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Artist of the Month

By Irene Ruddock

Gail Laines Chase is a Stony Brook resident who has delighted followers of her paintings for years. She graduated Wilkes College where she received her teaching degree and was able to take art classes which she enjoyed. 

Chosen by the Setauket Artists to be the Honored Artist at the 42nd Setauket Artists Exhibition for 2022, Chase exhibits her work in Gallery North, Mills Pond Gallery, Long Island Museum and the Port Jefferson Village Center. Chase is often seen painting in plein air, a method she feels helps capture the mood of the scene. Her versatility is evident in the mediums she pursues: watercolor, oil and pastel. 

Artist Gail Chase
Artist statement:
My goal is to communicate to the viewer the joy I feel in painting.

You were originally known as a water colorist. Why do you like that medium? 

I love the spontaneity of watercolor. There is something about the feel of the brush gliding across the paper that intrigues me. Painting in watercolor is like taking a mini vacation. Should the muse happen to call and the painting works, that is truly serendipitous! I become lost in its magic; the light, shape, line, but most of all the color. I love color in clothing, the decoration of my home, but most of all in painting. 

What do you like about working with  pastels and oils?

In pastel and oil, again it is the color that I’m drawn to. I love the intensity of the colors because an artist can get the deep saturated color values immediately. Not to mention, pastels and oil is much more easily corrected than watercolor, should an “oops” occur!

What inspires you to paint?

 I’m inspired by nature. I love painting at West Meadow creek which I call my “still waters” place. I love the morning light and the sunsets are spectacular! We are so fortunate to live on Long Island  where there are so many beautiful venues.  

Who influenced you in your art? 

I was blessed to have a grandmother who encouraged me to garden and love nature. Growing up in Pennsylvania, I loved the mountains and pine woods, but when I moved to Long Island, I added the shore and wetlands to that love.   

I’m also inspired by Renoir, Monet and Van Gogh. I was fortunate to study with fine and talented women artists who became my mentors: Harriet Christman, Adelaide Silkworth, Janet Walsh, Ruth Baderian, Katherine Hiscox, and, more recently, local pastelist Mary Jane van Zeijts. 

As a teacher, did you bring art into the classroom? 

Yes, I enjoyed influencing the children by incorporating art into the curriculum. I enjoyed watching the children blossom, nurturing their creativity and senses. When I think of my years in the classroom, a line from Sara Teasdale’s poem Barter comes to mind “… And little children looking up, Holding wonder like a cup.”

Do you have a network of artists?

 I am blessed to have a network of artist friends. We lift up each other’s efforts with positive criticism and support. Best of all, we have become good friends who are there for each other in times of sunshine and shade. 

Tell us about your greeting card collection. 

My watercolor and pastel images have been reproduced as a collection of greeting cards. It began by just sending these cards to friends to which I added poetry. After a time, it has morphed into a business. The cards may be purchased from my website (glcimpressions.com) or in my home studio by appointment.  

Why do you think art is important to society? 

Art is important to society because it speaks to humanity’s better angels. All of the arts are important because they move us to a higher plane of thinking and feeling.

How does art help you in other areas of your life? 

Art brings me joy and gratitude for the beauty of nature. It helps relieve the stress of everyday busyness. It helps me to really look, see and appreciate the gift of a beautiful world. 

Artist statement:

I paint as if in a dream highlighting my everyday experiences in poetic color and form with emotion. My subjects range from still life, landscapes, and portraits in the photorealistic style and futuristic visionary paintings with a surreal edge.’

By Irene Ruddock

In this interview, you will gain insight on a remarkable artist; a photorealist and visionary explorer who seeks to discover the inner world through art. Born deaf, Charles Wildbank achieved degrees from Yale, Pratt, and Columbia. After a few years of teaching deaf students, Wildbank burst upon the art world with his Fifth Avenue window showcases in New York City, portraits of David Hockney and Luciano Pavarotti and his famed eight foot tall rendering of the Cartier diamond. Read on to be amazed and uplifted by his fascinating career and inner depth that has transformed this artist’s vision and ours along with it. 

Tell us about your beginning forays in the world of art? How did being deaf affect your choosing art as your life’s work?

There were hardly any options when it came to communicating as a deaf child other than pointing or drawing sketches to have others understand me. This was followed by strong approvals and eventually requests for some art from me. That is how my art career blossomed since I got adept at rendering just about anything.

How do you hear now? How did you learn to speak so well which is a difficult obstacle for the deaf?

Without wearing a hearing device, I am deaf as a stone, oblivious to all sounds. My parents, in realizing my lack of hearing as a toddler, brought home a rather large amplifier with headphones. For me, it was one of the best gifts. Music would be one of my first sounds. Also, I would wear them in front of a black and white television watching cartoons. This was followed shortly with a large new hearing aid which I could wear strapped around my chest for play outside. This helped me learn to speak and listen and not just read lips. 

