With family roots burrowing through Indiana soil for over 200 years, Douglas Runyan is an artist whose deep connection to our state’s history is reflected in the beautiful landscapes that he paints. As an attorney by day, Runyan deals with family histories as he helps clients settle estates. As an artist in the evening, he pours over the hundreds of photographs taken all over Indiana, carefully deciding which landscape he will take on as his next challenge.
Runyan attended art shows in Bloomington while he worked through law school. There he started to develop a strong appreciation for Indiana landscape painters, especially those from Brown County. He is particularly fond of renowned painter, T.C. Steele, a prominent member of the “Hoosier Group” of American impressionist painters.
Runyan started buying art in 1996, collecting many pieces from Indiana artists. His collection enhanced his love for Indiana and the history of art in our state. Runyan also has fond memories of the art history classes he attended while earning his undergraduate degree at Indiana University.
His love for art was evident, but until he turned 40 he had never taken an art class. He remembers being interested in art as a child and says, “I was a kid who liked to draw. I always had a pad and pencil with me. I didn’t just sit in front of the TV, I would draw at the same time.” On his 40th birthday, Runyan took some time to look at his life and acknowledged a creative hole that needed to be filled. “I decided to take a painting class,” he said. Runyan purchased a set of oil paints and canvas, then met with teacher Janice Reifsnider who happened to be teaching a class at the Decatur parks department. In a class of about a dozen people, he discovered his own talent. Runyan continued learning, seeking opportunities to take classes and eventually stumbled upon a new medium: soft pastel.
Some consider pastel, a chalky medium that is found in the form of sticks, a tool for drawing. Runyan disagrees and considers himself a painter. Pastel offers vivid color. The color effect of soft pastel is closer to the actual pigment than any other medium due to the simple fact that a pastel is pure powdered pigment mixed with a binder. With Runyan’s love of color, it stands to reason that he connected so quickly with the medium. “The moment I tried it I liked it,” said Runyan, “but you have to be careful with value or you can lose the lights and darks.”
Runyan’s technique involves the application of several layers. He begins with a Masonite surface primed with a sanded texture. The texture allows the pigments to grab onto something. Without the textured surface, his work wouldn’t be able to hold the layers. He begins with a sketch and then fills in the shapes with a thin layer of pastel. He often smooths the base layer with a gentle wash of alcohol applied with a brush.
“The alcohol washes over the pigments, melting the pastel into a smooth, translucent surface,” he explains. With his roadmap in place, he begins to build up the painting by applying small strokes of pastel pigment on top of one another, using a wide range of color, until the desired affect is achieved.
“The texture of my work is actual, not implied,” says Runyan. “If you look closely you can see the layers of pastel piled up from the canvas.”
An avid traveler, Runyan has collected hundreds of photographs that he stores on his computer and later uses as reference for his paintings. He enjoys traveling with his wife, and together they frequent the East Coast, often making extended stops in Cape Ann, Maine, a major art colony. Runyan carries his supplies with him when he travels and sometimes sets up to do a plein air painting. That’s when he is transported to the zone: a place where the real world falls away and full concentration is given to the canvas and the natural world surrounding him.
Once a year Runyan treats himself to a week-long artists’ retreat; he packs up and heads south to the motherland of Indiana landscape painters, Brown County. There he takes classes with Robert Hoffman, a fellow painter and mentor whom he speaks of with high regard. “He is teaching me to paint quickly and to focus. He made me become a painter.”
Runyan enjoys learning from experienced painters. “I like standing on the shoulders of others who have come before me,” he says. He enjoys taking the knowledge discovered by more seasoned painters and expanding on that; he explains that each generation learns from the last and, together, artists bring mediums and forms to new levels.
A lifelong learner and goal-oriented man, Runyan sets his sights high. One of his most admirable accomplishments was his acceptance by the Hoosier Salon. The group is over 90 years old and carries with it a great deal of clout. Runyan has long admired and respected the painters in that group and was honored to find himself included, just four years after he took his first painting class.
“It happened early for me,” says Runyan, still humbled by the fact that he is a member.
He is also a permanent artist represented by Fort Wayne’s Castle Gallery whose owner, Jody Hemphill-Smith, discovered Runyan as he painted from the sidewalk across the street. Hemphill-Smith observed his work on the easel and told him she would like to see the finished piece. Hemphill-Smith has been showing his pastel work in the gallery ever since.
Beyond the Hoosier Salon and Castle Gallery, Runyan makes two other significant Indiana shows part of his annual schedule. He competes for the privilege to show work in the annual Indiana Heritage Arts show in Brown County every June as well as the Ventures in Creativity Exhibit, a project put together by the Fort Wayne Artists Guild and the University of Saint Francis. Runyan enjoys competition and says, “It is difficult. Judges can be difficult. I want to get into these shows, and that motivates me.”
Setting goals is an effective means to productivity and success for Runyan. As he checks off old accomplishments, he quickly fills his list with new aspirations. His goals for the future are simple: create better work, paint more and stop the real job. He puts in his time at work and still dedicates several hours to painting at least three times each week.
