ABINGTON, Pa. — Orest Luzeckyj spends his Fridays in a sunny room in the Rydal Building at Penn State Abington creating meticulously detailed woodblock prints of creatures conjured from his imagination. Last spring, his first course toward a minor in art ignited a consuming interest in printmaking that has temporarily supplanted drawing and painting as his primary art practice.
“I've always drawn these characters, but now I was able to reproduce them multiple times and play around with the color and composition. It came so naturally to me, and it opened a whole new world,” the sophomore said.
He explained that Bonnie Levinthal, the professor of art who taught the course, loved his first effort.
“Bonnie was so encouraging. She gives her students very few limitations, and she wants us to explore. Bonnie must see something in me, and it motivates me to see her confidence in me,” Luzeckyj said.
Levinthal calls his work extraordinary and said his output in the last six months outpaces that of any other student she has taught over the years.
“He’s so unassuming, and he is industrious, very self-directed, innovative, and highly creative. His work is so unique, and it reminds me of Maurice Sendak. The detail is incredible,” she said.
When the course ended last spring, Luzeckyj asked Levinthal about the types of wood and ink she would recommend for printmaking.
"I sent him information and midway through summer he showed me these incredible prints. I told him he needed to continue this work through an independent study,” she said.
Luzeckyj has a small supply of wood left — he favors Japanese maple, which “cuts like butter.” He is wrapping up his work with woodblock printing for now. He wants to focus on large-scale drawings and paintings, especially after finding that printmaking has refined his skills.
“Printmaking has given me discipline and problem-solving skills. Every block that I make, there are a hundred drawings that I do before to perfect the images. Painting and drawing are more like improv, but woodblock requires a level of discipline. It’s planned out,” he said.
The mythical creatures that populate Luzeckyj's artwork have been a staple since childhood.
“I’ve always liked drawing monsters. I built my skills by drawing mostly from my imagination. I was inspired by a TV show called 'Aaahh!!! Real Monsters’ and by Maurice Sendak’s ‘Where the Wild Things Are,’” he said.
Luzeckyj’s Ukrainian heritage also plays a role in his art. He plans on creating a series of woodblock prints featuring Ukrainian soldiers past and present with the proceeds benefitting the war-torn country.
“My parents have collected prints for years by Jacques Hnyzdovski, a Ukrainian woodblock artist. There are similarities to my work just because I grew up surrounded by them,” he said.
While he finishes his independent study of printmaking this semester, Luzeckyj is contemplating his options for the future.
“I’m confident that I’ll keep creating, even after I earn my business degree. I might work and spend my free time creating art or go full time with art. I can apply my art to my business degree and vice versa,” he said.
About Penn State Abington
Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st-century public higher education within a world-class research university. With more than 3,100 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 25 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer Honors College, NCAA Division III athletics and more.