It was only recently that I received a pair of cochlear implants. That is when I first picked up the sound of fizz when opening a bottle of Perrier water! Every morning since, i woke up to a cacophony of bird songs outside.

For the most part, I enjoy painting in complete silence. Music is always my love as it was my first sound. For instance, I get so moved by the vocal range of one of Maria Callas’ arias, only possible through my cochlear implants. I am so grateful for this timely modern technology. Also, I am grateful for the closed captioning, for through this, I hear most everything, I am still learning how to listen and recognize language by ear. In retrospect, all those years of speech therapy after school hours were worth it!

Being understood has been a very challenging feat for me and it was though family and friends who would help me enunciate new words. It was perhaps through my willingness to accept feedback without feeling criticized which may have been an essential key to this day.

As a former teacher, I was most impressed by your heartfelt desire for parents to encourage children in their passions and gifts. Can you tell us about your family and the importance of their support in your life’s choice of art.

The idea of praising children for any accomplishment became the norm in my family and it is likely not just love, but the side benefit of children giving back. All my siblings had many talents and in turn received their nourishment and it made us all so proud. I’d wish this for every child in this world as it has such a transforming effect on their overall being. Literally, vices such as bullyism and wars would vanish. One cannot underestimate the power of the arts in our love starved world of today. All it would take is some beautiful architecture, some color in the room, some fashion, some life changing art, or a song to make one’s life turn around for the better!

How has your art progressed since the initial foray into the art world?  

Though I was mostly self-taught, attending art college landed me into such a creative and stimulating environment among like peers. We visited many museums and galleries and took opportunities to remain inspired such as meeting older professional artists. My art output increased among the local art fairs in the Hamptons due to the delightfully growing demand for my art. 

Can you describe the exemplary ‘Hado Series?’ 

After many years of paving out a career in such hyper- real fashion on Fifth Avenue, I wished to make a leap of imagination by adding a touch of surrealism in my newer work. Since many of my dreams contain a common element of water with giant waves throughout, I adopted this Japanese word HADO, which means “wave”.  To achieve this subliminal oceanic effect, I incorporated some of my photographs with  digital tools such as photoshop. I do anything I wished with my more mundane images thus transforming them into another realm from my imaginative choosing. This is followed by using these final images as notes as I paint from my laptop onto a very large canvas. This visual show can observed in my recent “Tempest” and “Emergence” murals.

A lot of us are lost when it comes to understanding digital art, yet you have achieved remarkable work that is not remote or cold in feeling but touches the soul. Can you explain this?

Instead of a computer mouse, I use a special stylus digital pen and tablet with my laptop in creating new images. My photo diaries are uploaded for this purpose, and I often start with a dream in mind’s eye and find elements in reality that I can morph into the composition on the screen. This would take many hours to achieve to my satisfaction. Finally, a grid is laid upon the approved image and sketched by hand onto a new blank canvas. Digitally I can add and take away elements that do not belong and amplify to match any given emotion or whim. Once sketched upon the canvas in pencil, I proceed to paint and brush onto that canvas  with acrylic paint. This process usually take several months to complete.

Your portraits of everyday people are as mesmerizing as your famous portrait of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. What is it that draws you to a person?

Portraits are a very dear subject for me, particularly large ones. Whenever someone visually grabs my attention for any reason, I usually make a request for a pose which often goes rewarded. Perhaps it is their hair or certain attitude that I find appealing.  Essentially, I look for that timeless feeling. 

Your commission to paint for the ocean liner The Queen Mary 2 had to be an exciting honor. 

For those murals on board the QM2, I was approached by agents representing Cunard Lines in Amsterdam by e-mail because my website must have captured their strong interest. There were requirements to be met and one interesting one was that the murals had to be flame proof. After some search online then, I was able to locate a canvas manufacturer that makes this Trevira (TM) brand and ordered 10-foot-wide rolls 40 feet long from Nurnberg, Germany. The ship’s insurance company in London requested my canvas sample and it passed the flame test. These tall murals depict coastal scenes of England and America and are now hung by the elevators on board the QM2. Fans having sailed on board would thoughtfully send me selfies confirming they have admired these murals. Such gestures would make my day.

You are presently showing your work at the Reboli Center’s Bloom exhibit in Stony Brook. What piece do you have on exhibit there? 

Originally, I was going to include my latest “Grand Florale” at this Reboli  Exhibition “Bloom”, however, fortunately and unfortunately, I had sold the mural, all 11 feet of it to a private collector. I decided to exhibit one of my favorites titled, “The Path” which depicts one of my refreshing walks by the beach path covered with rugosa roses in bloom.