According to Runyan, the best compliment he received was when a friend said of his work, “This looks like it was done by a dead painter.”
Runyan replied, “But all the good painters are dead, right?”
People who have seen this artist’s work up close know that statement isn’t so. As long as he keeps producing work, Runyan proves that statement false. With plans to pump up the quality and pace of his work in the future, one would be wise to keep tabs on this guy.
by Heather Miller
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Art on Broadway — Tours of 5 downtown venues featuring art from Alexandra Hall, Julie Wall, Peter Lupkin, Daniel Dienelt, Knotodday, Kay Gregg, Terry Ratliff and St. Monci, 5 p.m. Saturday, March 25, Broadway Street, Fort Wayne, free, 417-5925
Beer, Bourbon, Bacon Festival — Unlimited beer sampling from national and regional craft breweries, fine bourbon sampling and bacon inspired treats, 6-9 p.m. Saturday, March 25 (5-9 p.m. VIP), Marquis and Three Rivers Ballrooms, Hotel Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, $35-$75, 484-0411
An Evening with Author Tom Frank — Author of What’s the Matter with Kansas talks about his new book; hors d’oeuvres, lecture and book signing included in admission, 6 p.m. Saturday, March 25, CS3 Hideaway, Fort Wayne, $15 plus donation, 602-1008
Puttin’ on the Ritz —Active 20-30 club fundraiser with live music from Chris Worth and Company, gourmet edibles, wine and beer, live and silent auctions; black tie optional, 7 p.m. Saturday, March 25, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Fort Wayne, $50-$90, 450-2844
Shipshewana on the Road — Food, craft and primitives show and sale, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, March 25 and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, March 26, Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, $4, 483-1111
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Big Dick and the Penetrators — Classic rock at Navy Club, Ship 245, New Haven, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 493-4044
Brat Pack — Rat Pack/variety at Nick's Martini & Wine Bar, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 482-6425
Cougar Hunter — 80s glam rock at Vinnie's Bar, Decatur, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $5, 729-2225
Ellsworth Sharp — Neofolk at Friendly Fox, Fort Wayne, 6:30-8:30 p.m., no cover, 745-3369
FBC Band w/Sheba — Variety/Music and Memories benefit at C2G Music Hall, Fort Wayne , 8 p.m., $7-$15, 426-6434
Fireball Matinee — Rock at Hideaway Lounge, Bluffton, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 824-0455
Fleshwounds — Rock at Hamilton House, Hamilton, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 488-3344
Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra — Funk at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m., cover, 483-1311
Fu5ion — Variety at Mitchell's Sports Bar & Neighborhood Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $3, (260) 387-5063
The Illegals — Rock at O'Sullivan's Italian Irish Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 422-5896
Joe Stabelli — Jazz at Don Hall's Gas House, Fort Wayne, 5:45-9 p.m., no cover, 426-3411
John Curran & Renegade — Country at Alley Sports Bar, Pro Bowl West, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 483-4421
Johnny Freakin' Xcitor — Country rock at Beamer's Sports Grill, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m., no cover, 625-1002
Kat Bowser — Variety at Don Hall's Guesthouse, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 489-2524
The Orange Opera w/Mickyle James — Rock at Brass Rail, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., $5, 267-5303
Prime Suspects — Variety at American Legion Post 499, Fort Wayne, 8-11 p.m., no cover, 483-1368
Quincy and the Q-Tet feat. Phil Potts — Rock/variety at Downtown Eatery & Spirits, Warsaw, 10 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, (574) 267-6000
Second Nature — Pop at Crazy Pinz, Fort Wayne, 8-11 p.m., no cover, 490-2695
Shannon Persinger Quartet — Jazz/variety at Club Soda, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 426-3442
Todd Harrold & Nick Bobay Duo — R&B/blues/variety at American Legion Post 148, Fort Wayne, 7 p.m., no cover, 423-4751
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Ambitious Blondes Karaoke — Variety at Office Tavern, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 478-5827
Beat Karaoke & DJ — Variety at American Legion Post 296, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m. , no cover, 456-2988
Bucca Karaoke w/Bucca — Variety at Tower Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-6310
Classic City Karaoke w/Bryan Lee — Karaoke at Corner Pocket Tavern, Fremont, 10 p.m., no cover, 495-9255
Classic City Karaoke w/Tobin — Karaoke at Toad's Tavern, Monroeville, 10 p.m., no cover, 623-6226
DJ Shawn — Karaoke/variety at Club Paradise, Angola, 10 p.m., no cover, 833-7082
Fort Wayne Karaoke — Karaoke at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10:30 p.m., no cover, 483-5526
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Brian — Variety at AJ's Bar and Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., , 434-1980
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Josh — Variety at Arena Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 557-1563
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/TJ — Variety at Chevvy's, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-4748
House DJ — Variety at Early Bird's Ultra Lounge, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., cover, 483-1979
House DJ — Variety at Flashback on the Landing, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., cover, 422-5292
