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Irene Ruddock

Falling leaves and cooler weather signal the arrival of the Setauket Artists’ annual fine art exhibit at the Setauket Neighborhood House. Now in its 40th year, the event will be held from Oct. 25 to Nov. 17. What an exciting time for the organization where many of the artists have been together since the very beginning!

Exhibiting artists include Ross Barbera, Ron Becker, Eleanor Berger, Rina Betro, Joan Bloom, Kyle Blumenthal, Joyce Bressler, Renee Caine, Al Candia, Gail L. Chase, Anthony Davis, Julie Doczi, William Dodge, Marge Governale, William Graf, Melissa Imossi, Anne Katz, Flo Kemp, Karen Kemp, Celeste Mauro, Judith Mausner, Lorraine McCormick, Jane McGraw-Teubner, Terry McManus, Eleanor Meier, Fred Mendelsohn, Muriel Musarra, Iacopo Pasquinelli, Paula Pelletier, Joe Reboli, Dino Rinaldi, Joan Rockwell, Robert Roehrig, Irene Ruddock, Carole Link Scinta, Barbara Jeanne Siegel, Angela Stratton, Marie Lourdes Velez, Marlene Weinstein and Patricia Yantz.

Founded by Flo Kemp, the organization has been led by the group’s president Irene Ruddock for the last 15 years. “The health of our artists and community members are most important so we were not planning an in-person show. However, after learning that the New York State allowed art shows if all the guide lines were strictly followed, we decided to go ahead with our celebration,” said Ms. Ruddock. “Fellow artist, Dr. Frederick Mendelsohn is chairing the safety committee to ensure that all precautions are taken,” she added.

A grand opening reception is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 25 from noon to 4 p.m. and the group will host two open house weekends, Nov. 7 and 8 and Nov. 14 and 15 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Two oil paintings, “Eventide” by Margaret Governale and “Poquott Boats” by Al Candia, will be raffled off.

“We will be requiring social distancing of six feet, the wearing of masks, regular sanitizing, and allowing only a certain number of people in at a time as well as many other suggested NYS procedures,” said Dr. Mendelsohn.

Art lover Fred Bryant is honoring the organization again by being its sponsor which will pay for many of the organizations many expenses. This year, because of COVID, the organization needed an outdoor tent with heaters and pre-packaged snacks for people waiting to enter the show. “Fred’s generous contribution will certainly help defray those costs,” said Ms. Ruddock.

The outside tent with heaters will become the waiting area where smaller paintings and unframed paintings and prints will be exhibited. Light refreshments that are individually wrapped will be offered.

Every year, the artists choose an artist whom they honor. This year’s award goes to watercolorist Anne Katz. Ms. Katz is treasurer of the organization as well as being responsible for the brochure. “Anne is  truly dedicated  to this organization, a person who absolutely never says no to any request! We wonder how we would ever do without her. Her work in watercolor and oil is art at its best-luminous light with a joyous tone that speaks to her love of local Long Island scenes,” said Ms. Ruddock. 

The Setauket Neighborhood House, 95 Main St., Setauket presents the 40th annual Setauket Artists’ Exhibition daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Oct. 25 to Nov. 17 (closed Oct. 30 and 31). For more information, visit www.setauketartists.com.

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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.  

By Irene Ruddock

Ron Becker

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

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

How did your art career evolve when you were young? 

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

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

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

Are you working on anything right now?

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

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

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

Ron Becker with ‘Joyous Abandon’

What is your most recent charitable  contribution?  

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

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

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

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

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

How did the two of you proceed? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What has been your best experience so far?  

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

By Irene Ruddock

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

Were you interested in art as a child? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How does living in a nature preserve impact your painting? 

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

Tell us about painting local scenes. 

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

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

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

How would you describe your style of painting? 

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

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

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

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

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

Is your daughter following in your family’s footsteps? 

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

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

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

What advice would you give to your younger self?

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

Is there one habit that helps or hinders your creativity?  

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

What role does art have in society?  

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

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

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

What are your future aspirations as an artist? 

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

‘Art is my passion and lifetime adventure;

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

– Angela Stratton

By Irene Ruddock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What artists do you especially admire? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What awards have meant the most to you? 