How can the public view your work ? 

Visit my latest website, http://wildbankfineart.com and facebook page under “Charles Wildbank” and view my story on the Reboli Center website. Also, I welcome visitors to my studio in Jamesport to see my work in person or to join a group for art lessons by appointment.

By Irene Ruddock

Artist Doug Reina

Artist statement:

‘I paint Modified-Realism by altering and enhancing colors, using more abstract compositions, and leaving large areas of the painting an ambiguous black.’

Doug Reina, a well-known Long Island artist, is currently preparing for his first solo exhibit at Gallery North in Setauket. Titled Prolonged Perceptions: Recent Paintings by Doug Reina, the exhibit will run from April 7 to May 22 with an opening reception on April 7 from 6 to 8 p.m. and an ArTalk on April 9 at 6 p.m.

I had a chance to dig deeper into the artistic vision of this prestigious artist when I visited his studio located at 290 Main Street, Setauket where he gives lessons every Thursday. Be sure to view his website dougreina.com for additional information about his distinguished career.

When did you first realize your interest and talent in art? 

Ever since I was a small child, I had an interest in making art that expressed my feelings. I sensed that I had talent for art based on the reaction my work was getting from my art teachers and classmates.

Do you remember the first piece of art that you created? 

When I was four or so, I decided to run away by doing a self-portrait showing me running away, which I slipped under my folk’s bedroom door. As I recall it got a really big, affectionate reaction from my mom!

Your parents are involved in the art world. Can you tell us about them and how they influenced you? 

My dad is a sculptor who made large public bronze works. He also taught art at Nassau Community College, where he was the director of the Art department. My mom was also an artist and had a gallery of contemporary crafts in Cold Spring Harbor. The home was full of original, contemporary art. I think having all that work to soak in over the years helped me to develop my own sense of aesthetics. 

Who else was instrumental in encouraging you to pursue your art? 

Stan Brodsky, a Long Island painter, became a mentor to me when I was a student in his Advanced Painting class. Stan opened my eyes about how much more a painting could express. I know I was very lucky to have those classes in that stage of my artistic development. I had the privilege of interviewing Stan about his artistic life at the Reboli Center which you can view on YouTube.  

Can you name another artist whose work you admired and gave you inspiration?  

When I first saw Richard Diebenkorn’s loose, gestural, figurative paintings I was blown off my feet. I see that he’s choosing colors because that’s what he feels the painting needs, rather than what reality says it’s supposed to be. But the thing that always gets me is the way he’ll paint something that’s loosely realistic but arrange the composition in such a way that the painting also feels somehow abstract. 

 Your latest works are going to be shown at Gallery North in a solo show titled Prolonged Perception. How would you describe these pieces? 

They are paintings of the things I am attracted to — obscure, ordinary spaces of contemporary life that are often overlooked. I paint over a blackened canvas, which makes the colors really pop. It also allows for some interesting effects when the black shows through the thin sections of color. But most importantly, I can leave large areas to remain black. This changes the paintings, as they are no longer “normal” fully rendered scenes. The black creates both a powerful design element as well as an equally powerful psychological quality in the work.  

What feelings would you like the viewer to come away with?

I’d like them to feel they are seeing something new and fresh with beautiful color and compositions that have an abstract painting quality to them. I’d like them to take in a view of something often overlooked, yet possess some interesting emotional vibe that is worth slowing down for and considering.   

Your recently published book, Under the Covers, showcases your cartoon work which has been described as ‘absurd, hilarious, and surprisingly touching.’ How did you become interested in cartooning?

My first love as a child artist was drawing cartoons. I continued through my adult life and had some luck getting them published with The New Yorker magazine as well as with King Features Syndicate. I have a love for vintage fountain pens and always have a sketchbook on hand to amuse myself. A few years ago, I had started posting my little doodles from my sketchbook onto Instagram, where they amused my friends and like-minded strangers. I was advised to put them into a book which has been very well-received and can be purchased on Amazon.  

Your immensely popular paintings on cigar boxes are another unique way you express your art. How did that come about? 

There is another Richard Diebenkorn influence. I had read that he would take the lids off cigar boxes, paint directly onto them and give them as gifts to his friends. I do it a little differently though, in that, I like the paper border around the cigar boxes and use that as a “frame” for my paintings. l also left the lid on the box. In fact, I glue them to the box which allows the entire box to be hung on a wall to be presented just like a regular painting.

You have many facets to your creativity, but many still admire your Long Island landscapes. How do you perceive these paintings?

