A Tribute to Don Stone, celebrating his 80th year
A celebration of a lifetime of art, beauty, and achievement.
Artist, teacher, illustrator, sailor, banjo player… All of these “hats” have been worn by Don Stone at one point in his distinguished career. Celebrating his 80th birthday and still going strong, the internationally known artist remains active today doing what his passion demands of him: to create beautiful paintings.
Don is strongly associated with two locations: Cape Ann (Gloucester and Rockport), where he grew up, and Monhegan Island, where as a mature artist he has spent the last 50 years both as a full and part-time resident. Both places have strongly influenced and informed his work.
Born March 27, 1929, Don’s family lived in Council Bluffs, Iowa, but when his father abandoned the family, his mother returned to her hometown of Gloucester with her three children. The Depression forced the family to be separated and to be placed in the homes of various relatives. Don was placed in the home of his maternal grandparents, and it was his grandmother Anna who recognized Don’s artistic ability and encouraged him to copy the great illustrators of the day: Hoard Pyle, Joseph Christian Leyendecker, N.C. Wyeth, and Norman Rockwell. He was also encouraged to explore his own artstic expression and his grandfather Frank took him down to the Gloucester wharfs to see the big schooners.
Don studied art all four years of high school and after graduation worked on the wharfs and painted signs in order to pay for his tuition at Vesper George school of Art, where he studied with Robert Douglas Hunter, one of the great Boston School teachers. Don, however, never embraced the Boston School style of painting but instead developed his own loose Impressionistic style with which he is so strongly identified today.
During the Korean War Don as a member of the Navy Reserve saw active duty in the Carribean and Western Hemisphere. On the ship he was given a small gun shack as an office where he would paint portraits of both officers and enlisted men.
Don’s love of the sea developed long before he joined the Navy, and over the years he has sailed on everything from a Star boat to a lobster boat, which became his “floating studio” when he lived on Monhegan Island and which could handle most weather conditions.
His first job as an illustrationist was the Lowell sun, where he did political cartoons, and later he joined the Boston Post, where his was a fill-in cartoonist for the political, sports, and theatrical cartoonists. Eventually he became the full-time theatrical cartoonist. After the Post folded, he had various other jobs, including working at a restaurant owned by his mother and stepfather. This job allowed him to paint during the day and he worked at the restaurant at night.
The artist has another passion which developed in his early life: the banjo. In the 1960’s he formed his own group “The Loblolly Five,” which played for many years in schools, pubs, and restaurants. Don owns a large collection of banjos, some of which he commissioned to have made.
Don later became a faculty member of Vesper George and the New England School of Art, and he has fulfilled the role of a very important teacher by giving workshops and demonstrations over the course of his career.
Don was most influenced by his mentor Paul Strisik, NA (1918-1998), who introduced him to plein aire painting and to some of the most important Cape Ann artists of the day including Aldro Hibbard (1886—1972) and Emile Gruppe (1896-1978). Strisik also introduced Don to Monhegan Island.
Don’s accolades and awards are too numerous to name but his membership in the most prestigious professional associations in the country are a testimony to his achievements: Fellow of ASMA, National Academy of Design (ANA 1968, NA 1994), American Watercolor Society (Dolphin Fellow), Allied Artists of America, Copley Society of Boston (Copley Master), Rockport Art Association, Academic Artists Association, Northshore Arts Association, and of course, The Guild of Boston Artists.
His palette is simple: primaries red, yellow, and blue but a cool and warm for each and Don says that it is pattern, shape, and value, not color that make the painting. He makes several thumbnail studies before he launches a major piece. Painting from life and using photographs and videos as a reference only, the artist says that he looks for something that will make a good painting and that the composition, mood, and colors should draw the artist and the viewer into it.
Don has lived successfully by his own philosophy of painting which he happily shares with other artists, “Paint for yourself. Paint to make yourself happy. Don’t paint to sell. If you do a good painting, it will sell….Work hard. Be devoted to and believe in what you are doing. Be honest and sincere in your painting. Seek beauty in