Karaoke — Variety at Crooner's Karaoke Bar, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-3 a.m., no cover, 486-1979
Live DJ — Variety at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Shooting Star Prod. w/Barbie — Variety at Uncle Lou's Steel Mill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-5787
Shooting Star Prod. w/Stu — Variety at Pike's Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 478-6200
Sidecar Gary's Karaoke & DJ — Karaoke at Kville Pub, Kendallville, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 348-1677
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The Children’s Hour — Lillian Hellman’s seminal drama about bigotry perpetuated against the LGBT community and how easily a lie can spread, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 25, First Presbyterian Theater, Fort Wayne, $12-$20, 426-7421 ext. 121
Getting Sara Married — Comedy about an unmarried lawyer in need of a husband (according to her aunt), 7 p.m. dinner, 8 p.m. curtain, Saturday, March 25, Arena Dinner Theatre, Fort Wayne, $40 (includes dinner & show), 424-5622
One Foot in the Gravy — Howard Kingkade’s comedy and winner of Fort Wayne Civic Theatre’s Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival, 8 p.m. Saturday, March 25; 2 p.m. Sunday, March 26, Arts United Center, Fort Wayne, $10-$20, 422-4226
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22nd Annual Valentine’s Invitational — Works from local and national artists, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru March 31, Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568
2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards — Award-winning works from northern Indiana and northwest Ohio middle and high school students, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Afros: A Celebration of African Hair by Michael July — Contemporary photography exhibit by Brooklyn author/photographer, daily thru April 14, D’Agostino Art Gallery, Indiana Tech, Fort Wayne, 399-8626
An Artful Spring — Works by Gwen Gutwein, Patricia Weiss, Austin Cartwright and more, Tuesday-Saturday thru March 31, Crestwoods Frame Shop & Gallery, Roanoke, 672-2080
Decatur Sculpture Tour — 31 original sculptures and 15 permanent exhibits on display, walking tour maps available, thru April 1, Decatur, free, 724-2605
Echolilia — Works from Timothy Archibald and his autistic son, Eli, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Entropy — Daniel Swartz solo exhibition explores relationship between death and mourning through combinations of mythology, mathematics, multi-dimensional physics and pop culture, Monday-Saturday thru April 1, Jennifer Ford Art, Fort Wayne, 740-1309
Diane Allen Groenert — Exhibition of local artist’s Downtown Series and new works, Monday-Saturday thru June 24, West Central Microcreamery & Cafe, Fort Wayne, 415-9293
Expressions of Existence — An exhibition of works by artists through history, including Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Francisco Goya and others whose works have been influenced by disabilities, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Fort Wayne Artist Guild Exhibitions — Works by Alice Siefert at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Jennifer Caudel at Allen County Retinal Surgeons, Anita Trick, Citizens Square (2nd and 3rd floors), Darlene Selzer Miller at The Einhaus Group for Women’s Health, Patricia Weiss at Heritage of Fort Wayne, Emily Jane Butler at Ophthalmology Consultants (Southwest), Linda Binek at Ophthalmology Consultants (North), Carolyn Stachera at Rehabilitation Hospital of Fort Wayne, John Kelty at ResCare Inc. Adult Day Service, Wiletta Blevins at Town House Retirement, Karen Bixler at Visiting Nurse Hospice and Barb Yoder and Karen Harvey at Will Jewelers, thru April 30, fortwayneartistguild.org.
Fort Wayne Photographers Club — Exhibition featuring local photographers, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 30, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Garden Party — Garden-themed works in a variety of mediums from over 30 local artists, Monday-Saturday thru March 31, Orchard Gallery of Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 436-0927
Generations: A View of Who Was Who — Works by Romare Bearden, Kara Walker, Alma Thomas, Jacob Lawrence and other African-American artists, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Glass: A Medium in Art and Automobiles — Dale Chihuly blown glass and fiberglass auto, daily thru Sept. 8, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, Auburn, $7.50-$12.50, 925-1444
A Mary Poppins Garden Party — Child-oriented garden exhibit, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 1, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Moments in Time: Reflecting on the Human Spirit — Elizabeth Opalenik photographs from her recent Amish series A Journey Home and her Reflecting on the Edge exhibition, daily thru March 26, Visual Arts Gallery, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Outdoor Sculpture Invitational — Fifteen outdoor sculptures from regional artists, daily thru April 30, School of Creative Arts campus, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
RAW. Untamed. Unashamed. Visions of Freedom. — Abstract romanticist works in acrylics and epoxy from Kristy Jahn, Fridays and Saturday-Thursday by appointment thru March 25, The Gallery at Pranayoga, Fort Wayne, 423-9642
Sharon — An exhibition of Leon Borensztein photographs chronicling the struggles he faced raising his severely disabled daughter, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Wabash County Schools Exhibition — Works by high school art students, daily thru April 16, Clark Gallery, Honeywell Center, Wabash, 563-1102