I think my plein air paintings have a freshness to them that I find often hard to replicate when working in the studio. I can always tell the difference between the two types of paintings.  Whenever I paint outdoors, I feel a sense of urgency, as the weather is changing and the sun is on the move — so, there’s no time wasted. I begin to paint ahead of my mind, and I paint more with my heart. That puts an energy into the brushstrokes and that gives the paintings a nice sense of life to them.

Your figurative work encompasses a plethora of interesting characters. What is it about a person that intrigues you to paint them? 

People have so much character that they can add a powerful mood to a painting quite nicely. Plus, they can be a “stand in” for the viewer or me and help tell a type of story in the painting that we all share and feel as humans. 

The prestigious Pollack-Krasner award was given to you twice. What did receiving that award mean to you and how did you utilize it? 

I was honored to have received those grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation. As an artist, it made me feel like my work had merit and I was on the right track. The grant money has enabled me to open and maintain my studio, which has been here on Main Street in Setauket since 2014. 

Your work is in many private collections. Is there one that brought you the most fulfillment? 

Yes, I was commissioned to paint a copy of Washington Crossing the Delaware. This was a complicated painting that took many months to complete. When it was completed, I felt that I had become a stronger, more confident painter. It’s on my website under the Commissions section if you’d like to see it. (www.dougreina.com) 

What is your lifetime goal as an artist? 

To have a long and healthy life where I can continue to make art that means something to me and to the people who exhibit it and collect it.  

By Irene Ruddock

Marlene Weinstein

Marlene Weinstein, who “lives and creates” in Setauket, is a much sought-after photographer and mixed-media artist. She has exhibited her photo-art at many well-known galleries across Long Island and NYC, and has won numerous awards from publications, galleries, and art fairs. On my studio visit, I was able to learn more about this diverse photography artist. You may visit her website marleneweinsteinphoto.com, or on Instagram at marlene.weinstein. 

Many people think of photography as capturing a moment in time. How does that belief match your artistic vision? 

That’s certainly one aspect of photography. However, photography has been admired as a unique art form since the early 1900’s. Photographic art creates its own reality through thoughtful use of a specific camera lens, composition, lighting, exposure, and other techniques. When we reconsider the idea that the camera is just a recording instrument, then we can appreciate its versatility. My belief is that the camera is merely another tool used to produce art.

What inspires you to try to capture the perfect image? 

Most of my photography is inspired by the beauty of Long Island’s everyday landscapes, and everyday objects. I’m very drawn to simple scenes with a quiet beauty such as a solitary, silhouetted tree or a rustic barn, and especially foggy, ethereal weather. I also love to compose still life, which is a fun exercise when it’s dark or cold outside.

Did you go to school to study photography ? 

I have degrees in Computer Science and Computer Graphics, and my full-time job is in the technology field. I do have experience in painting so perhaps that is why my work is often referred to as a “painterly.” I’m completely self-taught in photography. It took a lot of practice and experimentation. Photography was another way to be artistic and I found that I loved it! And eventually, my comfort with technology made it easier for me to migrate from film to digital photography.

Was there a photographer who influenced you and how did they affect your career path? 

Alfred Stieglitz was a maverick who founded the historic “Camera Work” publication in the early 1900’s and insisted upon the then-radical idea that photography was an artistic medium. Other 20th-century photographers I admire are Eduard Steichen, Imogen Cunningham, and Man Ray, all quite innovative and experimental. 

What kind of camera do you use and what lenses are your favorite?

I use a full-frame Canon 6D. My most-used lenses are a long zoom for getting in close, and a wide-angle lens for capturing expansive landscapes and creating interesting perspectives. I recently acquired an older Hasselblad medium-format film camera and am looking forward to learning how to use it. 

How do you begin to create your photography? 

These are the questions I ask myself about every one of my photographs: What would I like to share about this subject? Is it color, pattern, motion, emotion? How can I express this? I want viewers to feel a connection to the image, to stop and linger.

Your work is unique in that many of your works are hand-painted. How do you go about creating those? 

Marlene Weinstein

I begin by printing the image in black and white. I then paint selected areas with PanPastels, using brushes and sponges. My technique results in a very soft, vintage look. I treat the image as a painting, paying particular attention to light and shadows, color, and contrast. Sometimes I add colored pencil for fine details. Completing one hand-painted photograph can take a few hours to a few weeks. 

Another distinctive type of photograph you create is called a cyanotype. Could you explain what that is?

Cyanotype is an historic, hand-printed photographic process that is created through UV exposure. There’s no camera! It produces iconic blue and white prints and was originally invented for making blueprints. Cyanotype is a completely manual, unpredictable, and rewarding process that produces fascinating results! 

How do you incorporate mixed media into your photographs?

