Art connoisseurs can now have magic realist oil painter Stephen M. Stavast's works of art on their walls and their coffee tables. A painter for 46 years, Stavast recently published his first book of his artistic images combined with his own poetry. Stavast will be signing the limited edition book, "Stream of Memories," Oct. 5-7 during Sierra Art Trails.
David Commons, an art appreciator that has been following Stavast for years, already purchased a book and says he loves it.
"I spent three hours soaking up the beauty last night and still have two-thirds of the book to go," he said, adding that the paintings are "exquisite" and the poems are "delightful."
Stavast, a nationally acclaimed artist, has been in the Mountain Area for a number of years now and Stavast Gallery will celebrate its 20th anniversary in November.
It all began when Stavast was 22 years old and decided to do a painting of fall scene with a brook from a "How to Paint" book. After four hours of painting he was finished and decided to frame the finished product. However, when he went to the frame store, he didn't have enough money to purchase the frame he wanted so the owner told Stavast he'd keep the painting until the frame was paid off. When Stavast returned, having paid for the frame and ready to pick up his painting, the owner told him that the painting had been getting a good reaction from the public. Stavast thought he was kidding, but within 10 days the painting had sold for $175.
"My mom was so proud she told everybody she knew and that was a lot of people," Stavast said. "I learned how to paint while painting for other people and that's how it began."
Stavast was getting national attention and top awards in the late 1960s and 1970s with his watercolor still life paintings. He then began creating surreal paintings for arts for the handicapped. It was while doing the surreal pieces that Stavast began to write poetry.
"Words were falling out of the sky onto me and I was amazed I was getting poetry," said Stavast, who says this is the least shared part of his life and seeking out poets to read is something he's never done. His new book is now filled with more than 80 of his signature rock and water paintings accompanied by poems that were inspired by those paintings. His poems are also printed on each piece's certificate of authenticity.
It was in 1990 that Stavast began his Rock and Water series, which he said held his "interest and respect through its difficulty and the breadth of its possibilities." Stavast said that in the first eight years of the series, he worked in a style he calls "Magic Realism." In 1998 his paintings took on a more realistic tone. He creates his paintings so that they can be hung from any rotation and be seen as a complete image.
He said that because his paintings are created out his imagination and not just copies of a photograph, they sometimes take years to evolve and that he allows the paintings to develop in front of him. Not one interested in "pounding out paintings," Stavast says he puts his art and soul into his work.
It was 20 years ago that Stavast opened his gallery in Oakhurst, the second gallery in town. He said it took eight years for the gallery to start paying for itself. He would come into the gallery at 4 a.m. and not leave until midnight after painting all day, but all his hard work finally paid off.
Stavast has already sold more than 100 copies of his limited edition book that came out early August.
Stavast Gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week and is located at 40982 Highway 41, Suite 2.
Aside from Sierra Art Trails in October and his gallery, Stavast will also be showing at the International Guild of Realism beginning Sept. 7 in Carmel with a reception to be held Sept. 15 at the Jones Terwilliger Gallery.
Details: (559) 683-0611 or www.stavaststudiogallery.com