The Artist’s Eye: The Visual Pleasures of Old Buildings

Spending time looking at the old buildings of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow is a wonderful way to experience the quieter graciousness and beauty of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries while still having modern conveniences.

imagesIf time travel were possible, would I go? Would you? Represented in these buildings are hands and minds of the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries, designing, maintaining, decorating and redecorating. When I paint the old buildings, I’m not just painting bricks, wood and window curtains, I’m painting the imprints of all the people who’ve made or used those buildings. When I look at a Vermeer, I feel for a moment that I can breathe the air of 17th century Holland and when I paint Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, I want to create the same effect for other people. There’s something almost magical about these towns, and I’ve been told that I’m not the only one to feel that way.

When I paint, I have a sense of generation after generation being born and going through life’s stages here. Mothers nurtured infants, fathers (and more recently mothers) went to work day after day to accomplish and to earn the money to buy things for kids who grew way too fast; teenagers met and fell in love — or had their hearts broken. Couples were bound together for decades or just tolerated each other after the honeymoon was over. Probably everyone spent time at the Music Hall. All of the eternal joys and problems happened over and over again in these buildings. This is what I think about as I paint, along with whether to use cerulean blue versus French ultramarine, or cadmium red versus alizarin crimson.

I imagine as well the people who built the buildings, working with their hands, making practical works of architectural art. I think most of the time we just notice the overall effects but, as I spend time looking, many details reveal themselves. This brings the people who created them back to life for me, albeit in an anonymous way.

Evidence of the human hand in creating these buildings makes them warm and compelling.

Change is good, but so is continuity. In my workday, I use a combination of old painting techniques and modern materials, transportation and communication. In Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, we have a wonderful combination of old beauty and modern conveniences. To my artist’s eye this is ideal.

Ronnie Levine, owner of the Rivertown Painter’s Studio gallery and art school, will show several works at the Historical Society Serving Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown (1 Grove Street, Tarrytown), The work, representing the river as well as the towns, will be on display through October. Several will be original paintings and the rest will be large giclée prints on stretched canvas. For information please call the Historical Society at (914) 631-8374 or Ronnie at (914) 332-5050.

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About the Author: Ronnie Levine