Capturing scenery is easy.
Today, anyone can pick up their cell phone and digitally capture a moment in time at the push of a button. Breathtaking mountaintops, nights out with friends, and everything in between lies at your fingertips.
Capturing the emotion, vivid color, and beauty of a scene is a much more difficult task. Nobody does that better than Steve Burdette, 64, of Blue Ridge Summit, an artist and master of his craft, who effectively uses each brush stroke to convey feeling and meaning in every one of his paintings
Burdette’s artwork covers a variety of subjects, but he draws upon his inspiration of local scenery to build vivid recreations with a personal touch.
Burdette’s journey as an artist started just as he entered his teenage years, and has been going strong now for over 50 years. “I was 13 when I started my classes,” Burdette said. “The instructor said he didn’t take kids in his class. Then he looked at my work and [decided to] take me in.”
That leap into a class where a 13-year-old typically wouldn’t belong catapulted Burdette’s budding interests in art into a flourishing career; however, in order to get where he is today, he had to put in years of intense practice.
“That class turned into a 13-year apprenticeship,” Burdette said.
For years, Burdette would attend this oil painting class, learning the ins and outs of how to create oils and how to perfect a composition that he could be proud of. And even as the numbers of students in the class dwindled, Burdette’s commitment to his craft never waned.
“It was every Tuesday night as long as I wanted to stay,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”
Despite being an oils-only class, the group did not hit the ground running with oil painting from the start.
“For the first two or three months, we just drew geometric shapes,” Burdette said. “By the end of that, there were only three of us left in the class.” Charles Jones, Burdette’s teacher and mentor, purposely made students learn to walk before they run, to weed out the students attending for fun from the students truly there to learn.
“Sure, I got bored with just drawing geometric shapes, oh my word,” Burdette recalled. “After that, it got interesting, and I loved it. I was so glad I stayed.”
The commitment to improving his work is something that has stuck with him through all avenues of drawing and painting, and the passion for perfection has made an appearance in every artwork since his early apprenticeship.
There is a significant duality in Burdette’s painting styles, with his decades of defined and learned practices with oil painting, along with years of personal experimentation and trials with watercolors.
“I learned everything I know on watercolors from just doing my own stuff,” Burdette said. “I never took any classes or anything because oils and watercolors are completely different.”
Just as Burdette’s experiences learning how to perfect oil painting and watercolors are opposites, the two painting styles are just as converse. “With oils, you put your darker values on first because then you can work your lighter values on top,” he said. “With watercolors, it’s completely reversed.”
While Burdette did not initially build his foundation as an artist on watercolors, they have found a place on many of his canvases, and often are the method of choice on many of his commissions.
“When I got bored with oils, that’s when I picked up watercolors, which is an awesome medium,” he said. “I love it because it’s a challenge. If you mess it up, chances are, you’re going to have to throw it in the trash, because there’s almost no going back.”
The way colors can bleed poses a unique test, even for an artist of Burdette’s calibre. “You can go after a certain look, but it can have a mind of its own, which can be a neat effect but not always what you meant it to be.”
Today, Burdette sells drawings, oil paintings, watercolor paintings, pastels, acrylics, and more. Many of the commissions and sales he has made over the past 20 years have stemmed from drawing upon the rich fire history in Northern Frederick County.
“About 18 years ago, I put out a few generic prints for fire departments, and that just exploded and went all across the country,” Burdette said. “It’s amazing, and sometimes it keeps me busier than I need to be.”
Burdette’s art for fire companies in particular has piggybacked off of his successes teaching art, owning his own studio, and many other experiences that formed the backbone for his talents over the course of his career. And though selling art is not so easy for everyone, Burdette firmly believes that it’s an industry worth not giving up on.
“Never stop, and don’t quit,” Burdette said. “The minute you quit, something great might happen.”
Come December, you can catch Burdette’s artwork at his open gallery viewing, where you can see and purchase his works. His open gallery will be held on December 14, 2019, at 15221 Wyndham Avenue in Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania.