By Sarah Ellen Rindsberg
It’s not every day that one receives a call from Jodi Rell, former Governor of Connecticut or meets with Dennis Hastert, former speaker of the House. For Laurel Stern Boeck, one of the nation’s foremost portrait artists, working with accomplished and fascinating clients are a unique perk and all in a day’s work. Her success in the competitive field of portraiture is evident in her many prestigious commissions, including esteemed men and women in politics, military, business, judicial and academic circles.
The art of portraiture became the center of Boeck’s world at an early age. “I have always loved drawing and painting. I focused on capturing faces, spending day’s just drawing eyes, then noses, and then mouths. I remember examining the structure of each part of the face, the real character of the person developed as my skills and technique became more advanced.”
While attending the School of Visual Arts in New York, Boeck studied illustration and design. She worked as a freelance illustrator and became an art director for an ad agency in NYC.
She continued pursuing her love of portraits while working, and found her mentor in master artist John Murray. She studied with him for many years, learning the craft and techniques of the Old Masters. “That journey toward excellence was one of the most rewarding times in my life.” Boeck recalled, “Each day that I grasped a new concept or mastered a difficult technique was thrilling.” She honed her skills and developed her own unique style, which led to her first portrait commissions, and launched her artistic career.
Boeck’s classical representational style portrays the extraordinary spirit as well as the fine nuances of her subjects. Boeck is widely known for her attention to detail; the appropriate treatment of a client’s hands is as important as the subtle mixture of flesh tones. “I try to be very faithful to the topography of the face, “she says. “Ultimately I want the portrait to reflect the person, if I am faithful to what I see, their personality will come through.”
A most recent representation of her philosophy appears in her portrait of the editor and publisher of this magazine, Grace Bennett. The result is stunning. (See Grace’s own sidebar about the experience!)
Painting has provided her with a wonderful work/life balance. After a day trip to Washington to meet with a subject, Boeck lands at Westchester airport to spend the evening with her husband and children. Most days she paints in the spacious art studio she designed and added to her Bedford home. Part of her mission is to nurture other artists. She does this by teaching at the Katonah Art Center, hosting a painting workshop in her studio and with a personalized mentorship program for artists looking to accelerate their careers and broaden their horizons.
Boeck believes “the best portraits both capture the essence of the subject, and are infused with the spirit of their life.” Along with famous subjects, Laurel also commissions everyday portrait and event work. For more info, please visit: www.boeckstudio.com
Sarah Ellen Rindsberg thinks Boeck’s portrait of the publisher masterfully captured Bennett’s entrepreneurial spirit and vivacious personality.
On Being Painted by Laurel…
Laurel and I were introduced by a mutual friend. I love art and was intrigued by an offer to sit with an artist who gets to paint all day. It sounded like a dream come true. Little did I know the surprise awaiting me in Laurel’s Westchester studio!
North light windows, a plethora of tubes of paint, brushes galore and several easels filled a high ceiling, airy sunlit room; an office area upstairs accommodates the business of doing art too. Paintings were in full view everywhere, from large and small finished commissions to small, unfinished but still delightful oil sketches.
Laurel and I hit it off right away; following tea and treats, her welcoming spirit put me at ease as she spent time considering how to pose and light me on the large model stand.
The sitting proceeded accompanied by conversation and enjoyable background music (she says the music helps her too!). Only on a few occasions did she suggest stillness and silence while working in the area of the eyes or mouth. “I do not mind movement,” she said. “It helps to keep the freshness and eliminates any stiffness in the pose. The true nature is then revealed.” Posing breaks were granted every 20 minutes or so. I was amazed at the painting process and certainly very pleased to view such an appealing representation of myself on canvas!