Nick Serratore

by Dana Kester-McCabe

Pastel painter Nick Serratore is a founding member of the Milton Arts Guild and the Studios on Walnut, in Milton, Delaware. In addition to the usual landscapes and seascapes that one might expect for our region, Nick finds great inspiration in the wild meadows and woodlands here

Nick Serratore knew that he wanted to be involved in making art by the time he was in high school. He studied at the Hutchins School in Philadelphia and after graduation created graphics for the famous concert venue there: The Electric Factory. In the mid 1990's he moved to Lewes to run his own art gallery, but being near all that art eventually was not enough.

Nick Serratore:
I was looking at the art that we carried and I wanted to get back into it, even if it was just on the side, if it was just a hobby. I didn't want to lose what I was taught. I spent too much time learning it, just to forget about it.

So I began dabbling back into the arts - the fine art. And, I had all these mediums left over from art school. The president of the school once called me a jack of all trades and the master of none. And I always remembered that. I decided to focus in on each of the mediums. I started with pastels.

My instructor, one of the fine art teachers was Virgil Sova. He worked in acrylics and oils and pastels. And what he did with them was extraordinary. I don't know I just sort of gravitated towards them. Of all the mediums I just started with that. With all these mediums I had I decided to start with pastels and when you get tired of that go to oil and just keep working with them. But I never went on to anything else. I started with pastel and kept going.

Even though I had my daytime job, I was always painting at night, on the weekends. I started entering shows. I joined the Rehoboth Art League. And, it kind of just snow balled from there. I just became more involved with it.

At that time, you know you're copying your photographs. You're doing everything to a T. I started evolving. And, the paintings started taking on a look of their own. And, again, I was afraid of becoming a full time artist, because of the money. (Laughs) You don't know where it's coming from.

So I was battling myself. We eventually sold the gallery. I went to work for the Rehoboth Art League; a nine to five job, which was a lot of work. And I was a gallery manager. My responsibility was dealing with the artists, hanging shows, you know, exhibition display. And I kind of got jealous. I was like: I should be the one delivering my artwork. You know? I should be the one going on shows. I should be the one who is painting full time. So in 2012 I went full time with it.

Nick is a pastel painter. Pastels are raw pigments pressed together into hard sticks with just a little binder. To see Nick work you might think of this as drawing. But pastel painters build up their colors just the way other painters do, just without a liquid to convey the pigments onto the canvas.

Nick Serratore:
The colors are really, really brilliant. It's tactile. You're hands on. I won't say it's finger-painting, but I do use my hands a lot. When I started working in pastel, when it made contact with the paper, I loved the subtleties, the gradations. It was just fluid. It was immediate. It was brilliant. I liked the fact that I could smudge. I wasn't away from it using a brush. It was right hands on.

Nick's subject matter is mostly landscapes and flowers. His work is representational but has become more and more impressionistic over the years.

Nick Serratore:
It's almost kind of liberating. I think you grow and you don't realize that you're growing. Subconsciously you're not aware of it. It's just happening. And to me, (laughs) I can't wait to see what I do in the next few years, actually.

In 2012 Nick received a grant from the Delaware Division of The Arts for emerging Delaware artists. He began to enter and be accepted at number of prestigious shows. He says that it took some time to learn the business of being a fine artist.

Nick Serratore:
You have to keep pushing yourself. No one is going to come to you. I think it was a calling. It doesn't happen overnight. You evolve. No one starts at the top and works their way up from there. You have to start out at the bottom and figure it out on your own. Not to say you don't get advice from other artists and people who are seasoned, who are in the business for a long time. You do get their advice and guidance and you do make friendships and you just take it from there.

Now my hobby is cooking. Before, it was painting. And people are like: "Wow you get to paint at an easel all day long, and come up with all these pretty paintings."

And again, this is not that easy. It's work. You gotta constantly be creative. You constantly gotta think about the next work of art. Is it going to be the same thing over and over again? Even though there is a joy, loving what you do, it's still work. And it's not always that easy.

For Nick the work may be a labor but it seems to be a labor of love because it requires coming from a deeper place.

Nick Serratore:
I like to put emotion in to it. I tell my students that it is really easy to paint what you see. The challenge is to paint what you feel. The pieces that I do, I put a lot into it. It's more than just a skill. It's more than learning how to use the medium. You have to put something of yourself into it. And that is what catches people's eye. Don't be a slave to your reference. Convey a mood or a thought. Make it your own.

Georgia O'keeffe said it best. She was searching for her own unknown. And that's what, for me, painting is, searching for my own unknown.

You can see Nick's work in Milton, Delaware, at the Studios on Walnut and the Milton Artist's Guild.