By Jessica Tuggle
SEBASTIAN -- "I don't consider myself an artist yet."
With completed paintings hanging in many of the rooms in his house, including one with a blue ribbon pinned by it, it's hard to believe Peter Montalbano of Sebastian isn't an artist with excellent skills and detail.
Mr. Montalbano is a self-taught painter with a background in architecture and interior design. Although he has been sketching for many years and often created design renderings for work, painting is a medium he has explored seriously only in the past couple of years.
He often goes to art events in town and in Vero Beach, but it was at the prodding of his family that he entered a juried art show at Darby Fine Arts in Vero Beach last December. Much to his surprise, he won first place for best painting.
His entry, "December Night," evokes the cold and dark evenings up north in New Jersey, where he was raised.
"I tried to give the feeling that you are walking up the road toward the house in this one," Mr. Montalbano said.
The colors in Mr. Montalbano's paintings are not very bright and do not scream for attention. Rather, they are substantial in their visual impact, but muted in an overall feel.
"I don't do a lot of typical Florida landscape with the bright greens, the palm trees and the birds. My work is a little more subdued," he said.
He takes his cues from his favorite painter, Andrew Wyeth, and has gone to the Vero Beach Museum of Art to see some of Mr. Wyeth's paintings on display.
The majority of the time Mr. Montalbano paints with acrylic paints on watercolor paper, but he modifies the acrylics by "washing" them out with some water, instead of using the paint straight from the tube.
"I don't know the rules, so I don't really follow them. All I need is some paint, a brush and a piece of paper and that's the way I like it," he said. "Painting is just relaxing. I can just go into the studio and close the door and paint or sketch, and sometimes it turns into a real painting, and sometimes it doesn't."
His attention to detail and skills at correctly composing a scene in perspective is certainly evident in his paintings, but they are also evident in another passion of his, building model boats.
Mr. Montalbano has had a fascination with boats and ships for many years and has built more than six different ships to scale using only a set of plans.
The boats can take anywhere from six months to a year to complete, but that is because he never works on them exclusively.
"With the boats, you do have to walk away from them sometimes, just like the paintings," Mr. Montalbano said.
A painting can go several weeks just sitting on his worktable, unsigned, while he waits for inspiration to strike so he can know exactly what the painting is missing.
"The other day I finally finished a painting, and all it needed was a few little birds," he said.