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Howard J. Eberle


picture of Howard Eberle

Visual Arts: Painting

By: Gail Obenreder

“I believe in the drama of simple design, eliminating the clutter of everyday life, stripping away the unnecessary to get to the essence.”

Howard J. Eberle is a portrait painter of objects, achieving his distinctive dramatic style through strong composition, simplicity of focus, and a pristine, confident technique born of a lifetime of experience. In high school, he took drafting classes, where he learned perspective. But it was his career in retail that gave him an artist’s eye.

Born in Baltimore, Eberle returned home after his Navy service to a career in retail display, something that “honed my skills in color, lighting, and design.” Working with architects helped him understand the visual impact of negative space, a hallmark of his watercolors. During his 30-year career, Eberle continued to paint, but in 1992 he left retail behind and began to work full-time as a painter.

Early in his studies, he took art classes at the Maryland Institute College of Art, working first in oils. But a 1973 visit to the Brandywine River Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, totally changed his direction. Eberle was “deeply moved when I saw the detail that Andrew Wyeth was able to achieve in his watercolor and egg temperas,” and he has been working in transparent dry-brush watercolors ever since.

painting of the bow of an old boat
“Choptank,” 2018, transparent watercolor, 30 x 22 inches
painting of an old doorknob
“Alice,” 2020, transparent watercolor, 15 x 11 inches
painting of a denim shirt and hat on a fence post
“Denim,” 2019, transparent watercolor, 30 x 22 inches

The artist cites jazz and abstract expressionist painters like Pollock and de Kooning as influences, but “Wyeth’s realism was love at first sight.” And all three Wyeths (N.C., Andrew, and Jamie) continue to inspire him. “Whenever I need stimulation, I head back to the Brandywine Museum and it never fails to rejuvenate.”

Eberle works to “visually imply more by showing less.” He challenges himself to “take a simple subject matter and elevate it . . . through composition and elimination of background noise.” But he works in an exceptionally detailed technique, so time is always a challenge, especially under the constraint of an exhibition deadline.

Eberle built a home in Lewes in 2013 and moved to Delaware in 2015, so he finds the subjects of his paintings in the simple things near the water and in rural areas close to home. “I am constantly drawn to the peeled paint of an old barn, the rusty patina of an anchor or a doorknob.” When not painting – or seeking objects to paint – Eberle cooks. Not surprisingly, as an artist he especially relishes the “the final plate presentation.”

An active member of national watercolor societies, Eberle has exhibited throughout the United States and Europe. And it’s not surprising that his mastery has also won him accolades and a following in Japan, Korea, and China. While it’s an honor to win the respect of his art-world peers or kudos from exhibition jurors, “it is equally rewarding to meet and speak with people who feel a connection to one of my paintings.”

As a studio painter, Eberle is often alone, so the COVID pandemic has had little effect on his day-to-day activities. But he has missed connecting to the public and other artists at exhibitions and openings. The Fellowship “means a great deal to me. It’s an honor that gives me positive energy to expand my current practice and open the door to new opportunities.”

Artist website: howardeberle.com

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