John Wiegand hopes to inspire people by creating artwork that helps them see things from a different perspective.
“Everything can be seen as art these days, but fine art is where my passion is,” says the Springdale Township resident who was raised in Fox Chapel. “It is constantly changing, moving and growing. And so am I, and that is what fascinates me about it.”
It is fun, Wiegand, who specializes in fine art colored pencil drawings, adds.
“I love seeing what new ideas I can come up with and how the drawing comes to life when color is added,” Wiegand, 52, explains.
The public can see what he has been up to lately in his month-long, one-man Art in the Valley showcase on the lobby walls at Allegheny Valley Hospital, Natrona Heights. The art will be on display 24 hours a day, through Jan. 30.
He believes his style, while not easily identified, has a certain folk-art feel to it. Each drawing requires many hours of concentration and meticulous attention to detail, resulting in vibrant colors so striking that people often think he uses pastels in his work. “I believe that my use of color and composition are very cheerful and easy to relate to,” he says.
Seeing the world
“No one sees the world as I do and that is what distinguishes me from other artists,” Wiegand says. He suggests that the way in which he combines multiple perspectives into one drawing might identify for others that the work was created by him.
“Every year my talent as an artist grows and everything from nature, traveling and people- watching inspires me,” he says. “I have been given an incredible gift and using it to create new works of art is how I plan to pay it forward.”
Early inspiration came in his artistic studies at The Kiski School, Saltsburg, from which he graduated in 1985, and which he considers one of the finest college preparatory schools in the country.
He has been commissioned to do a piece for Kiski Prep through a program called Will’s Gift, an annual endowment awarded a Western Pennsylvania artist.
He explored many of the fine arts, including drawing, painting, pottery and sculpture, as a graphic design major at Edinboro University. Wiegand rediscovered his enjoyment of drawing over the last two decades and now pursues it full time to create iconic scenes of Pittsburgh, landscapes surrounding Mt. Kilimanjaro and, among others, various scenes involving animals that make up one long panorama when placed side by side.
Some of the pieces can be seen as decorative.
He appreciates that a show in a hospital exposes him and his art to a wider range of people.
Typically, viewers tell him they love the colors and the detail, and they ask how long it took him to draw something. “His work with animals and people has an energy that brings the canvas to life and creates a smile,” says Tom Reiling of Shadyside, who went to high school with Wiegand.
Claudia Keyes of Pittsburgh’s North Side framed a number of his prints and gave them as gifts for Christmas this year. “His art stirs in me a sense of humor and well-being,” she says. “His work is honest, direct and transparent. There is boldness in his simplicity that really appeals to me.”
Veteran, award-winning illustrator and designer Fred Carlson of Monroeville, one of the most well-known artist/illustrators in the mid-Atlantic market, is a Wiegand fan.
Carlson, whose own one-man retrospective is underway through Feb. 23 at CCAC Boyce Campus, Plum, is past president and treasurer and a long-term board member of the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators.
“John loves nature and direct, simple, story-telling narrative compositions.”
What makes Wiegand’s work unique, and throws the viewer “visual curve balls,” Carlson adds, is his inventive use of various media in his final pieces.
“Where you expect paint, there are choppy pencil strokes. Where there is an area where you expect a flat single tone, he invents new rendered ways to create that surface,” he explains. His background elements speak quietly and stoically to the viewer, he says.
“When you expect some cursive drawn edge, John uses mechanical techniques,” he says.
Attention to detail in Wiegand’s designs, keen attention to detail and interesting subject matter attract Terry Colabrese of Pine Township.
“John’s strengths are his faith and perseverance through life’s difficulties, interest in any subject he is learning about and care and compassion for people he touches with his art as well as personally,” he says.
Pamela Martino says his work first struck her as possessing a characteristic American folk-art feel that induced an emotional response similar to what she experiences with revered national artist P. Buckley Moss’ work. “His art makes me feel happy, peaceful, and engaged in the images,” she says.
She senses that the artist “draws from his heart.”
“I feel that John’s notoriety as an artist is solely awaiting further exposure,” Martino adds. “Once more people see his work, how can they not want to join in the fun and joy?”
Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.