A Remembrance of Steve Doherty-
Updated: Nov 16
The news of the passing of Steve Doherty reached many of us recenntly via a Facebook post from Steve's son Michael. While Michael was visiting his father last week, Steve died of a heart attack.
Those of us in the art world would certainly know of Steve's work as the editor of American Artist Magazine, which he operated for over forty-two years and then as the first editor of Plein Air Magazine, which he led for six years. Steve was a painter too and after his retirement from publishing we would see his commitment to plein air painting and his participation in plein air festivals, including some prestigious national events like the plein air competition in Easton, Maryland. Steve quipped recently, that just when he was going to retire from participating in plein air events, he finally won his first award. His work was deserving of awards, as he was an accomplished portraitist and landscape painter.
Steve's largesse and generosity were evident to many. I was fortunate enough to encounter him way back in 1992 as editor-in-chief of American Artist Magazine. Somehow I managed to get an interview with him to show my work to him at his office in Manhattan. It was a big deal for me and there was a lot of anticipation surrounding the meeting. I had written an essay to accompany my art that I sent in prior to my visit. Steve referred to it as a manuscript or a manifesto of sorts, which appealed to me. I had a portfolio of 5" x 7" transparencies of my work prepared by a photographer, Andrew Gillis here in Ithaca. That visit in itself was a rather expensive endeavor that was underway for several years prior. This method of photographic documentation was regarded as the best method of recording and archiving one's work - and the most accessible to viewers, rather than the smaller 35mm slides.
Steve also authored a wonderful book, "The Art of Plein Air Painting"that is a compendium of plein air painting. This beautiful hardback book includes the work of dozens of the best plein air painters with helpful advice for those considering the outdoor mode of painting.
Steve was very personable, knowledgeable, gregarious and welcoming. And he liked my work too, which put me at ease. He liked my work so much that, he did a feature article, which I wrote, but even better- he put one of my pastel paintings on the cover of the September 1992 issue of American Artist Magazine. This was the thrill of a lifetime to me. I had been reading and learning from American Artist Magazine since my days in art school at the York Academy of Arts in the early 1970's. The magazine had included many notable American Artists in its pages including Andrew Wyeth and many others. American Artist Magazine started back in the 1920's so it had a long distiguished publishing record. It was very unfortunate that this long-standing American art publication was dissolved and absorbed by its successor, The Artists Magazine. I suspect the motivation was to appeal to an international market.
Steve and I crossed paths perdiodically over the years- at conferences and workshops. Steve was often the featured keynote speaker at these events and his talks were centered on helping artists advance their careers or with the nuts and bolts of the painting craft. He also did a few other articles on my work over the years. And at one point, he awarded my top honor for a still life painting that I entered in a regional show that I was participating in at Hazleton, PA. Most recently, Steve wrote a glowing introcuction to my new book, that just came out, "Light on the Figure- Aspects of Painting People."
Steve was a font of knowledge and shared it with all. He knew what was pertinent to each artist and could make apt suggestions. He encouraged me to take a workshop with Nelson Shanks, the late portrait painter. Steve had done the workshop in Florida and said it was well worth it. In fact I did this week-long event at Studio Incamminati in Philadelphia with Nelson on two occasions. Local artist Bill Benson came along one year too. There were some issues with Nelson's assistants that Steve had mentioned and they were evident with both Bill and myself. For the most part however, those workshops with Nelson were great experiences and we were thankful to Steve for his recommendation.
Steve had a connection to Ithaca, as he attended Cornell University. And some people I know here remember him from their days at Cornell back in the late 1960's.
Steve knew that I was interested in Italy and the study of Corot's work in Italy. A show of Corot's work in Italy had recently been staged at the NGA in DC so his work as a plein air painter was very much in the mind of the art world in the early 1990's. There was a book that had just come out too, that Steve recommended that included maps of how to find the sites of Corot's paintings in Italy. This book was very helpful. In fact I used it to help track down Ponte Augusto, one of the ancient Roman bridges in Umbria that was the subject of two of Corot's paintings. Also, American Artist Magazine had just included a cover by Corning, NY artist, Tom Buechner. That painting was an oil of one of the formations of the Roman Forum. In that article, the importance of Corot and Italy were explained.
Steve was a fan of two nationally known painters who had lived in my hometown, Wyalusing, PA during the mid-1960's, Jack Beal and Sondra Freckleton. While I was taking a week-long workshop with them in Oneonta, NY Steve and his wife visited and he gave a short talk while there.
As with many other artists who benefitted by the generosity and interest offered by Steve, I am considering myself very fortunate to have found a supporter with him. His long career in the arts influenced many in a very positve way. He will be missed by many I am sure.
To view a commemorative video of Steve's career- go to this link-