North Branford Patch: When did you first become interested in art?
Bob Ferraro: I drew all the time as a kid at school. Cartoons and pictures that the teachers confiscated and hung on the board or threw out.
North Branford Patch: What made you decide to pursue art as a career?
Ferraro: My first plan was to be a plumber. But, my degenerative hip did not agree with plumbing. When I was 25 and my hip was getting worse, I realized that I couldn’t work on my feet anymore full-time. My hip surgeon had me go for vocational rehabilitation testing, which they have for people who are disabled and need to change jobs. When I took the aptitude tests, I scored in the top percent in abstract reasoning. Based on that, they suggested I either go into art or drafting.
North Branford Patch: What attracted you to painting?
Ferraro: I used to work at a paint store in New Haven and faux finishing–like marbleizing, wood graining, gold leafing–started to become popular again. I started getting into that and doing a lot of that work on the side. Then I realized that was another form of regular artwork, just a different process and on a larger surface. My major at Paier College of Art was illustration, so I thought I was going to be a professional illustrator. I did a few comic books and book covers as a freelancer. At this point I had a family to support, so I couldn’t spend my days in New York City going to all of the publishers trying to get work. After getting into the faux finishing at the paint store, I focused less on illustration and started painting more.
North Branford Patch: What was the first painting you ever sold?
Ferraro: When I was working at the paint store, I had a customer who used to gamble a lot and he won a bundle on a horse named Lil E. Tee in the 1992 Kentucky Derby. He said, “If you paint a picture of that, I’ll buy it.” So we ended up making a big project out of it. I painted the picture and then I had 200 numbered prints made which had to be licensed through Churchill Downs. From there I painted other sports figures like Brian Leetch [defenseman for the New York Rangers]. We were lucky enough to meet his family and his mother got a print of the painting and used it to put on display with the Stanley Cup when he brought it to Cheshire.
North Branford Patch: How did you make the transition from part-time artist to full-time artist?
Ferraro: The transition was basically my hip surgery. When I had my hip replaced in 2001, there was no way I could go back to work. I decided I was going to work for myself, so I started doing my own faux finishing work and painting when I could.
North Branford Patch: What is a typical day in the life of an artist?
Ferraro: I paint from about 8:30 or 9 a.m. until noon, and then usually my break is just lunch or I’ll go to the gym. When you spend that much time alone in a chair, you need a break. I’ll come back and I’ll usually paint from about 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. I don’t paint at night because the light isn’t good enough. At night I take care of the business end of things.
North Branford Patch: What is your typical subject matter?
Ferraro: The stuff I like painting I call social realism. An example of that would be a painting I did of a guy down in Key West playing a guitar for money. There’s a bunch of characters like that. That’s not necessarily the sort of thing people like to see or buy, so I do those paintings mostly for me. The stuff I do for shows and galleries are landscapes and seascapes–the sort of stuff I can hang up and not offend anybody–but I just can’t do that all the time.
North Branford Patch: What has your experience been with art shows?
Ferraro: I’m learning the art show process. I learn something different at every show. It will probably take another five to 10 years to have really successful shows. My goal is to do shows all year long, all over, hopefully as far away as Florida. What I’m learning at these shows is the artists who are successful form a relationship with the customers. It takes a long time to build that.
North Branford Patch: What painting are you most proud of?
Ferraro: My painting called “Dreaming of Summer” won second prize at an art show in Madison. The whole concept of the painting was a person sitting in his summer clothes with a straw hat and a bathing suit sitting in the snow. Some people think it looks like white beach sand, but it’s snow. It won a prize, so it’s satisfying to know that someone got the idea behind the painting.
North Branford Patch: What is Bob Ferraro Studios?
Ferraro: In addition to painting, I also teach guitar lessons in the studio. I’ve been playing guitar for 30 years. I record original songs in here as well, so I consider it as much a music studio as an art studio. My ultimate goal is to have a live music show during an art show. The idea would be to make the music as interesting as the art.
North Branford Patch: Where is the best place to view your artwork?
Ferraro: The best place to see it is online at bobferrarostudios.net. I’ll also be at the Guilford Art Center Craft Expo on July 14 to 17 and the Annual Mystic Outdoor Art Festival on August 13 to 14.
To be featured in ‘A Day in the Life’ or to suggest someone who should be profiled, send information to Jim Gangi.