I began painting in 1985 as a casual student of the Italian-American artist Antonio Salemme (1892-1995). Salemme favored a direct, spontaneous approach to oil painting emphasizing the structural and emotional properties of color, a practice rooted in late-19th-century Post-Impressionism. I was already studying the landscape art of that era, in particular the paintings of Claude Monet, Paul Cezanne and Vincent Van Gogh. Salemme’s approach was well suited to the challenge of capturing fleeting effects of sunlight and atmosphere. Building on this foundation, I followed my natural inclination and became primarily a landscape painter.
During most of my years as a painter, I was also writing about art and artists for American Artist, Plein Air, Diversion, and other national magazines. Foreign assignments gave me the chance to paint at sites depicted by the French Impressionists, in Normandy, Brittany, the Ile de France and Provence. These experiences influenced my art in lasting ways, giving my paintings a slight French accent. But my chief influence has been the landscape of the Lehigh Valley. Favorite painting sites have been the upper Jordan Creek valley around the Trexler Nature Preserve, the farmland of the Rodale Institute in eastern Berks County, and the banks of the Lehigh River and Lehigh Canal. Having grown up here and witnessing the changes taking place around us, I feel a strong attachment to the remnants of the older Valley, places with a strong local character that have escaped (so far) the homogenizing effects of modern development.
Now in my 70s, I do most of my painting in my downtown Allentown studio. Over the years I have built up an archive of sketches painted outdoors that I use as inspiration for larger works. I have slowed down and become more deliberate, seeking more subtle color harmonies. I’ve learned to appreciate that painting is an ever-unfolding process of discovery. I now understand why my teacher Salemme, who painted into his late 90s, found the art form endlessly fascinating.
My paintings are in a number of collections in eastern Pennsylvania, including Lehigh Valley Hospital, Victaulic, the Rodale Institute, and the Penn State Health System. More images are available for viewing on my website at www.josephskrapits.com.
ART@EPL is the library’s exciting partnership with the Lehigh Art Alliance and the Lehigh Valley Arts Council. The series is funded through a grant from PA Partners in the Arts, making it possible for area residents to enjoy free art lectures and workshops from local artists working in pastels, charcoal, sculpture, and watercolor among others.
Visit the ART@EPL page to see all the artists who have led workshops and exhibited work at the library as part of ART@EPL.