My mixed media work blends my love of photography with the joy of creating one-of-a-kind, unique handmade art. My favorite technique is to print a photograph on delicate, translucent Japanese paper, and layer it over other papers to add color, pattern, and texture. Then, I’ll paint with acrylics or other media to get the desired effect.  

Do you have a favorite photo? 

One of my favorite photos is “Flight in Fog.” I just happened to catch a flock of geese taking off on a foggy winter morning over a marsh at Sunken Meadow and their line of flight was mirrored perfectly in the water below.

What is the most rewarding part about being a photographer?

It is so satisfying when my finished image is close to what I’ve envisioned. I also feel like my photographs are helping to preserve the memories of this area. When I was younger, I never dreamed that I would sell my photographs. I found it a challenge to do outdoor shows at first, but now I really enjoy talking about my artwork to people.

What kind of workshops do you offer?

I occasionally offer hand-painted photography workshops through Gallery North in Setauket. I’ve also been thinking about a phone photography workshop, or a photography class geared to artists. Stay tuned!

What are your future plans in photography? 

Oh, lots of things! I’ve been getting more and more into hand-altered photographs, because I love creating one-of-a-kind pieces. I’d like to try photo-based collage, printing more on handmade paper, and also more solar plate printing.  

Where can we see your work? 

At the moment, I have work at the Long Island Museum and the Reboli Center in Stony Brook, Gallery North in Setauket, and the Alex Ferrone Gallery in Cutchogue. And just this week, the beautiful Long Island based Paumanok, Transition anthology featuring poems and photographs by Long Islanders was published with one of my photographs on the cover! The book is edited by the tireless and dedicated Kathaleen Donnelly and is currently available as an e-book on Amazon.

By Irene Ruddock

Patricia Yantz

Patricia Yantz, a Three Village resident, is known for her acrylic and pastel landscape paintings. A former secondary art teacher at Sachem School District, she is also involved in many community organizations such as the Three Village Historical Society where she was a former president. 

Presently, she is a joint coordinator of the Candlelight House Tour, on the Steering Committee for the Long Island Museum, and member of the Three Village Garden Club. She belongs to art organizations such as the Setauket Artists, North Shore Art Guild, LIMarts, and Smithtown Township Art Council. She especially enjoys teaching acrylic and watercolor classes at Ward Melville High School’s Continuing Education Program.

W hen did you first become interested in art? 

At an early age I used to watch my father draw wood boats and create his own designs of boats he wanted to build. As I sat next to him, he gave me some drawing paper and I started to draw boats too!

Who were your other role models? 

Besides my father, Sister Lucy at Saint Mary’s High School in Manhasset inspired me to pursue art in college. Later in life, I was inspired by our local icon Joe Reboli. I watched as he took a common view, such as a road or mailbox, and transform it into a masterpiece! It was truly magical. Lastly, the person who helped me find my artistic niche was you! My involvement with the Setauket Artists along with your constant encouragement and faith in me has made all the difference.

It is kind of you to say that! Thank you. Why did you choose acrylics and pastels as your medium? 

I switched from oil many years ago for health and safety reasons. Also, after my cat walked across my freshly painted oil painting and then walked all over my new rug, I decided it was time for a change!

What feelings do you want to evoke when people see your paintings? 

The most important thing I want the people to come away with is a sense of peace. I think color changes the emotion and the feel of a painting, so I often work in warm colors to uplift the viewer.

Where do you like to paint and why?

 Living in this beautiful area is a constant source of inspiration to me. Painting it is a natural outgrowth of my environment. I am truly in awe by the stunning sunsets, meandering waterways and lavish landscapes that invoke a sense of place as well as a sense of peace. I am especially drawn to the creek at West Meadow, Avalon Nature Preserve, and Stony Brook Harbor.

How would you describe your work? 

I have learned so much about tonal aspects and value which I try to incorporate into my paintings. I try to harmonize or unify colors in terms of light and atmosphere. Yet, I do not use a limited palette, but instead look for atmosphere and temperature when creating.

You have won many awards. Tell us about an award that has meant a lot to you? 

I was recently given the incredible award of the 2021 Honored Artist voted on by the Setauket Artists. The artists gave me encouragement, faith, and support over the years which has been a vital part in motivating me to continue this artistic journey.

Why is art important in the world? 

I feel art is so important because imagination is the beginning of creating. This creativity engages the mind and enables alternative ways of thinking and seeing. With so much emphasis on critical thinking, creating art makes one think not only critically, but analytically which is often overlooked in today’s world. Art is a bridge where artists can, through their paintings, communicate universally to reach people around the world.

Where can we see your work?

 I am currently showing my work at the 41st annual Setauket Artists Exhibition at the Setauket Neighborhood House until November 14th. I will be part of “Celebrate the Season” exhibit at the Reboli Center in Stony Brook, “Deck the Halls” at Gallery North in Setauket, and the “2021 Atelier Invitational” at The Atelier at Flowerfield in St. James. To get in touch with me, you may contact setauketartists.com.

