SPOTSWOOD, NJ – Borough resident, Brian Romeo can’t remember a time growing up when art was not a constant presence in his childhood Edison home. His art education began at an early age since his mom was an art teacher. Today, the Woodrow Wilson Middle School educator has come full circle.
“It was always around,” Romeo explained in a recent interview. “I grew up in an art household. I don’t really remember loving drawing until middle school. I was drawing video game characters and comic book characters. I felt like I was good at it. That’s when I really got the bug.”
Just like his mother, Romeo found his way into art education though he began his undergraduate work as an architectural major at the University of Maryland before finding his true calling as a teacher.
“I teach art,” Romeo explained in a recent interview in the Spotswood home he shares with his wife and two sons. “But I wasn’t really creating anything for myself for the longest time.”
However, that all changed two Christmases ago when his wife, Marlena gave him a sketchbook and some watercolors as a holiday gift. Romeo’s creative juices began flowing again when he drew the family’s Christmas card. Afterwards, he started sketching celebrities and then moved into still life drawings and paintings as well as landscapes. His current project is a series of three oil paintings that feature ocean scenes. Each was inspired by a family vacation or outing.
On August 19, the Romeo family will be making a trip out to the Mills Pond House Gallery in Saint James, New York for the opening of the Colors of the Night Exhibit. This special Long Island event will feature two of Romeo’s works along with the creations of more than 30 other artists from around the United States.
Both of Romeo’s contributions are landscapes. One showcases a New Orleans street at sunset, which was inspired during a tenth anniversary trip to the Big Easy last summer with his wife, a fellow teacher in the Edison School District. The other work, an oil painting, found its roots in Spotswood. It is a painting of the Spotswood Reformed Church on Main Street.
“I pulled through the Dunkin Donuts drive thru and there it was,” Romeo said of the catalyst for the church painting. “It was the perfect type of night. There was a spotlight on it. I stopped and took like 20 pictures.”
Romeo submitted both pieces earlier this summer when he saw an open call for all types of nocturnal art.
The works that will be hung in the August Colors of the Night Exhibit are the second of Romeo’s creations to be highlighted in a gallery. A still life charcoal drawing of his older son, Gavin’s hand holding the game ball from a baseball game, is hanging in the Village West Gallery in Jersey City. The drawing is one of a series of four that features the hand of each family member holding an object that represents each of the four seasons. Framed versions hang on the wall of the Romeo’s dining room, which also doubles as the middle school teacher’s studio.
Later this month a sketch of a shark marionette will be included in an anthology of art from Out of Step Books titled “Under the Sea.” His inclusion in this book is extra special for Romeo since it also includes works from other artists he admires.
“It was an open call for this theme,” Romeo said of the “Under the Sea” book. “There are a lot of artists that I follow that I will be in the book with, so it’s really cool.”
Down the road, Romeo would like to branch out into having a website devoted to his artistic endeavors. For now, he’s concentrating on building his library. He also has an Instagram account that documents the progression of his works from the beginning stages to their completion.
Just like Romeo’s mother’s passion for art influenced him as an artist and an educator, both of his son’s have displayed an avid interest in drawing since their father actively began creating over the past two years. His youngest son, Chase drew his own hand series when Romeo was hard at work on his and nine-year-old, Gavin has taken to sketching athletes since he is an avid sports fan.
“Our house was filled with art,” Romeo said. “I don’t remember a time when there wasn’t something art related lying around.”
The Mills Pond House Gallery’s Colors of the Night Exhibit opens on Sunday, August 19 with a reception from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. Romeo’s works will be on display at the gallery through September 30.
To view more of his creations, visit Romeo's Instragram page.