North Merrick resident Irwin Berson has been a creative artist and talent all his life who has traveled worldwide and now has paintings hanging in homes all over the country – and abroad.
He came to his mediums of watercolor and acrylic only after he retired as creative director of several ad agencies during his career, including his own agency.
From photo to art realism
Korea, Argentina, Canada, Japan, England, Mexico, Brazil and Italy come to mind when he’s asked, and he will tell you he liked to take lots of photographs. “When I arrived at Peggy’s Cove, in Nova Scotia,” he said he couldn’t believe he was seeing such attractive, breathtaking scenery, which moved him to snap countless photos of the location.
Yet, whether planned during those worldly excursions or not, his and other photography are now the inspirations for his paintings. Not only are the Peggy Cove originals of one-of-a-kind acrylics that present the at-once immediacy and exacting realism of the houses, the boats and the location, on his painting table is a large photo of a group of bison on bare snowy ground huddling together, the subsequent painting presenting both the beauty and starkness of the frigid plains as backdrops in which these majestic animals live and survive.
Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia, one of the most beautiful places Berson said he’s ever been.
“I don’t consider myself a photo-realist if that’s what you’re getting at” (in the tradition of Long Island artist Ken Keeley), he joked with Your NewsMag. Rather, he is that traditionalist who finds the waterfalls, the everyday faces and the surrounding landscapes worthy subjects for constant inspection and exploration.
Raised in The Bronx, he went to school at the School for Industrial Arts in Manhattan (the name later changed to the School of Art and Design), and went to Pratt Institute for advertising art. During his school years at these institutions he was working in pencil, magic markers, inks and drawing line art and sketching faces.
Berson says this plane he painted sat in the fields at the corner of Jerusalem Avenue and Bellmore Avenue during the 1950s, where neighborhood kids used to play.
Out of college he found work in advertising agencies, becoming art director and developing ad campaigns, brochures and reams of print material. His career pinnacle was to be creative director, where he held the position for many years before starting his own advertising agency – becoming its creative director.
“My office was on 39th and 5th, and I went to lunch one day to the Morgan Pierpont Museum on Madison Avenue, where I saw a show of 17th and 18th Century watercolors.” He told Your NewsMag, “It blew my mind, those watercolors,” suggesting he had never seen anything as beautifully presented on canvas.
WATERCOLOR A DEMANDING MEDIUM
Fast-forward to his retirement “a decade or so ago,” at which time he enrolled in a watercolor paint class at Brookside School. “Watercolor is so demanding,” he insisted. “You cannot make mistakes in watercolor as you can in oils and acrylics, where you can always paint over your mistake.” He also took courses in acrylics at the Merrick Senior Center. At times he will take a class to brush up on his technique.
He cites famed watercolorist J.W.M. Turner as his most influential artist, with Winslow Homer a close second.
Hong Kong ferries
Now, Berson’s works can earn him several hundred to thousands of dollars, 10% of which he says is donated automatically to the National Brain Tumor Foundation for research specifically centered on glioblastoma. He has had his collections hang at the East Meadow Library, and recently completed a hanging of a collection of his work at the Wilkes Gallery in Northport.
With many paintings hanging in homes across the country and around the world, he still has a studio full of originals he could one day hang at a local library, museum or shop. He and his wife Ros are also members of the North Bellmore Civic Association.
Next time you see him, tell him Your NewsMag says hello …