in Chelsea, New York titled “Tossed in the Storm,” which I was inspired to paint after the hurricane. The painting was also featured in a documentary about artists affected by that storm. 

Tell me about your piece titled ‘American Indian Musical Vibrations Rising from the Earth’ exhibiting now at the Long Island Museum. 

I created this work in honor of a colleague of mine, Professor KD Eaglefeathers, who has since passed away. I remember her large drum in her office and our conversations about the Native American language which she was working on to preserve. This painting shows musical vibrations rising from the Earth –— the water with the fish in the sea and the land above with the minerals.

What have been some of your most interesting commissions?  

I did paintings of international composers and soloists at Lincoln Center that garnered critical acclaim. I completed “Tug-of-War,” in situ, a three-panel mural for the University Café at Stony Brook University. The mural, which is over 33 feet combined, was named to reflect the struggle of bringing the old world into the new world.

How did growing up at the American Ballet Theatre influence your art? 

As a child, I spent many days at the American Ballet Theatre School watching my sister take classes where I developed my love and appreciation of dance. Many years later, I created video animations for the Spotlight Dance Company performed on stage at Staller Center for the Arts at Stony Brook University. The animation of my paintings and drawings were created to move with the dancer’s choreography and music because I wanted my art to be a part of the performance, not a backdrop to the performance. Along with other galleries, I exhibited at the New Gallery at the Harkness Ballet Company Studios.

What inspired your “Dreams” series? 

My entire life I have been fascinated with the metaphysical world. The concept of what is real and what is illusion has always been the basis for my creations. In my “Dreams” series, I am inspired by spiritual visions that I see before I open eyes or in meditation. 

What is most rewarding to you as an art educator? 

I share my knowledge in the arts with students of all ages, particularly precollege and college students. I have successfully helped young artists as a coach and mentor and created the portfolio preparation program at the Nassau County Museum of Art. I am presently running the program for tweens, teens and adults at the National Art League.

What are you working on now?

I paint with oils on canvas and scrim and incorporate fabrics such as my silk scarves that are available at the Reboli Center for Art and History in Stony Brook. The combinations of transparent, translucent and opaque materials in my work reflect the ethereal and material.

Has your painting method changed over the years?   

When I begin to imagine a work in my head, I see the edges as being free of stretcher strip and frames. I like to see my work float in midair. More and more of my paintings have started to come away from the wall as if to free themselves from restrictions and straight edges. 

What else do you dream of doing?  

Although I have painted my whole life, I feel as though I have just started. I have the same dreams today as I did as a young girl leaning to draw and paint. I dream of painting large-scale murals and having many museum exhibitions. Throughout my life, I have worked very hard to be the very best artist, instructor and person that I can be. I will continue to improve myself and to open the door for others. I can be reached at [email protected] or www.kylesart.com. 

By Irene Ruddock

I try to create art that will make the viewer smile – a cartoon in metal that tells a story.’
— Gary Garret

Huntington resident Gary Garrett, who is presently exhibiting his sculptures at the Reboli Center for Art and History until the end of October, studied advertising, art and design at SUNY Farmingdale. Having worked in various advertising industries in New York City for five years, he found that he was no longer inspired by that world, so he decided to pursue his family’s used auto parts business. While working in this industry, he recycled automotive parts to remake into the sculptures that he exhibits today. His exhibitions include Huntington Gallery, Long Island University Gallery, Mather Hospital, Reboli Center, the Salmagundi Club, the Long Island Professional Sculpture Shows and the Huntington Art League Gallery. 

Your signature piece, Who Let the Dog’s Out? is on exhibit at the Reboli Center for Art and History. What was your inspiration? 

After I saw Norman Rockwell’s painting of parents and kids going on vacation called “Coming and Going,” I was inspired to replace that vision with a depiction of a mother dog and her puppies eagerly going on vacation. 

What materials did you use for this? 

For this sculpture, I used 1948 Dodge doors that I found in the junkyard — the only “found object” in this sculpture. All the rest were sculpted by me with metal, even the eyes, hair and tongue. I tried to make the hair look as though it was bent in the wind and one of dogs eyes making contact with the viewer. I wanted all of it look as though it was moving. 

What other materials do you use to create your sculptures? 

I find components for my artwork at garage sales, farm auctions and auto salvage yards. I like to give new life to old tools, industrial gears, car parts and farm equipment incorporating them to create welded assemblages that tell a whimsical story. 

How does recycling of materials represent your view of society?

 I think it is important to save and use items from our “throw-away” society. The “found objects” that I use were made to last and I appreciate that aspect. 

What has been your most rewarding experience? 

