Fall is a feast for the eyes — not just outdoors, where fall foliage is on full display everywhere you look — but inside the library too, where a new exhibit of vibrant paintings by local artist Charlie Daniels has just gone up.
After retiring from his career in electrical engineering, Charlie turned to his ‘passionate hobby’ of art, applying his talents to works ranging from photo-realistic flowers, to still life, to portraits, to traditional Chinese style paintings.
Charley’s paintings are on display through December 6. Treat yourself to a visit to see them up close, and read on to learn more about Charlie and his creative journey.
When did you know you were an artist?
I started to draw at a fairly young age; perhaps around 10 years old. We had a nice art class in grade school and a friend of the family gave me some paints and a small piece of canvas and said, “Why don’t you paint the dog in this magazine ad?” My wife and I always love to talk about the three-legged dog. However, the background wasn’t bad.
I had four years of mechanical drawing and industrial drawing in high school. While attending college (the first try), I had a part time job with an engineering firm as a draftsman. It was great fun. My most exciting job was drawing some of the layouts for water and sewage for the 1964 World’s Fair in New York.
It wasn’t until I took my first “real” art class (watercolor) from a great watercolorist, Phil Metzger, that I discovered my real love for doing art, though. He was a real inspiration. While I was taking classes from Phil, I discovered the LingNan style Oriental painting book in the art store where I bought my supplies. Now I was really hooked. I studied Oriental watercolors with Eloise Braylove for a few years, until my graduate studies in physics started taking all my time (second attempt at college was successful). Once I finished my graduate degree, I had time to return to art studies. Since then I have been a student of Martha Yu, Henry Wu, Bill Wentz, Dana Van Horn, Myron Barnstone, Sean Delanos, Les Fletcher, and Jackie Meyerson.
I wouldn’t call this a career. My ‘real’ career was as an electrical engineer. This is just a passionate hobby.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
Actually, there were two real challenges: learning to control the water when painting on “rice paper,” and portraits, especially of people I know.
What successes or achievements are you most proud of?
The very first juried show I entered, I won I prize! Wow. Since then I have won a few prizes and honorable mentions. The best reward is when my son and my wife look at a piece and say ‘WOW! That looks great.’ They are my toughest critics.
What’s your advice for anyone who wants to explore art, but can’t seem to find the time or feels intimidated by a blank canvas?
Just Do It. You can always find the time to sketch something. When I am at a loss, I look at the work of the old masters. There is always inspiration there in one of those great works. Try something really different, a new medium, a new technique, try something really difficult, outside your comfort zone. You might find an inner talent you didn’t think you had.
I took the opportunity to take a Chinese calligraphy course on Zoom. It was great fun. Now I can put some Chinese characters in my Oriental pieces. I may not be able to pronounce the words, but they are fun to do and add a lot of interest to those pieces.
Anything else you’d like to share with readers about yourself or your art?
I am more of a classicist. Myron Barnstone taught me many great things about creating works which are well composed and well thought out. I experiment with different genres and media; however, I tend to stick with the old-masters style of art creation.
[You can learn more about Charlie Daniels and view more of his work on Instagram.]
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.