Studio and gallery owner says art saved his life

September 27, 2007|By ASHLEY HARTMAN

BLUE RIDGE SUMMIT, PA. - Steve Burdette often says art is what saved his life.

Burdette had worked in the landscaping business for 19 years, when one night he woke up and could not breathe. He immediately went to see his doctor, who said Burdette's heart was damaged, due to the stress of Burdette owning his own landscaping business.

"The doctor said, 'If you continue this way, you'll only live six months,'" Burdette said.

Burdette's wife of 31 years, Kathy, urged him to pursue a career in his first love, painting, but Burdette had doubts that he could make a living at it.

"I look at the art as a God-given talent, but also a curse because you can't make a living," Burdette said. "If I couldn't make money, I did not want to do it."


At first, the money did not come rolling in for Burdette's art business, which he began in 1994.

The first month in the business he earned $185 and the second month was even worse, Burdette said. It was especially difficult because Burdette had made $2,000 to $3,000 a week in the landscaping business.

When Burdette got to his lowest point, Kathy told him she signed him up to get his art certification at North Light Art School in Ohio.

"I look back now and it was difficult, but I would not change a thing," said Burdette, who began taking classes in late 1994 and began teaching art in late 1995, even before he finished his certification.

Burdette has taught art at Hood College and Frederick Community College, both in Frederick, Md., and Howard's Art Supplies & Frames in Hagerstown, for a combination of more than 20 years.

"That's when I had 400 students in a month," Burdette said.

It was two to three years ago that Burdette decided to cut back on teaching classes and focus more on his own paintings.

"What I have now is this," said Burdette, referring to his new studio in Blue Ridge Summit (Pa.), which opened at the end of August. "This is all I need."

Burdette, who grew up on a farm in Browningsville, Md., began drawing at the age of 7 and believes his first painting was of a pink blossom cherry tree in his parent's front yard.

At the age of 13, Burdette began an apprenticeship with Charles Jones, a teacher at Montgomery College, where he learned how to ground oils for oil painting and learned Jones' painting techniques and styles. The apprenticeship lasted 14 years.

"Charles accepted me in his class with other adults," said Burdette, who now mainly paints using watercolors.

Burdette said his mother, who died in March, paid for his art classes with her babysitting money.

"She was my biggest supporter," Burdette said.

Using bright colors such as blues and lavenders, Burdette paints landscapes, seascapes, still life and farm scenes that are disappearing fast. Some of the series he paints include "Preserving Our Heritage," which includes farm settings; "My Frederick County," which are historic places that have been demolished; and "Home For Christmas," a series of farms in Washington and Frederick counties during Christmas.

Burdette's paintings titled "Life's Changing Sands," "Joy Comes in the Morning" and "The Clearbrook Feed Mill" are in honor of his mother.

"If you can't make a living with landscapes and seascapes, you must find a niche," Burdette said. "Mine is fire departments."

Burdette started painting fire departments in late 1994 and has painted fire departments in Washington County, Virginia, Washington, D.C., New Jersey, Texas and Florida. He has painted fire departments in other Maryland counties, including every fire company in Frederick County.

"It takes 18 to 24 hours to get the drawing on paper and then add color," Burdette said of painting fire departments. "This is what pays the bills."

If you go ...

What: Steve's Studio//Gallery

Where: 13194 Monterey Lane, Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.

When: Tuesday, 6 to 9 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Call: 301-416-0812

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