Stepping back to view his work entitled “Midnight Ice,” Sonoma artist Sig Rundstrom explained the technique. “Palette knife impasto style is how I worked this one,” he said. Then he pointed to a landscape he did. “And these over here are some plein air oil paintings.”
Rundstrom likes the texture. But he admitted, “working with turpentine, especially for ‘Midnight Ice’ I had to work quickly. Sort of like plein air but only more intense.” Even though he signs his work Sig, to everyone who knows him he likes to be called Bill.
Painting and art comes naturally to him, although every artists knows that no matter how much joy, to make art takes work. He is up every morning at work in his studio.
Rundstrom likes painting on very large canvases in a flowing alla prima impressionistic style using scrapers, oil paint sticks, and rags. This reporter attended a showing of his works at Studio 35 this past August 21. Part of the gallery’s monthly “Meet The Artist” events, Rundstrom showed his works along with artist Sonja Bakalyar that evening.
“Sig (Bill) and I corresponded by email to coordinate our hosting responsibilities for the special event, said Bakalyar. We met for the first time by chance when we delivered our paintings to Studio 35 for the “Meet the Artists” show. It was then that I first saw and liked his paintings. I especially admire his textures,” she said.
Growing up in the Midwest, Bakalyar’s mother nurtured her youthful artistic projects by providing drawing, painting and craft materials to keep her occupied and out of trouble. Later, her dad hired her to create window displays in his jewelry store. In high school, thanks to a progressive teacher, Bakalyar learned gesture and contour drawing, along with color theory based on color psychology.
By working after school and during vacations, Bakalyar made enough money to attend Iowa State University where she received the Dean’s List scholarships and became a member of the Honorary Art Fraternity. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Applied Art and obtained teaching credentials. After graduating she moved to Berkeley and informally continued her studies. An astute educator, she encouraged her students to expand their perceptions. Bakalyar continued to flourish and earn accolades for her work.
Since the opening of Studio 35 over a year ago, Bakalyar has been featured more than once. She did not mind sharing the spotlight. And, as she mentioned, it is customary for artists in the valley to initially meet while bringing their work to the Studio to be shown. This gathering of artists has helped build a sense of community at Studio 35 which makes it unique.
“I enjoyed getting to know Bill and his wife, she said. Charlene, who also is an artist provided special treats for the evening.” Wife Charlene Rundstrom made stuffed kalamata olives and a fresh-fig compote to go with slices of Brie cheese. And yes, wonderful wine to accompany the hors d’oeuvres. The festive atmosphere at the reception was enhanced by Bill’s many fans, she noted. Yet, Bakalyar had many fans and friends of her own who attended, like long-time friend and fellow artist Helen Mehl. Another friend of Bakalyar’s Bev Greenberg, made sure she got to the showing. As she said, “I did not want to miss this, even though my day had been very busy.”
The two artists were featured in the special event gallery room. Owner/manager “Robert Curry thoughtfully curated the hanging which juxtaposed and complemented Bill’s and my paintings,” said Bakalyar.
Eager to show their support and appreciation of their work, friends and neighbors filled not just the special event room, but the entire gallery. It was also a chance for the local community (of neighbors, friends and acquaintances of each artist) to meet one another. Often people will visit the gallery to look at one artist’s work and discover another artist, which opens up another opportunity to return to the gallery again and again.
The relaxed, informal home-like atmosphere lends itself to that sense of community which continues to grow at Studio 35. Rundstrom was impressed as this was his first time showing at the studio-gallery.
Sig “Bill” Rundstrom was born and grew up San Francisco’s Mission District. After serving one term in the Navy, he worked in graphic arts for about six of years before attending college. Rundstrom credits the Navy for allowing him the opportunity to go to college on the G.I. Bill. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Secondary Teaching Credential from San Jose State University. Specializing in many areas of real estate he eventually worked for several major Bay Area financial institutions until retirement. Now, settled in rural Sonoma, he pursues his life long passion of art. Whether painting landscapes, still life or portraits of people, Rundstrom works in all types of mediums and techniques.
Yet, what seems to stand out most is his eye for texture, contrast and vivid color-palates. Rundstrom enjoys doing ‘plein air’ work, mostly because it places him directly with the scene he wishes to paint, not enclosed in a studio, out in the open air. He will be right at home in the upcoming Plein Air Art Festival at the Plaza this coming Sept. 19th. Landscapes painted on site can be a challenge, but after working with textured styles using turpentine, painting free in the open air will be a breeze. But as he pointed out, “you have to be invited to participate in the festival.”
When asked if participating in that festival was important to him, he said, “I just recently started painting ‘plain air’ style.” He considers himself lucky, especially after open-heart surgery. “Painting for me is like a rebirth, he said. I have a pretty large bucket list and so far I am fulfilling each item on the list.” In addition to painting, Rundstrom also plays guitar. He has ridden a motorcycle and even went surfing.
“I was so happy to be a part of the event, said Rundstrom and to share it with Sonja was an honor,” he added. The sense of community is something that Studio 35 is proud to build and foster. Gallery-event coordinator/director Gina Roman noted that “our studio/gallery is a gathering place for the entire community of Sonoma. People of all backgrounds, all age groups are welcome and we have an eclectic array of styles and representations of art forms.”
The following day Runstrom was eager to report, I sold an abstract titled “Spring” that night which makes three since I started with Studio 35 a month an a half ago.”
Perhaps his next showing will be a solo show? No doubt that might be. “I have so many paintings, my workspace is full. I am eager to sell them, show them,” he said. Autumn is now in the air and it provides plenty of opportunities for an artist. With the fall color palate and textures emerging another opportunity to paint and then show would make Rundstrom very happy. To learn more about Sig “Bill” Rundstrom visit his page at the Studio 35 website.