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 Roy Blankenship  (1943 - )

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Lived/Active: Delaware/Massachusetts      Known for: landscape and portrait painting, combat artist, photographs

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Ad Code: 3
Roy Blankenship Azaleas In Bloom
Azaleas In Bloom
oil on canvas 16 x 20

Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following, submitted March 2006, is from the artist.

Roy Blankeship was born in Philadelphia, Nov. 26, 1943, grew up and was raised by his divorced mother Alberta Insley Blankenship (Speck) 1922 - 1996, and maternal grandparents Florence Insley Speck (1884 - 1979) and Dr. Frank G. Speck (1881 -1950) at their winter home in Swarthmore, PA (103 Cornell Ave.) and summer cottage #51, Riverview, Gloucester, MA in summers.

Dr. Speck was one of the foremost authorities on the American Indian, wrote 400 books and articles on the American Indian and natural history topics.  He wrote poetry, played the mandolin and harmonica, and painted dozens of primitive 2-dimensional landscapes and seascapes on small panels.  Dr. Speck died in February 1950 when Roy was six years old, but he had had a profound effect upon the young boy in his formative years teaching him ways to mentally record by listening and how to absorb the feelings of touch by taste and smell. 

According to his mother Roy was a prolific scribbler with crayons on paper, walls, and furniture before he could walk. According to grandmother Speck his first spoken words "car door" were uttered with crayons in one hand and a scratch pad in the other.

At age nine through thirteen (1952 - 1956) he joined in summer painting and drawing classes with his grandmother Speck at the Gloucester in-home studio of Alice Beach Winter (b.1877 - d.1970).  At age twelve and thirteen Roy was dubbed  Emile Gruppe's (1896 - 1978) "studio urchin" by Emile's wife Dottie for hanging around Emile's studio so often. Roy often tired of indoor studio time with the ladies work shop and was excused to retreat down the road  to artist Arthur Safford's (1901 - 1992) home and studio or to Gruppe's Rocky Neck Studio. Alice Winter and grandmother Speck were friends of many local artists including the Safford's and Gruppe's.
Roy's summers in Gloucester were spent with fishing rod, Kodak box camera, and sketching pad while rowing up and down the Annisquam River in his beloved "Sea Pup" or hiking alone in the North Shore woods from Magnolia to Wingersheek Beach. He would spend all day observing nature, collecting and drawing insects, snakes, and turtles.

He spent hours observing and befriending the fishermen at work on docks and boats in Gloucester Harbor, ran bike errands and caulked boats for Herb Montgomery's boatyard crew on the Annisquam River.  He explored and dug up artifacts from the foundations of old abandoned homes on Dog Town Common. Roy's most popular stomping ground was Sunset Rock on Poles Hill where he could sit for hours observing 360 degree distant views of Gloucester harbor, Annisquam River, Wolf Hill, Rust and  Merchants Islands, Wheelers Point, and Ipswich Bay. 

When he tired of exploring, collecting, or drawing he would often nap between the crevasses of the big rocks.  Many of his early black and white photographs, colored pencil, crayon, and charcoal sketches made before 1958 from summers in Gloucester, trips to Washington, DC, and New York City have survived.

Roy grew up in two family owned museum households loaded with Mission and Arts and Crafts furniture, all sorts of rare American Indian artifacts collected from American Indians by his grandfather Dr. Frank Speck, and romantic landscape and marine paintings covering the walls painted by his great grandfather and Hudson River Valley artist Albert Babb Insley (1842 - 1937).

In the summer, 1959, at age sixteen Roy painted still life subjects at the Gloucester studios of Arthur Safford, landscapes with palette knife with Ken Gore (1911 - 1991), and seascapes with neighbor and artist Roger Curtis (1910 - 2000) in his basement and at Curtis Cove.  He became great friends plein-air painting with Wayne Morrell (b. 1923 ) including in the back yard of "Twin Acre Farm" home of Roy's uncle Reiny Speck , Rockport, MA. 

By the Fall of 1959 Roy was exhibiting photographs and watercolors in College Hall meeting room, Swarthmore College (PA) of local Swarthmore scenes. Roy's mother was instrumental in having this small exhibit travel to Rose Valley School (PA), the Media Friends School (PA), where she taught school, and the Swarthmore Public Library.  His work was represented and sold by the Edith Jewett Gift Shop in Swarthmore. 

