C’ville artist publishes book of regional paintings
By Mike Danahey firstname.lastname@example.org June 10, 2012 9:36PM
Carpentersville artist Mort Luby
Updated: July 12, 2012 6:04AM
CARPENTERSVILLE — If you’ve ever been to one of Chicago’s famous attractions on a Saturday morning and seen an artist or two with easels set up, putting to canvas or paper what’s before them, there’s a good chance you were watching Carpentersville resident Mort Luby or one of his buddies at work.
Luby, 80, is a member of Plein Air Painters of Chicago, a group that meets once a week to use the city as inspiration for its collective art. The group’s name comes from the practice of painting outdoors.
And Luby is putting out a self-published collection that includes some of the paintings he has created over the years from such sessions and other work inspired by the Windy City.
“Chicago Brushstrokes,” his 104-page book filled with Chicago scenes, will be unveiled at a 6 p.m. reception July 6 at the Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Arts, 1012 N. Dearborn St. in the big city. The reception also is the kickoff for a 10-day exhibition and show of the 100-plus paintings in the book, which will be available for purchase.
The book includes expected subjects such as Wrigley Field and the Field Museum. In fact, the cover is a reproduction of one of Luby’s favorite pieces, Cloudgate — AKA the Bean in Millennium Park — one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions.
“I like how the warm and the cool of light plays off the sculpture and the juxtaposition of the curves of the bean with the right angles of the buildings,” Luby said.
Along with famous places, the book features neighborhood hangouts, including Southport Lanes, the only bowling alley in Chicago that still employs pinboys.
Bowling and billiards, after all, played a big part in Luby’s life.
“In 1913, my grandfather started the Bowlers Journal, and later my father started its press service,” Luby said.
Luby wound up working in the family business and as a freelance reporter for the Associated Press and United Press International, covering the two sports the world over, visiting 70 countries along the way and writing about such legends as Rudolf Wanderone, better known as pool player Minnesota Fats.
Through his writing and publishing about bowling, Luby was inducted into the Professional Bowlers Association and the United States Bowling Congress Halls of Fame — even though Luby says he doesn’t bowl.
Luby Publishing also has its offices right across Michigan Avenue from the Chicago Art Institute, which Luby said he would visit on his lunch breaks.
When he retired 18 years ago, he turned to his little-used easel, studying the craft, taking classes including at the Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Arts in downtown Chicago and joining the plein air club a decade ago.
“I’m a painting machine,” Luby said.
Luby also paints locally, with the old trestle bridge over the Fox River near OTTO Engineering in Carpentersville a haunt, as is downtown East Dundee. And his work hangs in the restaurant Villa Verone in downtown Elgin.
One of Luby’s favorite places to paint is Chinatown. With its bold red gateway and gaggle of visitors, Luby said that spot usually means he has an audience of 10 or more people watching him work.
“Most people are intrigued and complimentary,” Luby said. “Kids frequently come up and say, ‘That’s beautiful.’ ”
Well, there was the time a few years ago when a man on a bike pondered the paintings Luby and a friend were creating of a church on Chicago’s North Side.
“He told me it wasn’t very good. He was right. I was having an off day,” Luby said.
Luby said that with the pride Chicagoans have in their neighborhoods and attractions, there have been bidding wars right on the street for the work in progress. He also is marketing-savvy enough to pass out business cards and postcards of his art, the latter frequently handed out to children.
Luby and his wife Patricia winter in Maui, where he also paints, frequently as an artist in residence at one of the four galleries in Hawaii that sell his paintings of tropical landscapes. Unlike the Chicago work, which can be big and typically done in oils, Luby said his island paintings usually are watercolors and smaller, so people can fit them into their luggage.
“And for the last seven years or so, they’ve been selling 35 to 40 of my pieces a year,” Luby said.
Born on the South Side, Luby has lived in Old Town, in Rogers Park, on South Michigan Avenue, and in various other Chicago neighborhoods. And although he lives in the Fox Valley now, he points out in the introduction to the book that he’s still a “Chicago kind of guy.”
“Chicago Brushstrokes” will list at $19.95, and Luby hopes to have it available at bookstores all over the Chicago area. More information is available at web.mac.com/mortluby.