By Judy Watts
Al Lietch, a former university professor, has come a long way on the local art scene in the last decade.
Working primarily in pastels and oils, Lietch says he always loved art. Part of the love took root as a young student when he took some beginner courses at Carnegie Mellon.
Although that sparked his interest in art, art was put on hold as he pursued his career as a business school professor of accounting. Along the way he wrote 60 articles, three books, chaired departments and served as an associate dean. He was a professor at universities in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and finally at the University of South Carolina where he taught and conducted research.
“I started painting about ten years ago by taking numerous workshops locally and with national and international artists in the Atlanta area,”
He makes Lexington home now.
While he doesn’t paint for the competitions, he has picked up a lot of local awards and some state awards as well. He’s also been accepted into national and international competitions.
“I don’t get awards at those–the competition is very stiff. But I did have one of the best pastel artists in the country ask me,’You got in didn’t you? Well that’s good.’”
Lietch’s work centers on landscapes, cityscapes and birds. He starts landscapes with a pastel and alcohol underpainting which gives it an airy feeling.
“If it’s structural I use a watercolor underpainting to scope out the composition.”
When he works in oils he starts with the sketch, followed by an underpainting in a complimentary color.
“For instance if the painting is of a sunset, I might choose a red underpainting that will show through some.”
Lietch says many of his pastels are more detailed than most painters’.
“I do details either with a pastel pencil or I paint the negative space and that gives you the detail. But I don’t use anything special, just the pastel sticks, although sometimes I have to sharpen the edge a bit.”
He likes pastels because of the brilliant colors. He uses a sanded paper.
“It feels like sandpaper like you’d get at the hardware store, but it’s not. And it has more tooth than the pastel papers which allows me to build up more layers.”
He explains that some people mistakenly think that pastels are chalk.
“Pastel is pure pigment mixed with clay, just in the same way oil paints are pure pigment mixed with oil.”
Lietch says he paints what he likes and he paints what people like.
“I paint to make people happy so I like painting what they like.”
Leitch was featured at Camden Art Shoppes, 1011 Broad Street, Camden SC on Friday, December 2, 5-7 p.m. to answer questions about his work and technique.