Splitting her time between the North Fork and Naples, Florida, artist Dorothy Russo draws on her natural surroundings as inspiration for her work. Russo did not begin painting seriously until she moved to the North Fork. After working with a variety of mediums, Russo now concentrates on pastels. She is currently a member of the Pastel Society and a member of the Center for the Arts in Bonita Springs, Florida and was the winner of the Southold Historical Society’s Thomas Currie-Bell Memorial Purchase Prize at its Second Annual Art Exhibit in 2015.
What is the inspiration for your cover piece, “Farmer Joe?”
Well there is a Farmer Joe in Greenport with the sweetest corn. There is something about the abundance of fruits and vegetables out here in late July and August. I tried to capture that in the heat of a sunny August afternoon.
Why do you choose to do most of your work with pastels?
I have tried other mediums, but with pastels I find I can easily achieve the results that I envision. I usually do a wash first, sometimes with complementary colors, allowing some of that color to come through to varying degrees in subsequent layers of pastel. It seems to enrich the colors, causing some friction and tension, reminiscent of pointillism, but subtler, where the colors blend on the page. As a medium, pastels are often misunderstood. “So you work with chalk?” is a frequent comment.
Is there one piece of advice or wisdom you have received from another artist that you remember?
“It’s only paper.” This seems very simple, but what it means is don’t be afraid to try something new at the risk of failure. There will be failures, but through them, there is usually growth and discovery.
What do you enjoy about painting nature?
There is so much beauty in nature. It’s always changing, always new. I love the fleeting light and the change of seasons. Then there’s plein air painting, when you’re out in the elements away from our unnatural distractions, using all of your senses to obtain a deeper understanding of a place in time. You feel the breeze, the cold, and you can see the way the sunset that night is putting a magenta glow on the dark clouds in the distance. Nature is always putting on a show.
Do you paint other vistas besides those on the North Fork? If so, where?
I mostly paint East End vistas. It surrounds and inspires me. I do spend time in Naples, Florida, so that is another area that dominates my paintings. I love the Florida beaches and birds. I just completed a study of ibises, and of course there are the osprey, which are both plentiful here and in Florida. I usually keep my work local.
How did you start painting?
I have always loved to draw and used my creativity in different ways. Although I wasn’t an Art major, I would take an occasional class, so there was always an interest but not a strong focus. I would say in the last 10 years I have devoted more time to it and feel I have grown as an artist.
What did you do before you began painting seriously?
I started out after college in the insurance industry as an account manager specializing in the airline industry, which of course has nothing to do with art. I do feel we all have many talents to different degrees and why we choose to follow one direction more than another is usually complex, and sometimes with art, has to do with economics. I have read so often the words “I didn’t think I could make a living doing this.”
Where can our readers find your work?
I email upcoming events to those who have been to prior shows and are on my mailing list. I can be contacted at [email protected].