By summer of 1960 while working at the Seaward Inn, Rockport, MA, Roy accepted an invitation from Dr. Speck's old friend and colleague Ernest Dodge, Director of the Peabody Museum (now the Peabody-Essex), Salem, MA to exhibit twelve of his black and white photographs depicting the neighborhood around Swarthmore, PA titled Off Yale Avenue.  In 1961, during his second summer working at the Seaward Inn Roy gave demonstrations of his painting techniques to guests depicting the beautiful rock gardens he had created on the grounds of the Inn.  The Seaward Inn owner's Roger and Anne Cameron sponsored an exhibition of Roy's interpretive watercolors of Cape Ann at the Ipswich  Community Arts Center (MA) in August of 1961. The same summer Roy's Annisquam River photographs were shown at the Annisquam Library and Community Center where a few were auctioned off at the Annual Annisquam Fair.

Upon graduating from Brandywine High School, Wilmington, DE, in 1962, Roy enlisted in the US Navy becoming a Radioman and Cameraman. While stationed
at FOCCPAC, Hawaii, (1963 - '64) he worked off duty hours at Bishop Museum, Honolulu, observing project restorations and cleaning the conservation laboratory.  Also, on off duty weekends, Roy flew with military personell to the islands of Kaui, Maui, to plein air paint and photograph the islands.

From 1965 through August 1966 Roy served as Radioman and Cameraman first on USS Catamount (LSD-17) and later the USS Fort Marion (LSD-22). He founded "The Forts Flapper" a newsy and humorous newspaper to lift shipboard moral on two tours of duty to Vietnam and received the Commanding Officers Commendation Award.  He compiled portfolios of his drawings, photographs, and 8mm movies of Pacific Naval operations and shipboard life off the coast of Vietnam for CINCPAC, and took photo's of  coastal life in different regions of the Pacific Ocean.

After being honorably discharged in August 1966, Roy spent autumn in New England plein air painting in Vermont and New Hampshire and on Cape Ann with artists Emile Gruppe, Otis Pierce Cook (1900 - 1980), Walter Bollendonk (1897 - 1978), and Marian Williams Steele (b. 1916).  He joined the artist memberships in the Delaware Society of Artists, Wilmington, DE, The Chester County Art Association, West Chester, PA, and Newburyport Art Association, Newburyport, MA.

In spring of 1967 while Roy was plein air painting on The Arden Green, in Arden, DE, he was interrupted, joined, and immediately befriended by Gorden Salter, an Arden resident, artist, professional conservator of furniture and paintings, and world renowned wood scientist at the Winterthur Museum, Wilmington, DE.  This chance encounter led Roy to become a professional conservator of paintings after an intense apprenticeship under the tutelage of the Winterthur Museum Conservation staff of Salter, Jayne, Ann Clapp, and John Melody.

Roy enrolled at University of Delaware summer of 1968 receiving a BAAS degree in 1973 the same year he was 'grandfathered' as a FELLOW into the professional ranks of the American Institute of Conservators (AIC) from the International Conservator Group (IIC).  To pay his own way through college he taught art classes at the Ursuline Academy, Wilmington, DE, was a part time instructor in the Art History Department, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, a full time sales and advertising manager and layout designer for Deme Publications, Marshallton, DE, and a weekend sales associate with Bert and Charolette Rowland, Rowland Antiques, Buckingham, PA.

Roy's art instructors at University of Delaware included: Victor Spinski (ceramics), Gus Sermas and Charles Rowe (figure drawing), Mike Miller (printmaking), and Julio DaCunha (painting).  He returned to his alma mater Brandywine High in 1972 for his teaching internship with John Modica.

In 1972 Roy was juried into the professional artist membership of the North Shore Arts Association (NSAA), Gloucester, MA where he still exhibits annually. He was hired as the Curator and Exhibition Coordinator for the Morris Library, University of Delaware, DE (1972 - '75) and as the Chief Conservator of Government
Paintings, Boggs Federal Building, Wilmington, DE (1973  -  2005).

