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Artist of the Month

‘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 kyle@kylesart.com. 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 garygarett55@gmail.com 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 peterenpleinair@aol.com 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 jessrandall@sbcglobal.net.   

‘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.  

By Irene Ruddock 

‘Self Portrait,’ oil

Terence McManus is a retired social worker with a master’s degree from Adelphi University. A self-taught artist, he has participated in over 100 exhibits and juried competitions winning over 60 awards. He has had portraits exhibited at the Butler Institute of Art and at the Heckscher Museum. McManus is a signature member of both the Pastel Society of America and the Connecticut Pastel Society, and a member of the prestigious Salmagundi Club in NYC, as well as other art organizations across the country.

Recently, I was able to interview McManus at his studio.  

How did you decide to become an artist and, specifically, a portrait painter? 

I can’t remember not considering myself an artist. When I was in the first grade, I remember proudly telling people that I was an artist. And even as a young child, it was a person’s face that fascinated me and I copied faces from magazines. In high school I did posters of friends running for elections, in college I did portraits of my friends and their girlfriends, etc.

Was there someone who influenced you? 

When I was 10, I was thrilled to get my Jon Gnagy set of drawing instructions, but, seriously, I have not had any formal art training. The one art course that I took in college was a disaster because the instructor was an abstract artist and I was a Norman Rockwell fan! Instead, I have learned from books, videos, magazines and demonstrations and practice. 

Can you demystify the art of portraiture?

In painting a portrait, it is important to make sure the features are positioned correctly. I leave out details when starting a painting, except I paint the eyes in quickly. With the person looking back at me, I feel a connection with the subject. After I sketch in the positions, I apply the pastel or paint in the traditional manner, going from darks to lights. I frequently view the portrait backwards in a mirror to see the painting from a different perspective which helps to check on accuracy. Once the positions are correct, doing a portrait is not so different from doing a still life. You can use any color you wish, but you must have the values correct. Just look for the light and dark values, and like a puzzle, it would come together.

If you paint from photographs, what is the single most important thing that must be present in that photograph? 

I prefer to use my own photos since using the photos made by others is their vision, not mine. I look for how the light hits the face, creating drama and the feelings I wish to bring out in the painting.

In this increasingly image-conscious society, how do you compete with photographs and why are painting portraits different? 

A good photographer can capture real emotion, but most are just an image of the person for that second. A portrait artist usually tries to bring out the subject’s life experience. The artist can add or subtract or emphasize different aspects to reflect this. 

What is the hardest part about painting a portrait? 

It depends if I am painting for myself or for a commission. When it is for myself, I am trying to capture a feeling more than accuracy. With a commission, it is the exact likeness that is most important to the client, but I still aim to paint a good painting that can stand by itself.  

Do you like painting animals? 

I love painting animals. How can you not love those eyes looking at you? But like humans, aside from the eyes, their body language can convey much as well. 

In your view, what is the magical element that makes for a great portrait painting?

It is the intensity of the emotion that comes across and how well it is done, regardless of the style that makes for an interesting and unique portrait. 

Are there any portrait artists’ work that you feel personally drawn toward?

I love Rembrandt for his dramatic use of light, John Singer Sargent and Thomas Eakins for their realistic but painterly portraits, Alice Neel for her unique expressive style and Burton Silverman for his outstanding portraits.

If you could paint a portrait of anyone, whom would that be? 

Alexander the Great! Educated by Aristotle, king at 20, ruler of most of the world by 30. What strength and determination would his face reveal!

How can you be contacted for commissions?  

I may be reached by email at mcmfam99@optonline.net. 

All images courtesy of Terence McManus

'Birches on a Slope'

By Irene Ruddock 

Shain Bard

Shain Bard is an oil painter who has been in numerous gallery exhibitions, one woman shows, and has her work in many private and corporate collections. She is the recipient of many awards in juried exhibitions for her paintings, which have been described as “luminous, poetic, and powerful.” Her education includes a Master’s of Fine Arts from Lehman College. Bard currently teaches painting and drawing at the Art League of Long Island.   

I was recently invited to the artist’s Huntington studio where she shared her philosophy of life and her art.

What does art mean to you?

To me, art is really whatever is created out of following your passion in life, and which expresses your deepest feelings in a truthful, exciting and unique way. In a sense, we become our art. I also see the word “artist” as a verb … simply someone who is creating art in the moment.

I see that you are known for your paintings of birches. Why do they have a special appeal to you? 

I think all artists gravitate toward particular things in the world which they feel a special connection to. For example, Van Gogh painted sunflowers, Cezanne apples, Monet water lilies. For me, one of my recurring “leitmotifs” seems to be for birches. I fell in love with birches when I was a child at camp, and didn’t like it when we had a project of making canoes out of birch bark. I wanted the birches to be left alone and not be cut up, LOL! 

I just love the soft white skin/bark, and the black markings on the trees speak a certain “language” to me. I found them fascinating. I didn’t start painting birches, though, until I moved to Long Island and took a picture of a birch tree and was so happy painting that bark and its markings, that it was almost magical to me.

What is most important to you in creating your art? 

‘Birches Blushing’

I think what’s most important to me is simply seeking a truthful moment in nature, when all the elements work together to form a moment of clarity and beauty, like all the instruments in an orchestra playing together to make a beautiful piece of music.

Can you explain your fascination with the play of light often seen in your work?  

