Donald Stoltenberg

Edinburgh (watercolor, 21×29) by Don Stoltenberg was a finalist in the Landscape category of the 2005 Art Competition.

ART EDUCATION: ”As a child, I was taken to see an uncle who was a watercolorist and I was allowed to watch him work on a still life painting of a vase of flowers. I was fascinated, to put it mildly. I made pencil drawings of the buildings on my grandfather’s farm in Wisconsin and in grade school, I was encouraged to do tempera paintings of Chicago landmarks. From this, I was chosen as one of two students from each eighth grade class to attend Saturday morning classes at the Art Institute.

”I studied visual design at the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology. Working as a graphic designer, I continued to paint and exhibit my watercolors and oils. For several years I worked part time as a graphic artist and taught painting and printmaking until I was able to concentrate full-time on painting.”

GENRE AND SUBJECT MATTER: “My subject matter is chiefly from the man-made environment, particularly cityscapes and industrial forms, though in recent years, this has also included maritime themes. I work in watercolor and oils mainly, but occasionally in original prints, collagraphs and linocuts.”

WORKING PROCESS: “If possible, I like to start with an online sketch, a charcoal and pastel study. Then, I reinforce that with a photograph. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible and the photograph alone may be all the material gathering possible. The advantage of the on-site drawing is that I’m able to eliminate nonessentials and heighten aspects of the subject right from the outset. In either case, I’ll develop a more comprehensive sketch in pastels before starting the painting.

” It’s important to me to establish a strong abstract footprint within the subject matter. The sketch will usually include a certain amount of blurring and blending of tones and erasing using masks and stencils, to work out the structured pattern of lights and darks, soft and sharp edges.

Using a brush, paint is then applied in broad strokes to fill the defined areas. I let the painting dry partially in a flat horizontal position, after which it’s stapled around the four edges to the backing board and allowed to dry stretched. Using stencil paper to mask off areas, I take a sponge and remove paint from areas I want to lighten, sloping roofs, foreground hillside, any areas that catch the light,

Paint is then brushed on areas that need deepening, such as the church towers and gable ends. Also strong color accents such as orange chimney pots. An important process in my painting is the random washing out though triangular, rectangular and even circular stencils to break up the well defined forms and establish a counterpoint to realism.

It may be said that the course of development of the painting is the constant working back and forth between accident and control. Usually the final step is the highlighting point of maximum contrast with areas of Chinese white and the sharpening of edges with pencil.

TIME SPENT ON THIS PAINTING: Edinburgh, a full sheet, was worked on over a period of a week or so, spending several hours every day. I like to get away and work on something else for a bit so when I come back to it, I have a fresh eye.”

EVOLUTION OF HIS ART: “I suppose the evolution of my art has followed a familiar route from derivative styles that I admired, such as tachist and abstract expressionism which were finally incorporated into the rather more formal approach conditioned by my fascination with architecture,”

Keith Mealy is a master woodworker who teaches classes in basic framing. A frequent contributor to Popular Woodworking magazine, he lives in Cincinnati.

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