I was thrilled to show at the prestigious Salmagundi Art Club in New York City! They showed my sculptor of President Trump on the cover of a Fifth Avenue billboard. It is a humorous piece that can be interpreted many different ways. That was thrilling! 

You choose to represent your art showing the humorous side of life. Why do you think that is?  

I have always been a storyteller                                                    to my family, friends and children. I try to take ordinary experiences from every day life that we take for granted to find the humorous side of it. We need to take time to laugh. 

Are there artists whom you particularly admire? 

I admire Norman Rockwell, Al Hirschfield and Shel Silverstein. Each saw the humor in everyday life. For instance, I love Silverstein’s book about a child who befriends a tree. I like Rockwell’s painting of all the ethnic groups working together. That one painting tells the story of how our immigration system made America. 

What are your future plans for your sculpture? 

I will be exhibiting at Deepwells Mansion in the spring. My plan is to keep doing art whenever I become inspired. I don’t know where an idea will come from next, but I am always open to it. I would also love one of my pieces to be part of a permanent collection at a children’s hospital so it could bring joy to many children. I can always be contacted at [email protected] or at 516-557-6990. 

I am a realist painter with a focus on light, shadow, composition and abstract design. I try to simplify detail to create a more impressionistic feeling to my realism. – Peter Hahn

By Irene Ruddock

Peter Hahn

Peter Hahn has painted in watercolor for over 35 years. Known for his bold style with clean, luminous works that exhibit his mastery of the medium, the artist has shown his painting in exhibits in New York City, Long Island and Connecticut, winning awards in almost every show he ever enters. Locally, the Port Jefferson resident shows with the Setauket Artists, Gallery North, Deepwells Mansion, the Art League of Long Island and Guild Hall.

How did you get interested in  painting?

At age 5, I was drawing Disney characters and learned drawing from John Gnagy’s “Learn to Draw” kit. Years later, when I was in high school with the late Joe Reboli (Reboli Center for Art and History), I found out that we both started with that same Gnagy drawing kit. I worked in linocuts and woodcuts for many years, but after a visit to Joe’s studio where I watched him paint, Joe encouraged me to stop woodcuts and to start working in watercolor.

Why do you prefer to work with watercolor?

I like the transparency and glow of watercolor on handmade paper. On location, called en plein air, it is quick to set up, not messy at all. All you need is water! I enjoy painting in oil and acrylics too, but I basically consider myself a watercolor painter.

You are known in Port Jefferson for years of volunteer work providing the art for the high school prom. Tell us about that.

Yes, when my daughter was a senior, my ex-wife volunteered me at a prom meeting to become the head of design and construction! Designing the prom was such an exhilarating challenge. I loved the camaraderie that all the volunteers developed using acrylic house paint to cover 10,000 square feet of cardboard and plywood.

What was your favorite prom theme?

My favorite theme was Manhattan Magic. I walked all over the city to get my inspiration. We painted a 36-foot by 96-foot piece of plywood for the whole skyline of Manhattan! I designed, and the construction team built, a replica of the 59th Street Bridge for the students to walk over to enter the prom. The lobby was Central Park, the gym was the theater district and the food court was Sardi’s and Tavern on the Green. Every year we came up with a new theme!

I learned that you are contributing a painting to Mather Hospital’s new wing. Tell us about that.

Because the theme for the new wing is Wonders of Nature, I intend to paint a Niagara Falls view with acrylic on plywood. I am in awe of the majesty of the falls, so I hope this “natural wonder” will create a healing effect for cancer patients.

I know that you follow many artists of the past, often traveling to visit their homes or museums that display their work. Who are the artist you most admire?

My role models are Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth. I learned watercolor techniques such as color lifting, dry and wet brush and mixing colors from Homer. I was thrilled to see Homer’s paintings in person at the 150th anniversary exhibit of his birth at Yale. From Sargent, I learned his technique of painting with one stroke to create something so the painting is not overworked. Hopper inspired me to have an abstract design to my realism. Finally, I was fascinated by Wyeth’s egg tempura techniques and studied one of my favorite paintings “The Night Sleeper.” Here the incredible light came only from the moon. All these and other artists inspire me to stay loose and impressionistic.

You paint many commissions. How difficult is it for you to interpret and then create what the person envisions?

By getting to know them and talking to them I get to understand their desires. Often my clients give me a series of photographs and I make detailed sketches before I begin.

Can you give us an example of commissions that you painted that met yours and the person’s goals?

Yes, one was a triptych on 300-pound, full-sized watercolor paper depicting a panoramic view of Port Jefferson. Another is a view of Mount Misery Point in Port Jefferson.

I understand you recently retired. How do you intend to spend your time?

