If you haven’t yet seen the latest art exhibit by local artist Stephen Russell in the children’s wing (…what with snow days and pandemic-related closings), be sure to check it out on your next visit in — or make a special trip soon.
Stephen sensed he was an artist from an early age and looked for opportunities to develop his skills after serving in the Army and while working in the corporate world. Now retired, he gets to paint every day, which makes him one happy camper.
Read on to learn more about Stephen, the inspiration behind his art, and his words of wisdom for fellow creatives.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I came to believe I was an artist early on. In elementary school, a painting of fall leaves amazed everyone. In classes, I spent more time “doodling” than listening — and got in trouble for it. In middle school, my favorite assignment in history was drawing maps of Indian lands and ancient Europe. The craftsmanship and precision required in wood shop and drafting I loved as well. In high school, there was Graphic Design and Fine Art, which exposed me to painting and metal work. All of this was what I was best at.
After school and time in the US Army, it was time to get a job. I was offered a job as a union carpenter, but instead took a position as a technical illustration trainee — on the job training.
After several years at three jobs exposing me to technical work, design and printing, I took advantage of the G.I. Bill, which paid for schooling, went to The California College of Art, and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts. The degree opened the door to a job in the corporate world, where I remained until retirement. Now its all painting!
The hardest challenge making art is that it takes work. Time and effort must be put in if you wish to grow and improve. The challenge does not disappear. You face it constantly.
What achievements are you most proud of?
The B.F.A. degree was an achievement. Also, a rewarding and interesting work life. Now there’s the recognition at shows, through compliments from people, ribbons, and sales of my work. I am a happy camper.
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?
Then, launch into it with your heart and mind. You will face frustration, but keep at it. Failures will come. In ‘plein-air’ painting, I sit outside beginning with a blank canvas and paint for four or so hours. I’m fortunate if one in four are successful. Many get wiped out.
Any final thoughts?
Those of us who have that spark of ‘creativity’ as part of our makeup are very fortunate. We have been given a gift not all have. Finding you niche — whether it be in a career or a hobby — is rewarding, uplifting, and stays with you through your entire life.
[You can read Stephen’s artist statement below and learn more about his art at his website.]
Stephen V. Russell
I am foremost a landscape painter. I am drawn to the beauty to be found in nature. I believe if we allow the time the natural environment can provide a wide range of emotions that increase our awareness of what it is to be human and to be alive. I strive to capture those moments with paintings ranging from intimate, tranquil reflections of a bubbling brook, dramatic river valley sunrises, or the grace and strength of the tree.
We live in a time that is experiencing the loss of natural beauty daily. I hope to reveal the spirituality and regenerative power of nature thru my work; to increase respect for and preservation of our world. If people viewing my artwork walk away feeling even a bit more aware and uplifted, then I am succeeding as an artist.
My chosen medium is oil paint on canvas or gesso panel. I am drawn equally between studio work and Plein-Air.
I develop studio work with graphite drawings and oil pastels. Plein-Air painting outdoors is its own reward.
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, exhibits, and workshops from local artists working in pastels, charcoal, sculpture, and watercolor among others.