Artist of the Month

LaVerne Kyriss

When you pass Joe Costante’s SaddleBrooke home, you’d never expect to find the botanical garden that inhabits his backyard. But when you discover that Costante has a doctorate in botany and specialized in plant physiology and biochemistry during his working years and that he volunteered as a docent at both the Biosphere and Tohono Chul, it all begins to make sense.

For a while after moving to SaddleBrooke, learning about desert plants and playing softball was enough to keep Costante busy. But about 10 years ago, after a stroke, he decided his softball days were over and that he’d like to try something different. So he began taking art classes through the SaddleBrooke Fine Arts Guild.

“Art satisfies you. It feeds the brain and puts your muscles to work. I enjoy painting and like to do landscapes, coastlines and canyon views. My interests change over time, so my work today is different than it was five years ago or when I started painting 10 years ago,” he noted.

Costante says he generally has three paintings in progress at any one time. “I use the same paint palette. I really like to blend colors to get the particular shade for each part of a painting. I work only in oils. I do like to work wet on wet and I’m continually changing things to make them better,” he said.

“I’ve found that how you hold the brush, how you load it with paint, the pressure you apply, how you handle it, all make a difference in the tone of your painting,” Costante explained. “I generally paint three mornings a week. Often I join a group in the Topaz Room weekly where we all work on individual projects. We have great camaraderie, but it’s a very personalized activity. The other days I work out of a small studio space I created in our garage. It’s not fancy, but it gives me space to have multiple works in progress.”

“I also like to make pencil sketches and I’ve recently been playing around with inks. I’m becoming more semi-impressionist in my style. I’m still working on getting the sky right,” Costante reflected. “I do know that I know a lot more about painting than I did 10 years ago and I’m still learning. Each day I ask: ‘Did I make good use of my brain today?’”

Costante says he doesn’t have a plan in mind until he steps up to the canvas. “I see a scene in person; perhaps take a photo. I draw ideas from cards, magazines, photos, just all around, but I don’t know what’s going to be on the canvas until it reveals itself.”

“For me, one of the challenges is being satisfied with a particular work,” he said. “Often I’ll think something is done and I’ll let it sit a while. Then I’ll come back a month or two later and go back in with a brush to work on an area that could be improved. I like to let it linger.”