As the seasons change, it’s always exciting to have a new artist find a new home on Maine Art Hill, it is no different with R Scott Baltz. Actually, especially with Baltz. His beginnings in the art world were all about change.
Baltz was born in Pennsylvania but attended college in Delaware. His first year was as a biology major. It was also his last year.
“It wasn’t what I envisioned for myself. However, I was unsure of exactly what I was envisioning for myself,” Baltz laughs. “I am a searcher. It is my personality.”
Baltz spent several years doing odd jobs, which in turn created lots of failures.
“Failure is so critical. It helps us to know what we do not want,” explains Baltz. “Failure is just as important in a painting. It is how we move forward and how we learn.”
When he was in his mid-20s, Baltz discovered photography. In his words, not only did he find it, he was entirely consumed by it. Soon after, he began photography school in Colorado on the western slopes of the Rockies.
“It was a fantastic year, just so incredible. I was starting to learn who I was and what I wanted,” Scott says. “It enabled me to have a sense of direction in my life, and I have very fond memories of this time.”
In his initial photography work, he used 35mm but began progressing into using the large format 4×5 camera, an old-style camera that looks like an accordion.
“Everything is upside down and reversed when you look through the camera. It requires some getting used to,” Baltz says. “I do feel, in retrospect, it allowed me to develop my eye. Particularly regarding composition, which is critical in painting as well.”
For about thirteen years, he worked with a camera. He did everything from calendar work and magazine work to selling prints in galleries. He focused on the details in the landscapes, with the focus being close up.
It was the comment of a dear friend that began his refocusing.
“One of the fantastic things about your work is that you take photos of things I step on.”
“It was so true,” says Baltz. “I like the patterns and simplifying the chaos.
By the late ’80s, Baltz came to Maine with his camera in tow. He was not at all confident about what he was looking for. But as I told his girlfriend at the time, “I’ll let you know when I see it.”
“I ended up at Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park. I fell in love,” he puts it simply. “The mountains were appealing to me, probably reminiscent of my time in Colorado.”
Baltz is a person who spent a lot of his time around inland bays and the ocean. For him, there was an additional appeal to the island, especially being surrounded by the changes of tide.
“All the things that go with island life are fascinating to me. Its transition. Its movement. Its change,” he says. “Nothing is ever the same. Not only do I like that, but I am also physically drawn to it.”
Baltz swims, paddleboards, kayaks, and is an avid fly fisherman. He is definitely a water person.
“Many of my favorites revolve around the water. It is seen in my paintings. There is usually a prominent place for water in my images,” Baltz shares.
At one point, he truly started spending a great deal of time in Maine. Baltz met an artist, rented a cottage from her, and they became great friends. She was a watercolorist, and it was about this time he felt his photographs changing. They were becoming more painterly.
“Although I wasn’t quite aware of this change until someone asked me if my work was photographs or paintings?” Baltz shares. “That is when I realized the transition was taking place.”
After a one hour lesson in watercolor, he was set loose with some paints and brushes.
“A whole new journey began, and it opened up my world in another way, which photography had not. It was an evolution of things. It was another layer of creativity for me, and I became consumed by it as well.”
Eventually, he put down the camera and sold all of his 4×5 equipment and moved strictly into painting.
“I had worked in watercolor for many years. And I felt another transition coming. I was ready to move on to something meatier, something with a more tactile quality, perhaps another medium,” Scott says. “As it turns out, that medium was oil paint.”
Ironically his photography instructor from Colorado had moved to MDI as well. After a random phone call and the “donation” of 85 tubes of professional paint, change began again.
“His donation allowed me to experiment freely without worrying about the added expense of going into a new medium,” says Baltz. “I loved it. I loved the smell of the oils. I loved the quality and lusciousness of the paint as it sits upon the canvas. I loved the texture of dragging that brush across a canvas or a panel. There was a comfort with the medium.”
For about 20 years now, Baltz has been working exclusively in oil. Recently, however, he has been experimenting with acrylic due to the water-based medium. So, who knows what will come next.