I hope to paint as much as possible and perhaps to teach a few classes.

What is the best advice you can give a student about the art of watercolor?

I would say study all the books you can get on watercolor technique and watch videos by artists such as Tom Lynch. Go to museums to become inspired! Keep doing quick sketches en plein  air. If interested in my work or my future classes, you may reach me at [email protected] or call or text me at 631-433-3721. 

Images courtesy of Peter Hahn

By Irene Ruddock 

Jessica Randall

Jessica Randall fabricates, casts, designs and forges unique contemporary jewelry. A graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, she has shown her jewelry in the Portland Museum in Oregon, the Holter Museum of Art in Montana as well as galleries such as the Young and Constanin Gallery in Vermont, Stones Throw Gallery in Massachusetts and the Carlyn Gallery in Texas. I recently visited Randall at her studio in East Setauket where this metalsmith of over 20 years hand makes every piece of original jewelry.

How did you get started in jewelry making? 

I initially enrolled in art school as a fashion design major. On a lark, I took a jewelry class at MassArt and fell in love! I have been making jewelry ever since.   

What is your inspiration for the creative process? 

The impulse to collect is at the heart of my creative process. I collect all kinds of natural debris like: found animal bones, skulls, beach stones, pine cones, crab claws and shells; found turtle shells, semiprecious stones, sea shells and beads. These found objects are then catalysts for designs. I will either use a material directly or use just a shape, line or texture from something I’ve found in nature.  

What else influences your art? 

As a little girl, I loved to visit the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art with my family. I was fascinated with medieval weaponry, taxidermy, ancient Egyptian art and Pacific adornment. As a young woman, I had the opportunity to travel through Europe and North Africa, experiencing the art from these cultures firsthand. Later in life, I lived in Texas with my husband and three sons, which instilled a love of Native American and Mexican silver jewelry. Midcentury design and Scandinavian modern design have also influenced my jewelry. 

What tools and equipment do you use?

 I own lots of tools I have collected over the years, each with a specific purpose. I also modify tools. For example, I grind down the jaws of steel pliers, then polish them to create a smooth surface that won’t mar metal. I use various shaped hammers for forging and chasing, various shaped pliers for bending and shaping and digital calipers for measuring. I use a mini drill press, a flex shaft with assorted attachments, a tumbler, polishing motor and an ultrasonic cleaner as well.

What materials do you work with? 

I like to work with both traditional sterling and argentium silver because they are relatively soft and easy to forge, yet strong enough to cut easily with a jeweler’s saw. Argentium silver is brighter and whiter than traditional sterling silver and tarnishes at a rate 70 times slower than traditional sterling silver. It is virtually tarnish-free!   

What else can you tell me about the process?  

I hand make or “fabricate” most jewelry in my studio. “Fabricating” includes forging, soldering, stone setting, tumbling and polishing. I also work with a casting and plating company. The caster uses an ancient process known as “lost wax casting” to reproduce silver multiples, which I finish and then use in designs. The plater submerges silver jewelry in a bath that chemically coats the pieces in 24-karat yellow or rose gold to produce “vermeil.” Vermeil jewelry has a thick, durable 24-karat gold finish over sterling silver, at a fraction of the price of solid gold jewelry.    

Is there a material that you wish to experiment with in the future? 

24-karat gold! 24-karat gold is 100 percent pure gold, as you probably know, not alloyed with any other metals like 10k, 14k or 18k gold. Goldsmiths love working with it because it is “like butter” … so soft and malleable. I would also like to experiment with a small-scale 3-D printer to produce resin models that could be cast. I would like to figure out how to utilize 3-D printing technology in my work, if that’s viable.  

Is there a period of jewelry making that you most admire? 

My favorite period is the 1950s and ’60s. I love the American studio jewelry movement and also modernist Mexican and Scandinavian jewelry from this time period. At midcentury, American universities across the country began offering serious metalsmithing programs. Because these skills were taught in a conceptual, university setting, jewelry began to be seen as contemporary art or miniature sculpture, not just wearable craft.  

How do you decide on an individual design?

 I make multiple versions of designs, sometimes three, five, even 10 variations of the same piece. After experimenting, I choose the one I like best and then scale back details until the design is distilled to a simple, clean piece. I also take commissions and make one-of-a- kind commissions at a client’s request.    

Are there jewelry makers whom you admire in the past or present? 

Some of my “art heroes” include Alexander Calder, Georgia O’Keefe, Andy Goldsworthy, Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hube, Betty Cooke, Art Smith, Coco Chanel and Jill Platner. There are too many to list and I discover new influences every day.

What was your favorite piece that you designed? 

