Stu Eichel hails from Knoxville, Tenn., but for about 18 years, he and his wife have been Saratogians enjoying the milder weather.
We retired here and couldn’t stand the weather being so hot out there. Most people move in the other direction, said Eichel.
When he arrived in Saratoga Springs, Eichel began turning the upstate New York landscape, houses and sites he found intriguing, into oil on canvas art.
`I definitely see things the normal guy sees all the time, in a different way. I’m observing and most people can’t do anything about it, but I can and it’s a wonderful ability to be able to see something that needs recording and put it down,` said Eichel.
Now 78, Eichel said he finds simple sights that most people overlook, as beautiful.
`I go for the underbelly stuff like the recycling plan on Weibel. I thought it was interesting; it might be like painting an outhouse for a lot of people, but to me it made an interesting painting,` sid Eichel.
He also painted an old mill with peeling paint and more famous landmarks like the Batcheller Mansion, Convention Center and Preservation Hall. A collection of more than 30 Saratoga paintings are on display during the month of February at the Saratoga Train Station as part of the Art in Public Places exhibit. He said people might be interested in seeing his paintings because they document Saratoga through the years.
`What’s amazing and what people don’t realize because I certainly didn’t, is how much Saratoga has changed in a short period of time. Some things are completely gone and others are just different,` said Eichel. `It just happened by chance, I didn’t do this with the idea that I’ll save history.`
Eichel considers himself a late artist because he didn’t become trained until after he’d finished up a career in graphic design. When he retired, he completed the entire fine arts program at the University of Tennessee, taking photography, sculpture and ceramic.
`I didn’t know where I would come out and I came out a painter,` said Eichel.
It was between photography and painting, he said. While he doesn’t create art with a camera, Eichel said he considers himself a photographer with paints.
`Anything I see, I want to put down. I love photography but I had to make a choice between photography and painting,` said Eichel. `A skill with paint is a greater accomplishment to me personally.`
Most of his paintings vary between two sizes, 24- by 30- inches and 12- by 16- inches. He said he’s glad he waited until retirement to pursue art because it allows him to paint what he wants, and only what he wants.
`If I hadn’t retired I’d be stuck doing every crappy commission everyone wanted me to do,` said Eichel, who said he paints on the streets and often has people approach him about their homes. `I tell them if they ask that I’ll look at their house, but 90 percent of the time I have to say ‘sorry, it’s just not right for me.’`
Eichel takes his painting seriously and paints until he’s happy with what he sees. Sometimes he even goes back to older paintings and makes them better.
`About 10 or 12 years ago I painted the Glove Theater in Gloversville and recently I went back there with the painting done so many years ago (and God hope you’ll be a better artist) and I made that painting 100 times better than it was,` said Eichel.
The concept of taking something most people might consider ugly, and turning it into something interesting, is his favorite.
`I’ve had people say it’s interesting to see the world through my eyes and that’s an achievement right there,` said Eichel.
The exhibit `Saratoga My Way` will be at the Saratoga Springs Train Station on Station Lane at West Avenue through February. To see more of his work, visit www.stueichelart.com.