As I create my compositions, I view light as the conductor and I am a conduit of that light as exemplified by my painting “Light Spilling Down the Street.” This painting won the Award of Excellence in the juried show at the Art League of Long Island titled It’s All About the Light. I feel that light takes me on a beautiful journey which we artists are so lucky to be traveling on.  

How do you share your art? 

Well, I love teaching and interacting with my students. Last year, I had an art fundraiser for Hurricane Harvey victims who were left with nothing, and, along with a few artist friends, raised a good amount of money, all of which went directly to Houston. I also donated several paintings for another fundraiser for Puerto Rico. I was never so happy for all those painting sales in my life, knowing that not only was it an honor to have people want to own my paintings, but that the money went to people who needed it more than me. It was definitely a win-win situation and felt so good.

Where is your work shown? 

Right now, I am represented by Gallery 67, 67 Main Street, Northport. My latest exhibit is at the Roslyn Village Gallery, 1374 Old Northern Blvd, Roslyn, which will continue until Oct. 20. I have also been invited to the Setauket Artist Exhibition at the Setauket Neighborhood House from Oct. 28 to Nov. 19. I can be contacted at shainbard@yahoo.com.

‘Birches on a Slope’

Dialogue with Birches

My trees and I

we’re on the same page

in art history book

of accidental couplings

you’ve taught me so much

in whispers of your secrets

because you know that I’m all ears

to your magical markings

that tell me of your wounds

and battle scars

your triumphs and delights

like adolescent love’s carvings

in rudimentary hearts

tattoed across your thin white skin

that like my own never grew thick

to protect from the users

liars and abusers

who would love to see you cut down

your markings speak

without bossy know-it-all words

that define and box us in

with no room left for growth

hope imagination and think they

can tell us how to see

the unspeakable gift of art

you so stunningly offer me

— Shain Bard

One of Rick Mundy’s Adirondack paintings, ‘These Mountains 1'

By Irene Ruddock 

Rick Mundy is an award-winning watercolor artist who specializes in realistic paintings of Long Island, the Adirondacks, the Caribbean Islands, New York City, Africa and Alaska. He is noted as being one of the top art businesses on Long Island and has been published in Art Business News, The New York Times, Boater’s Digest and the Encyclopedia of Living Artists.

I recently visited Mundy’s Setauket studio to get a sneak peak of the artist’s upcoming exhibit featuring 60 watercolor paintings at the Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Great River. An artist reception is scheduled for Sept. 2 and again on Sept. 23 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. 

I am amazed by the vast variety and creativity of your portfolio. How do you think of all these ideas? 

Painting is a celebration of the creative spirit and all that is beautiful in nature. As a teacher of biology, I learned more about nature, which is a recurring theme in my paintings. It is fun and exciting and I can’t stop myself once I get an idea! I like to paint in themes and in a series, and I most often do a diptych or a triptych. 

When did you first decide to become an artist and was there an artist who encouraged you? 

I enjoyed art since I was a child being inspired by John Nagy and winning a few contests, but later I apprenticed with the watercolorist Andrew Stasky who encouraged me to paint in transparent watercolor — where the light travels through many layers of paint to the viewer creating a fresh, clean painting.

‘These Mountains 111’ by Rick Mundy

Your new exhibit sounds stunning with a 360º view of the Adirondacks that includes a series of eight paintings. What is it about the mountains that attracts you so?

 I was an outdoor guide licensed by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation for decades. The Adirondacks possess the calm of a woodland pond, the roar of a gorge in the spring and have ever-changing personalities from season to season. I know practically every trail in the mountains — its waterfalls, rocks and special ledges to stop for lunch! I enjoy going higher and deeper into the mountain where, in my mind, I compose the essence of the scene I want to paint — moving water, rocks, wildlife. I don’t photograph or sketch much; instead I develop the ideas in my mind so that these paintings are not actual places —they are created in my painting.

How has your extensive mountain climbing influenced your philosophy of life in other ways? 

I feel that nature feeds the soul. Being at one with nature, not fearful, but calm with the knowledge of the beauty that nature can deliver. Knowing Mother Nature is in charge and respecting her vastness. She will show you great things, but she is in charge. 

‘Royal Adornments’ by Rick Mundy

You are showing three rooms of paintings — Long Island, Adirondacks and the third titled ‘Well, … certainly different.’ Can you give us a hint about that? 

The Long Island paintings are all about the special beauty of the island’s beaches, boatyards, barrier islands, etc. In the last room, I exhibit my African collection including royal hair combs, animal skins and beading; my tropical mosaics, which look like Tiffany glass; my floral Gingko paintings; and some cityscapes.

What kind of presentation are you planning at your art receptions?

I am going to show examples of sketches and notes that I worked from, even the ones that didn’t deliver the look I wanted. It will show how the Adirondack paintings, which took two and a half years to complete, finally evolved.

What would you like the viewer to take away from this exhibit? 

I would like people to see in my paintings something in nature that they may have missed or wish to experience. I especially want to share with the viewers all the beauty I have witnessed. 

View Rick Mundy’s exhibit at the Bayard Cutting Arboretum, 440 Montauk Highway, Great River from Aug. 30 to Sept. 30. The arboretum is open Thursday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For parking fees and restaurant information visit www.BayardCuttingArboretum.com. Visit Rick Mundy’s website at www.rickmundywatercolors.com.

All images courtesy of Rick Mundy