The Reboli Center of Art and History is pleased to feature renowned ceramist, Laura Wilensky, as its Artisan for the month of August. “I first saw her work 40 years ago at the Rhinebeck Craft Fair and bought a couple of pieces. She makes hand sculpted portraits of people and/or cats and dogs or other pets in porcelain or white clay. Each piece is very detailed and intricate and for commissions they are beautifully personalized,” said Lois Reboli, founder of the Reboli Center, and who recently had an urn made for her beloved dog, Maddie, who passed away. Wilensky’s pieces are one-of-a-kind and others are made from molds and are limited editions.

After graduating from SUNY New Paltz in 1973 with a Bachelors in Fine Arts specializing in ceramics, Laura Wilensky became a full-time ceramist. While in college she created her “spoon” figurines and became known as the “spoon lady.” She was very fortunate that her spoons were exhibited at the well-known Fairtree Gallery in Manhattan, where they were sold to gallery customers at a great success. “Several clients started to collect my spoons and one woman has over 70 spoons which she displays on her wall in the bedroom,” recalled the artist who lives in Kingston, NY.  The spoon figurines are all made by hand and very fragile. Consequently, she no longer makes them, and has only three left: an ice skater, a man in his pajamas and woman in a nightgown with her hair curlers.

According to Wilensky, “My narrative porcelains have appeared in many publications, including: Teapots, Makers & Collectors; 500 Figures in Clay: Ceramic Artists Celebrate the Human Form; Smithsonian Magazine; and the New York Times. My works have been exhibited at the New York State Museum, American Crafts Museum, Cooper Hewitt Museum, Santa Barbara Museum of Art and the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution.” The artist’s ceramics can be found in the homes of many private collectors. In fact, she designed and produced “Sleepytime” tea sets for Celestial Seasoning Tea Company. For a while, she made numerous tea pots and sets and some belong to serious collectors including a collection at Celestial Seasoning Tea Company at its headquarters in Boulder, CO.

Early in her career, Wilensky sold her creations at craft fairs in upstate New York and in Baltimore. She noted that her characters were more “cartoonish” and now the figures are realistic portraits of people and pets that she creates from photos, or fashioned as functional items such as mugs, bowls, vases and plates. “I enjoy working with people and making their request for a ceramic portrait come true. I am especially heartened as many customers are deeply moved by the final product,” she added.

The Reboli Center for Art & History is located at 64 Main Street in Stony Brook, NY. It is free and open to the public from Tuesday through Saturday from 11am until 5pm and on Sunday from 1pm – 5pm. Laura Wilensky’s ceramics are on display and available for sale at the Center’s Design Shop. They will also accept and process custom orders from interested individuals. For more information, please visit their website at www.rebolicenter.org or call 631-757-7707.

Gallery North’s March featured Artist is Jan Tozzo. Working out of her Cold Spring Harbor studio, Tozzo creates unique, brightly colored glass works, often reminiscent of sea coral or flowers.

She uses a layering process with various powders that produces stunning forms. Each of her artworks is at once sculptural and functional, and will add color to any home.

Learn more about Jan and her available works in The Shop at Gallery North, 90 North Country Road, Setauket,  in person or online! For more information, call 631-751-2676 or visit www.gallerynorth.org.

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‘I believe each painting has a story to tell and a connection to make. My paintings are an effort to share an experience, an emotion, or a memory of a place and time.’

By Irene Ruddock

William A. Dodge

William A. Dodge is an award-winning artist classically trained in the tradition of the old masters. He studied at the Stevenson Academy of Traditional Painting before beginning a career in illustration. He has created more than six hundred book covers for most of the major publishers in New York, as well as a wide variety of private commissions ranging from murals to portraits. He continues to paint and has been a faculty member of the Visual Communications Department at SUNY Farmingdale for more than twenty years.

As a lifelong Long Island resident, what do you enjoy about painting on the Island?

I have always enjoyed the open landscapes of the North Fork and the waterfront areas of the South Shore. We have an abundance of really diverse subjects to choose from throughout the Island. Paint what you know.

Do you have a favorite Long Island artist?

I would have to say William Merritt Chase for his paintings of Long Island. Although he probably wouldn’t qualify as an Islander, he did give us some of the finest depictions of late nineteenth century life on Long Island. His 1888 painting “Back of a Nude” is one of my all-time favorites.

Where else do you like to paint?

I like New York city street scenes, especially in the snow. I like that the muted tones help expose the composition somewhat like a black and white photo. Over the past few years, I have probably completed more paintings of Venice than any other city. People might say, “just what the world needs, another painting of Venice,” but I can’t help myself, so out they come.

