Sought-after Etna painter mixes love of dogs, outdoors and art
After 25 years as a graphic artist, Lou Pasqua decided in his early 40s to revisit his original goal of learning how to paint.
And so he returned to the Carnegies.
As a youth, he had spent many Saturdays at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Oakland, a bus ride away from his Etna home, enrolled in the Tam O'Shanter introduction to art classes.
As an adult with family obligations, he did not have the luxury of taking classes, so he went to the art section of the Carnegie Library and spent years studying the styles of artists that struck a chord with him. Through trial-and-error, he developed painting techniques that worked for him.
Like many other students who took the Tam O'Shanter course, he never forgot the class mantra of “Look, to see, to remember, to enjoy.”
“When I was young, I took it as, ‘Remember what you see, so you can recall the details,' ” he says. “But now what it means to me, personally, is that you should search for the essence of what you are looking at, look deeper, get to the core so that you can capture the spirit. The peripheral details don't matter.”
Translating that philosophy to canvas, and wedding it with his passion for the outdoors and wildlife, has made Pasqua, 62, who still lives in Etna, one of the most-sought sporting and wildlife artists in the nation.
His works, now found in prestigious galleries and in private collections across the United States, have been showcased on the covers of numerous publications in the genre, such as Gray's Sporting Journal and The Pointing Dog Journal, and his images have appeared in Wildlife Art, Sporting Classics, The Washingtonian and Texas Outdoors.
“Lou is able to capture moments with which sportsmen are so familiar,” says Jake Smith of Traverse City, Mich., managing edi tor of The Pointing Dog Journal, which has used several of his paintings on its covers.
“I love how Lou shows motion and movement in his artwork,” Smith says. “In the natural world, everything is moving, trees, leaves, etc., and the touches that Lou adds to these elements make his painting ‘pop.' ”
Pasqua has exhibited at the Waterfowl Festival in Easton, Md.; the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, Charleston, S.C.; and was honored as the 2012 featured artist at the Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival in Thomasville, Ga.
“He has a great, loose style that goes really well with his subject matter,” says John Buxton of Hampton, a nationally known painter of American 18th-century heritage, who joined in recommending Pasqua be included in the “History Meets the Arts” show in Gettysburg. “His paintings capture the spirit of the hunt, the habitat and the personality of the dog he depicts.”
Pasqua was asked by the Texas State Parks to paint the 2000 Texas Quail Stamp.
Though he has painted some North American big-game animals, as well as other wildlife and fishing scenes, he concentrates primarily on painting dogs in upland bird-hunting settings because of client demand.
“My paintings are basically landscapes that include dogs or other animals,” he says.
Pasqua, who hunts deer, turkey and small game, finds what is most satisfying about his profession is that he is able to be in his element, the outdoors, to collect reference.
“Also, because of what I do, I meet remarkable people and I have been a guest at some of the most incredible places, like plantations in the South, ranches in Texas and beautiful Northeastern locations,” he says.
A few years ago, famed Texas oil man T. Boone Pickens commissioned a painting from Pasqua. Pickens flew him on his private jet to his ranch in the Texas Panhandle, where Pasqua spent the weekend.
“He was very accommodating and, for a small-town guy like me, he made me feel right at home,” Pasqua says. “Wealth aside, we had many of the same interests.”
He spends time talking with clients about their vision for a piece. “If we both agree, then I move forward with the painting,” he says, “I won't agree to do a painting that I wouldn't be proud of, just for the sake of getting a commission.”
The artist likes to work from multiple photos that he takes, along with, he adds, “a large dose of imagination.”
His family's beloved tri-colored English setter, Zak, who died in 2011, was a main source of reference and a very dependable model for his paintings, for 14 1⁄2 years. His image appeared multiple times in magazines. Zak's memory remains a guiding force for Pasqua in his work.
“I want to create something that makes people feel like they have actually been there and had the experience,” the artist explains. “I know how particular moments have made me feel, and I'd like them to be reminded of their special moment. I'm re-creating a moment with a brush, rather than with words.”
It's not always easy, he admits. “This is my grown-up interpretation of ‘Look, to see, to remember,' ” he says.
He chooses not to paint in photo-realistic detail. When his art is viewed up close, the brush work is loose and impressionistic. When seen from a distance, he wants viewers' minds to fill in the blanks, completing the picture, and, he says, “everything becomes real and looks right.”
How well he accomplishes his goal draws not just polite compliments from those who commission his art, but absolute raves.
“He's the best there is. He is the finest sporting-dog artist in the country,” says collector Scott Higginbotham, an attorney in Texas.
Pasqua's painting of his family's tricolor English setter “Girl,” is no less than a masterpiece, says Dr. Hal Young, a retired Virginia physician and collector.
“He is the next Percival Rosseau, one of the all-time great masters of dog paintings,” Young says. “Many who have seen our painting (titled, “Three Girls”) immediately commented on its similarity to the old Rosseau paintings. I think Lou's is better.”
Pasqua says he is honored and humbled to hear such praise because he still sees areas that he can and intends to improve.
“I'm excited for the challenge, and the positive reinforcement motivates me more,” he says. “Especially for someone who got such a late start, it shows that if you hold on to your dream and keep working hard, you can make it.”
Rex Rutkoski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4664 or firstname.lastname@example.org