By Mandy Putnam, Dragonfly Feature Writer
Sometimes the gift of serendipity changes one’s path. For Steve Hart, his junior year abroad in Paris ignited his passion for art. Studying the works of old masters at the Louvre – free for students on Sundays, visiting the Jeu de Paume Impressionist museum and discovering new artists in the little galleries on the Left Bank awakened Steve’s desire to paint. Standing in front of David’s Coronation of Napoleon, Steve thought, “I want to learn how to do that someday.”
After graduation, Steve bought his first set of oil paints and, like the rest of us, his first attempts didn’t match his plans. Later, another year of teaching in France further fueled his passion to learn how to paint. However, his self-taught efforts while juggling a new career and growing family still fell short of his expectations. That’s when he enrolled in a class taught by Cincinnati Art Club member Yvette LaFollette Mazza, which began a 20-year process of learning the tools of the trade and gradually perfecting his voice as a gifted painter.
What fascinates Steve and underpins his work is studying cultures and their people around the world.
“To me, art is an expression of the human experience. That’s a very wide definition but I believe that good art expresses more of that human experience. It evokes a reaction from the viewer. I do like to paint human figures, because it’s easier to see the human element.”
“This painting (above) is my favorite. A fisherman in a little town in Spain called Peniscola came in after his day’s work. I took hundreds of photos of fishermen that afternoon and created six paintings from them. One of the reasons I like this one so much is that I feel I captured an existential moment. He’s staring at something, but we don’t know what he’s thinking. It’s as if he’s catching his breath, taking a pause in this workday but we don’t know what’s going on in his mind – is he thinking about dinner, his work, his girlfriend or his life?”
“Since the kids are grown, we’ve been able to return to Paris a few times. The architecture is fascinating. I did a triptych from a recent trip. The middle panel captures a man on the balcony. I like the human element between the architectural paintings. The one on the right (shown above) was very challenging. I love the roundness and the sign that says ‘apartment for rent’ in French that provides a little touch of humanity.”
“About 10 years ago, I joined the Art Club. Initially, I mostly attended Sketch Group, where I escaped from battling computers and their users at work at the end of the day. If not attending Sketch Group, I retreated to my studio in the evening, put on my music and dove into a painting.”
“Now retired, I am almost never without a painting in the works. There is nothing like starting a painting with the anticipation of how great it will become. Then comes the inevitable struggle to make it everything you want it to be. Honestly, I feel as if I always fall short of my ambitious vision, but the process leaves me with the desire to start another one. I’m sure that next one will be that masterpiece!”
“The man in the overcoat was derived from a photo that I took in Florence in one of the piazzas. I liked the way he had his legs crossed. I wanted to do a large figure of the whole body.”
In recent years, Steve has enjoyed acclaim for his work – being recognized in Viewpoint five times, receiving awards at the Art Design Consultants’ Art Comes Alive Show and participating in gallery shows.
Steve’s work will be featured at an upcoming show at the Harding Museum in Franklin, Ohio, 302 Park Avenue, with the opening night reception on Friday, February 15th. The show will run on Saturdays through March 9th. Hours are from 1:00 – 4:00 PM.