What inspires you to begin a painting?

It always comes down to telling a story, capturing a moment or examining a concept.

Tell me about your common ancestor, the renowned artist William de Leftwich Dodge (1867-1935), who designed the classical Villa Francesca in Setauket.

Yes, we both share a common ancestry with Tristram Dodge (1607-1683) of New Shoreham (Block Island), Rhode Island.

How do you answer the age-old question: Are you born with extraordinary talent or is it developed?

Nature or nurture? I think it’s a little of both. Much like learning another language in a bilingual family, art and music are just different languages. I know that my skills as an artist were learned. Was I predisposed to pay attention to the specifics of painting rather than those of high finance? Probably. Is that talent? I don’t know. I do know Malcom Gladwell’s rule of Ten Thousand hours.

What is the best part of being an artist?

There is satisfaction from creating something from nothing; communicating in a purely visual sense and making a thought visible.

And the most difficult part?

Most times it’s just deciding what to paint!

What do you do if you hit a roadblock in a painting?

Most often I examine value first, then composition followed by color. I apply the rules I know to be true about each and just keep at it. Sometimes it’s a quick fix and others are happy accidents, but they are always a learning experience.

I have always let a painting progress as I go. You never know when one perfect brush stroke or the placement of the wrong color is going to change the entire direction of a painting. If painting was just a copy of a reference or a scene it would technically be easy, but that’s not art.

What did you like about your career in illustrations?

It was being able to put my interpretation of a great descriptive or pivotal moment in a book on the cover. I especially liked illustrating the classics and had to wonder what Charles Dickens would have thought of my choices.

What other artists inspire you?

I’ll start with my short list of those from the golden age of American illustration. Artists like Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, Harvey Dunn, Norman Rockwell, Haddon Sundblom, and Dean Cornwell were my go to guys. I admire the English pre-Raphaelites, and I am truly inspired by the French Impressionists, especially the lesser known Henri Le Sidaner. I have always been drawn to works of Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Hieronymus Bosch.

Do you seek out opportunities to see these paintings in person?

Over the years my wife and I have traveled throughout Europe to see as many of their original works as possible. I’m fascinated by Bruegel’s sixteenth century genre paintings depicting the everyday lives and traditions of the common people. Again and again I find myself examining Bosch’s fifteenth and sixteenth century works for insights into the human psyche and the fear of those things that went bump in the night, before science explained them all away.

What advice would you give other artists?

Learn and practice the technical aspects associated with your chosen medium, but don’t mistake that for art. Art is the combination of imagination and skill. To work in a particular avenue like realism or impressionism, you need to know those rules. My advice is “Don’t allow your imagination to be hindered by a lack of technical proficiency.”

How did the Impressionists change the world of art?

Most of the late nineteenth  century impressionists were classically trained artists who were able to take all of the same rules governing the traditional artistic standards such as light and shadow, values, color theory, composition and perspective and create a completely new form of art.

Being well versed in the technical aspects of their craft gave them the ability to bend the rules when needed and break the rules with authority.

There seems to be a bit of impressionism in your work. Do you feel an affinity with the artists who studied in Paris in the nineteenth century?

Affinity might not be the right word.  Maybe thankful is a better choice for how I feel. Their ground breaking works gave all artists a view to a clearer path for self-expression.

I know that you have won many awards. Has there been one that has meant the most to you?

No. I think when you win an award you have to remember that you made a connection with just one person, the judge. Many of what I consider my finest works have never won anything. For myself and most artists, awards are not why we paint. 

How do you wish to expand on your style?

I have gravitated towards a more impressionistic style, and I can’t think of any artist on any level that has gotten tighter as their career progressed. A quicker direct approach to “less is more” is the ultimate goal. 

I see that you have three websites which point to three different aspects of your art career. Can you tell me about that?

I have www.billdodgestudios.com which is a showcase for my past illustration work.

I have www.wadodge.com which is a showcase for my current fine art.

I also have www.newthreshold.com for my woodworking and design work.

Are there future shows where we can see your work?

I will be part of the upcoming Mills Pond Gallery exhibit in St. James called Contemporary Realism which runs from September 12 through October 16. If all goes well in the world, I hope to show with the Setauket Artists in the Setauket Neighborhood House in October, the Atelier at Flowerfield in St. James in December, and Deepwells Mansion in St. James sometime in the spring. 

Every image I choose to paint is an answer to the question ‘What drew me to this subject?’ As I begin painting, I let go and trust my instincts to guide me to discover the answer.”

