Writer, Yes; Painter, ?

ALTHOUGH I’VE BEEN almost always able to draw, easily reproducing in simple line what I saw in life and/or the comics since early childhood, I had never taken a formal painting class, depending almost entirely on my pencils and pens to serve me. “Art” was not a subject taught in my Parochial school in Brooklyn, New York, and, not being encouraged by anyone during my upbringing, I simply remained a “sketcher” long into adulthood. While in the US Army, I sort of made a “business” drawing caricatures of my buddies on their T-shirts with a magic marker, picking up three to five bucks a pop that considerably supplemented my $85-a-month paycheck. This, incidentally, led to my drawing a comic-strip for our company “newspaper”, a job for which I received no money but some local — very local — acclaim from my comrades. Along the way, I got in the habit of sketching scenes from nature, almost always carrying a small sketchbook with me wherever I went. It was while serving in the arctic up on the Hudson Bay (we were a handful of American soldiers that were “guests” of the Canadian Air Force stationed at Fort Churchill, Canada, where our mission was to test weaponry under arctic conditions) that I “produced” my comic strip, “The Arctic Trooper”. Also while there, I tried my hand at pastels, drawing a rather large nude on a widow shade I had found somewhere. When I finished, I learned that the “painting” should be sprayed with a fixative, and sent for a can of the stuff from the States. When I sprayed my nude, however, the window shade, though it had “tooth”, absorbed the liquid spray unevenly, leaving a blotchy effect that, for me, ruined the picture. Not so for a Canadian officer who immediately “fell in love” with it. “Wow!” he said, “How’d you get that effect?” Anyway, not being art-business savvy at the time, I gave it to him — and was cured from using color for a long time. It was not until about twenty or so years ago that I “got into” painting with oils, putting myself under the wing of Susan Silverman who introduced me to plein air painting — something I’ve been doing ever since (along with my continued sketching). I never really graduated to the brush, relying almost solely on palette knives, and any serious painter who looks at my “schmears” knows what I mean when I say that I am not a painter. I am, first and foremost, a writer and it is through the “art” of the written word that I express myself to my fellow man. For me, my “picture-making” is sort of a personal journal, a visual reminder of a certain place, a certain time, on a certain day. My paintings are meant to “speak” to me and any overflow into the consciousness of another, purely accidental. Consequently, I am reluctant to claim that I am a “painter”. Again, most professionals know what I mean. In any event, some of my work ­has ­been seen by others, many of them “moved” by my inadvertent “messages” to them. Back in early 2004, Heinrich J. Jarczyk, a painter/etcher friend from Cologne, Germany, once told my partner, Cornelia Seckel, that my “work is good” and ought to be shown, advising her to “make a show for Raymond on his seventieth birthday”. She did — a solo exhibition at The National Arts Club in NYC where, to my astonishment, she sold 16 of my landscapes — an event, incidentally, that I am still trying to mentally absorb. More recently, Rebecca Monroe, writer and subscriber to ART TIMES, wrote to tell me that my landscape paintings “capture where the heart wants to rest.” OK. So I manage to make “nice” pictures now and then, but does that mean I am an “artist”? Twenty years later with more shows and sales along the way — and now being a part of the Saugerties Artists Studio Tours (latest one coming up on 15th-16th of this month ((August)) — my astonishment still lingers; but even more important, after my more than thirty years of writing about professional artists and their work, I continue to find my “title” as a “painter” a bit of a stretch.

Steiner greeting visitors to his studio during the Saugerties Artist TourSteiner greeting visitors to his studio during the Saugerties Artist Tour 2013
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