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A Bridgeville-based artist has won the 2021 Westmoreland Art Nationals Juried Fine Art & Photography Exhibition’s Best in Show award.
Steph Moraca’s oil painting, “Naples Sunset,” is currently on virtual display on the Westmoreland Arts & Heritage Festival Facebook page.
Moraca grew up in Presto and attended Chartiers Valley High School. She and her husband, Nate, have called Bridgeville home since 2013 — though Moraca’s interest in art goes back well before that.
“As a kid, I loved art and enjoyed drawing. At age 10, I took studio drawing classes outside of school to learn the basics of still life drawing,” she said. “I first began painting at age 12 using acrylics.”
Moraca credits two of her Chartiers Valley High School art teachers, Craig Pisaneschi and Mark Barzan, for guiding her and helping to develop her artistic style — realistic paintings of national parks and golf courses’ landscapes.
“She couldn’t resist doing artwork,” said Barzan, who has been with Chartiers Valley School District for 26 years. “We saw a lot of her in the art room. She was one of those students who we had always hoped would go on to some sort of career in art. It’s a pleasure to see what she’s doing right now. I remember her as a very talented student, and how we are setting her as a very talented, mature artist.”
Pisaneschi also remembered his former student and said he still has some of her works filed away.
“She was a force,” he said. “She was a very personable student — a standout on top of her artwork, which was amazing. She was so easy to work with.”
Moraca further honed her skills as a studio arts major at the University of Pittsburgh. She has been working as a professional artist for three years, creating original works that can be found online, at tradeshows and in golf shops, as well as doing live painting demonstrations and working on custom commissions.
“I grew up golfing with my parents, so golf has always been a part of my life. As an adult, I still get out to new golf courses a few times each year, and I take a ton of photos during my golf rounds to potentially turn into paintings when I return to my studio,” Moraca said. “Golf courses are beautiful subjects for painting. There is a variety of color variation in the greens of the fairway, rough, putting green, trees and other landscaping. Golf courses are typically well-maintained landscapes, and I find them incredibly beautiful.”
Finding inspiration in national parks came at an early age, as well. Moraca said she would travel around the country for gymnastics competitions, and those trips often turned into mini vacations with her family as they visited National Parks. She said she would collect Junior Ranger Badges from places such as the Grand Canyon, Cuyahoga Valley and the Everglades, to name a few.
“As an adult, I have a goal to visit every U.S. national park. So far, we have seen some amazing places — high plateaus in Colorado, slot canyons in Utah, the glacial carved valley of Yosemite, the green-covered forests and mountains of The Smokies. Our country’s topography and geology is so diverse, and it’s exciting to get to know some of these places on a personal level,” she said.
“One thing I really enjoy about painting golf courses and national parks is the connection I form with viewers as they look at my work and tell me a story about their experience at that place.”
Currently, Moraca is prepping for a solo exhibition this fall at The Spinning Plate Gallery in Friendship called “Paintings of Our Parks” while also helping future artists via the internet. She has a YouTube painting channel called Painting with Stoof (her maiden name), where she posts weekly art vlogs and tutorials to help budding artists with their skills and career development.
Katie Green is a Tribune-Review news editor. You can contact Katie at [email protected]