Rich Stergulz at work near Mountain Mike’s. Photo by Marshall Smith

Rich Stergulz, plein air painter and recent judge in the 2012 Art Alliance of Idyllwild Plein Air Festival, is the final speaker in this year’s Speaker Series, a production of the Idyllwild Community Recreation Council.


Stergulz, an Illinois native, said he knew at the age of 8 he wanted to be an artist. “My mom said I was always doodling, drawing,” remembered Stergulz. “At the age of 8 I saw a contest on a matchbook cover. ‘Draw me and receive a full scholarship,’ said the ad. I did and got a full ride. My mom had to write that I was only 8 and too young to accept. I am pretty fortunate to know what I wanted to do from an early age.”

Stergulz graduated from the American Academy of Art in Chicago in 1983 and began a successful 25-year commercial art career that included stints as illustrator for major corporate ads for Coke and 7-Up, as editorial illustrator for major magazines, making storyboards for television and movies, and creating cover art for audio, video, CDs and books.

He teaches plein air painting (painting in the outdoors) in Murrieta, where he resides and accepts private commissions. Russian Impressionists, especially Nicolai Fechin, have heavily influenced his work, he noted. Examples are on his website, “I admire the Russians for their intense brush strokes that exude passion into their paintings,” he said. The Russians were trained to paint from life and during the period from the 1940s through the 1960s were plein air virtuosos, creating charming and intimate visual scenarios from everyday life. “I also admire Norman Rockwell for his amazing drawing ability and the volume of work he produced in this lifetime. I also like John Singer Sargent for his portrait work. They give a sense of reality but still have a painterly style to which I aspire.”

Stergulz’s work hangs in galleries in Santa Monica, Fallbrook, Idyllwild and Cody, Wyo. He works primarily in oils on Masonite board, portraiture and figurative, and plein air paints as much as possible. “My passion is painting the figure. Eveyone has a story and I like to reveal it in my paintings, especially through the eyes of the subject,” he said.

Stergulz continues to paint, teach and see life though a painter’s eyes.

His presentation, co-sponsored by the Art Alliance of Idyllwild, is at Quiet Creek Gallery at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 20. A wine and cheese reception precedes the presentation at 5:30 p.m. Both are free to the public.