Norwalk painter works for love of art
By Kaitlyn Krasselt
Published 3:44 pm, Friday, October 7, 2016
Photo: Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticut Media
Norwalk artist Richard Koleszar, an oil and watercolor painter, in his Norwalk, Conn. home studio Tuesday, September, 13, 2016. Koleszar will be featured in several upcoming artists around the county
NORWALK — When Richard Koleszar was 5 years old, someone hung his finger paintings on the wall at kindergarten.
The rest, he says, is history.
Now 75, the Norwalk artist has been painting ever since, earning substantial more recognition than simple praise. One wall in his attic studio is lined with ribbons and certificates, celebrating his work. The rest of his home — the home he grew up in behind City Hall — has become a sort of gallery for his many paintings ranging from realistic landscapes, water scenes and portraits to abstract realism and beyond.
“Painting is like having another life and bringing things to life,” Koleszar said. “People walking around don’t notice things, so I like to bring those things people miss to life. I try to paint something you don’t ordinarily see or feel … once in a while I find something I get inspired by. Like when my uncle was in the Army he would send photos to my grandma, and a while back I came across all these small black and white photos of cars in old towns, and I had to paint them.”
Koleszar works mostly in oil and watercolor, painting on canvas and various types of paper. His work has been on display throughout Fairfield County including the Rowayton Arts Center, and several galleries in Ridgefield where he lived until last year.
Koleszar began taking classes at the Silvermine Arts Center when he was 7, and continued there through high school. He went on to study advertising and earned a degree in fine art from Syracuse University. He worked in the advertising industry through the late 1970s at major firms in New York City. He stopped painting during that time, but tried when he could to sneak his own work into the campaigns he was working on, all the while hoping he wouldn’t lose his creative edge to the corporate world.
“I went into advertising because none of my friends were making any money in art,” Koleszar said.
Koleszar started painting again in 1985 at the urging of his father, a longtime supporter of his work, who he’d gone into business with after his career in advertising. Though his father was never an artist in any traditional sense, Koleszar said it was his encouragement that prompted him to play the saxophone, paint and take theater classes.
A portrait of his father, copied from a small black and white photo, hangs in Koleszar’s living room above the fireplace. The image of his father shows him leaning against the stump of a fallen tree somewhere in Oregon, small in comparison to the foliage surrounding him.
“He was a builder so he wasn’t into that, but he was helping me in all these ways,” Koleszar said. “This small black and white photo of dad had been in the family for years, so I decided to paint it. I did a lot of research on the trees and how they should look and the colors. It’s one of my favorites.”
Though his work never came to fruition as a sole source of income and full-fledged career, Koleszar said the recognition he’s received locally is more than enough payment. He does take commissions and continues to show his work in the area, entering it in shows whenever possible.
“I don’t make much money but I enjoy it,” Koleszar said. “It’s a labor of love and my wife supports me 100 percent.”
KKrasselt@scni.com; 203-354-1021; @kaitlynkrasselt