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

Do you have a favorite painting? 

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

Where do you exhibit now? 

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

Artwork from local artists add beauty and warmth

By Heidi Sutton

John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson recently completed an extensive renovation of its 2 South patient unit, designed to further reduce the risk of infection and increase patient comfort. The unit, which was named for New York Cancer & Blood Specialists thanks to its generous donation, officially reopened with a ribbon-cutting celebration on Jan. 6. The project was largely supported through community donations totaling close to $1.7 million.

Opened in 1973, 2 South, which primarily treats cancer patients, now features single-bed rooms for improved patient outcomes and privacy. Enhancements include new showers and enlarged bathrooms, a new nurses station, a patient family lounge and a serenity room for staff. 

One of the highlights of the newly renovated floor is the installation of 43 pieces of art that adorn the hallway walls. Titled “Wonders of Nature,” the pieces were chosen by curator Irene Ruddock. “My goal was to create a peaceful and serene environment that might provide a sense of spiritual healing. I looked for paintings that touched the soul and will provide comfort and solace for patients, staff, and visitors,” she explained. 

Twenty-nine local artists from LIMarts, the Setauket Artists and the North Shore Art Guild donated original works to add beauty and warmth to the unit including Ross Barbera, Shain Bard, Ron Becker, Joan Bloom, Kyle Blumenthal, Renee Caine, Anthony Davis, Bart DeCeglie, Julie Doczi, Lily Farah, Marge Governale, William Graf, Peter Hahn, Celeste Mauro, Judith Mausner, Lorraine McCormick, Ed McEvoy, Eleanor Meier, Rick Mundy, Karen Miller O’Keefe, Paula Pelletier, Joan Rockwell, Robert Roehrig, Joseph F. Rotella, Irene Ruddock, Ty Stroudsburg, Maria Lourdes Velez, Victoria Westholm and Patricia Yantz. 

“I will always to grateful to all the artists who, with their dedication to art, wished to share their gifts with Mather hospital,” said Ms. Ruddock.  

By Irene Ruddock

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

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

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

What is your vision as an artist? 

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

 When did you first become interested in art?  

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

Who is your inspiration now?  

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

How do you incorporate your art with your belief system? 

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

Are there special projects helping others that stand out? 

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

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

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

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

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

What have been some of your most interesting commissions?  

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

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

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

What inspired your “Dreams” series? 

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

What is most rewarding to you as an art educator? 

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

What are you working on now?

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

Has your painting method changed over the years?   

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

What else do you dream of doing?  

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

‘Pumpkin,’ watercolor by William Graf, will be on view at the Setauket Neighborhood House from Oct. 27 to Nov. 19. Image courtesy of the Setauket Artists

The cooler weather signals the return of a perennial favorite, the Setauket Artists Fall Exhibition at the Setauket Neighborhood House, 95 Main St., Setauket from Oct. 27 to Nov. 19. The annual juried exhibit was founded by Flo Kemp, a much admired local artist. Thirty-nine years later the group, now coordinated by the group’s president, Irene Ruddock, consists of about 50 artists from all over Long Island. Together they continue the tradition of exhibiting paintings at the historic Setauket Neighborhood House along with several other venues during the year. 

Each year the artists choose an honored artist and this year’s choice is Renee Caine. “Renee has contributed an enormous amount of time to this group, creating and implementing new ideas. Because of her boundless energy Renee is always ready to help out on any occasion,” said Ruddock. Caine will be exhibiting a piece titled “Giverny #4,” part of the “Giverny Series.” 

Fred Bryant, art collector and loyal supporter who has shown his dedication to the group for over a dozen years, returns as this year’s sponsor. “Because of Fred, our group had been able to purchase many items that have added to the professionalism of the Setauket Artists and for that we are grateful,” said Vice President Rob Roehrig. 

This year’s event will be judged by contemporary realism artist David Peikon who teaches at the Art League in Dix Hills.  An open house will be held on Nov. 9 and 10 and again on Nov. 15 to 17 to meet the artists, attend tours of the exhibit and observe an artist demonstration by pastel and oil painter Anthony Davis. Visit www.setauketartists.com or call 631-365-1312 for further information.