By Irene Ruddock

Jan Guarino

Jan Guarino is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Design which led to a forty-five-year career as award winning graphic designer. Her company, Guarino Graphics, combined her skill in graphic designs with her fine art background to build the brands of hundreds of Long Island companies. Today, the East Northport resident has evolved into a full-time watercolor artist/teacher, sharing her knowledge in classes and workshops, and exhibiting in various galleries.

When you were growing up, did you have any mentors that led you to pursue an art career?

I was fortunate that in my senior year in high school, I was able to major in art and received Artist of the Year award. When a previous graduate came back to show us her portfolio, it changed my focus and I immediately applied to FIT. Those two years I was totally in my element, surrounded by other students and teachers who were working artists. It was a major shift and set me in motion for my advertising, marketing and art career.

How did your years owning a graphic design company inform, and then, catapult your career in art?

While it was more about doing graphics for businesses, my clients trusted my design esthetic giving me tremendous freedom to create. Through helping these businesses grow, I knew exactly what to do for myself.

What is it about a subject that inspires you to pick up your brush and start to paint?

I don’t choose my subjects as much as they seem to choose me. It may be a place I visited during my travels … the way the light is hitting the landscape, people, the architecture that reveals some truth to me. But when I see it, there is a moment where something grabs me and causes me to pause. I am overcome by a stirring and a knowing that I must paint it. 

What are the qualities of watercolor that especially intrigue you?

This is truly a magical medium. When you let it go, it paints itself. So I don’t work on controlling the paints as much as allowing the natural aspects of the paints to move for me. I embrace the blossoms, drips, and splatters of watercolors. My approach to painting is to encompass that looseness with details as much as possible.

Do you consider yourself a colorist?

Ha, yes well, when I see tonalists work and their colors or lack thereof, I’d have to say yes, I am a colorist. My process is more about letting the paints mix on the paper rather than on a palette. This amps up the unusual colors and helps to go beyond just describing a scene ~  lending a heightened importance even to everyday subjects.

What is it about your special style that you think draws people to your art?

I do feel a lot of it is my fearless attack of the paint to paper, the freshness … to depict the scene as an interpretation, not a literal translation.

How has your knowledge of social media helped to widen your audience?

I have a very strong understanding of basic marketing. It has to do with all the students, friends and colleagues that have referred me over the years. Social media is often still a mystery to me, but you can find me on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Pinterest. So it has literally grown to be international now as I have students as far as the UK and Australia. I am amazed how the world has gotten smaller using social media.

Tell me about your YouTube demos.

I do my best work when I am demoing in front of a class. It is exciting and I feel that the energy of my students is in the painting with me. So I started recording my classes as a way to make them accessible to my students beyond the classes.

There are also some classes that I made into videos I call “Fixer Uppers” where I show students how to correct, complete or revise their own paintings. I think it is a very fresh way to show everyone how close they are to being finished, and more importantly, happy with the results.

What are your favorite brands of watercolor paint, brushes and paper?

My favorite watercolor paints to use is Maimari Blu and Daniel Smith. I look for what the paints do, more than I look for the color. I ask “Does it move well in water, does it break into other colors or granulate?” —these are some of the many qualities I look for to aid me in my process. My favorite paper is Arches 300lb hot press paper and I’m very happy with synthetic brushes like Silver Black Velvet series or Escoda Prado. A complete list is on my website.

What advice do you give your students?

Relax and allow the paint to work for you. And practice. It doesn’t happen in one class a week. Take classes and workshops, even if you pick up one small thing from them … better to try and integrate it to make it your own. Thinking of it this way will help you to advance your art.

What is the most rewarding thing about being an artist for you?

Well, I’d have to say it has given my life a reason to show up every week for my students. Knowing they are there and so open to learning and growing is extremely meaningful for me. It has not only given me a second career, it has given me a profound new purpose.

Where do you exhibit?

I am in the FireFly Artists Gallery and the Nest on Main in the Village of Northport. My work has also been exhibited at the Huntington Arts Council, Mills Pond Gallery, Art League of Long Island, The Long Island Museum, The Heckscher Museum, and Islip Arts Council.

You are a very versatile artist who excels in so many genres including landscape, still life, people and animal portraits. Do you have a favorite?

I truly love it all. I just love the adventure of exploring something I haven’t painted before and testing out my skill on a new subject.

Where may people get in touch with you and learn about your classes and workshops?   

I have a four-day workshop scheduled for October 14 to 17 in Vermont at the Landgrove Inn where you stay, dine, and paint all on the property. It’s heaven! And I am planning another artists’ trip to Italy next fall in the Cinque Terre area.

I also do a Jam-Cam with the Harborfield and South Huntington libraries where you can see me paint a portrait in under an hour. I currently teach virtual classes. You may sign up for weekly updates on my website for information at [email protected]  I look forward to welcoming you!

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.