A favorite piece in recent memory is currently on view at Studio 268 in Setauket. It’s a large sterling silver and moss agate flower mounted on black canvas, displayed in a shadow box. I made it to illustrate the idea that jewelry is not just a functional, wearable medium; jewelry can also be viewed as “art” displayed and hung on a wall.

Did you ever have a piece that you couldn’t bear to sell? 

Yes, I made a pendant from sterling silver, horsehair and a cast plastic fishing lure that I found on the beach for our senior thesis show at MassArt. The finished pendant resembled a tiny, abstract broom, almost like a miniature African totem. I loved how it came out and wanted to use it as an inspiration for future work, so I put it in the exhibit with “Not for sale” on it.  

Where can we see your jewelry? 

My work was recently included in the Setauket Artists Spring Show at Deepwells Mansion. It is currently part of the Small Works Show in Studio 268 where my jewelry will continue to be shown through June on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. Look for me in September at Gallery North’s Outdoor Art Show and Music Festival on Sept. 7 and 8. 

I can be reached at 214-906-4425 or [email protected]   

‘In my paintings, I attempt capture a strong sense of place and a distinct light source in hopes of creating an atmosphere that goes beyond the physical and into the emotional realm.’

  Celeste Mauro

By Irene Ruddock

Artist Celeste Mauro with ‘Regatta,’ acrylic/collage

Celeste Mauro, a Northport resident, has earned art degrees from Adelphi University and Parson’s School of Design. She has been an avid watercolorist for over 30 years, but that didn’t stop her from experimenting with collage and mixed media that have enhanced her work. Mauro was a member of The Firefly Artists Gallery in Northport. Two years ago, she and fellow local artist, Demerise Perricone, launched a new art gallery in Northport: Gallery Sixty Seven. I was able to catch up with this busy lady recently to talk about her art and her new adventure!   

What motivates you to start the creative process?

The patterns and motifs found in nature inspire me to create an image that evokes intuitive feelings or sentiments rather than a realistic painting.

You have been known for your work in watercolor. What is it about watercolor that attracts you?

The transparent quality of watercolor allows the work to have an inner glow, almost as though lit from behind. I enjoy working with acrylic paint and mediums that offer translucency. Plus they are the best adhesive for collage.

Can you explain what collage is and how it enhances your work in watercolor and acrylic?

The word “collage” is derived from the French verb “coller” that means to glue. As a watercolorist, texture had to be “implied” through the use of various techniques. Working with acrylic paint, I can create actual texture by affixing unusual papers or materials to the canvas or by working with various textural acrylic mediums and sometimes “found-object” printing.

I alternate media and layer paint or printing over collage … then collage over that. The free-form shapes of torn paper add a sense of abstraction; the brushwork adds detail and the printing adds an element of surprise.

I see on your website, www.celestemauro.com, that you have a category called Back Stories. Can you explain what that is?

Many people are curious as to how artwork is created. This section provides the step-by-step process, shown with photos, which takes the mystery out of the process.

What did you learn from being a member of The Firefly Artists Gallery that has helped you in setting up Gallery Sixty Seven?

That experience has proved to be invaluable! Any artist who steps outside the comfort zone of their studio and into the retail business of selling art has much to learn! Establishing a professional identity, framing, pricing, marketing, salesmanship, doing commissions, creating reproductions, understanding “sale-ability” and handling finances are some of the skills needed.

Can you tell us about your new adventure? 

Gallery Sixty Seven, located at 67 Main St. in Northport, is a gallery as well as studio space, which makes it unique. Now as the owner and a Northport resident, I especially love that people from the community feel free to drop by to observe art being created or to browse the works in the gallery. Gallery Sixty Seven has a strong “Northport” feel to it! As local artists, we are inspired by the natural beauty of local sites and our clients appreciate that.

How did you choose the artists for your new gallery?

As a small gallery, we can represent but a handful of artists. All of the artists in the gallery have a distinctive style that sets them apart and yet their different styles play beautifully off one another. As lifelong artists, they each have a body of work that exemplifies their unique personal perspective. I also look for professionalism and a cooperative spirit in each artist.

Do you offer workshops? 

Yes! The gallery is looking to expand its offering of workshops since they were so successful last year. The instructors are the gallery artists who are experienced art teachers; our limited studio space allows for lots of personal attention … a winning combination. Our website, www.gallerysixtyseven.com, will provide information about our artists workshops, etc.

What exhibits are coming up?

Currently, we are showcasing large-format paintings in our BIG Show, which runs through the end of April. One special feature of this show is that there are “thumbnail” photos of all the paintings hanging in residential settings. This helps people to visualize how the work might look in their home! Everyone is welcome to visit Gallery Sixty Seven anytime!

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.