In 1969 Roy assisted his friend Ted Segal, painting conservator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, on painting conservation projects unrelated to the museums collections.

In 1972 he was Painting Conservator -in- Residence at the Carspecken-Scott Gallery, Wilmington, DE, and the next year he designed and built his own state-of-the-art painting conservation studio in north Wilmington at 1603 Veale Road, Westwood Manor.

Roy's monogram, a designed scroll, palette, and brushes, was selected in a contest to permanently represent the Professional Conservators of the Paintings Group in the AIC.  In 1975 Roy was in the graduate program at the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia painting cityscapes with instructor David G. Pease. In 1976 he had a Bicentennial  Exhibition and sale of his paintings in the Main Hall, Concord Pike Library, Wilmington,  DE.
Roy wrote a column for the Gannett Papers titled COLLECTING, which was published weekly from 1975 to 1977.  By the late 1970's and early 1980's Roy's Chesapeake Bay paintings were being exhibited and sold.
In her essay written for Roy's 1981 one man Essex, CT, show brochure, art critique Ruth Kaplan writes: "Creating a painting that communicates is no small task. Authenticity is all to rare today, when media hype and hyperbole in general seem to be the coin of the realm. Roy Blankenship is totally sure of his craft, philosophies, and abilities. When he is building a painting, every brushstroke brings his work closer to capturing the mood and essence of a scene. He paints the sea and surf on location, where he can scrutinize the waves breaking and rolling, the peculiar cloud formations that day, the sandy or rocky beach. Experiencing the surf's sound and the smell of salt spray is not merely a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, it is part of his craft and in the final analysis, the authenticity of his paintings".     
In December 2000, Roy had a one-man exhibit of thirty-nine paintings in Chadds Ford, PA . He juried into the professional membership of the Delaware  Foundation for the Visual Arts (DFVA) in 2001 and became a Board Member in 2004.

In her major article in the Chester County Town and Country Living Magazine (summer 2001) on Roy Blankenship, art critique Cathy Viksjo is quoted: "Roy Blankenship is a classic example of the learned artist in the truest sense of the Renaissance tradition - one that stressed humanistic disciplines as well as refined and graceful paintings. In his elegant art, the virtues of combining talent, intelligence, sensitivity, technique and sound academics are readily apparent even to the most casual observer. There is a tonal refinement of color and a subtlety of mood in his artworks."

A few of the dozen  awards Roy has won over the years include:

Second-In-Show for graphite drawing, Boat-Haven, DaNang, Vietnam, Balboa Park Center, San Diego, CA., 1966;

Award of Excellence for ceramic sculpture, Gadfly, Delaware Art Museum,
Wilmington DE., 1970;

New Member Award for an oil painting, Pebble Beach, North Shore Arts Association, Gloucester, MA., 1972;

First Place Award for black and white photography, Eastern Point Lighthouse, Gloucester, MA., 20th Annual Hercules Invitational Art Exhibit, Wilmington, DE., 1977;

First Place Award for oil painting, Summer Moods, Sussex County Farm, DE., 21st Annual Hercules Invitational Art Exhibit, Wilmington, DE., 1978; and

Honorable Mention Excellence Award for water media, Playing the 9th Hole, Chester County Art Association, West Chester, PA., 2002.
Delaware Art Museum (DE), Peabody-Essex Museum (MA), Swarthmore College (DE), Ipswich Historical Society (MA), Ursuline Academy (DE), Delaware Trust Bank (DE), Farmer's Bank (DE), Wilmington Trust Bank (DE), University Museum, University of Pennsylvania (PA); University of Delaware (DE), DuPont Collection (DE), Hercules Powder (DE), Atlas Powder Company (ICI America, Astra-Zeneca) DE, US Navy (San Diego, CA, and Wash., DC), the Julliard School (NY),  the Bishop Museum, Hawaii, the James Michener Foundation, Auston, TX., Mrs. David Craven Foundation, Mrs. Sophie DuPont May, Mr. and Mrs. Bayard Sharp, Mrs. Nancy Richardson, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Worth, among many others.

Artists USA (Vol.1. 1970-'71), (Vol.11,  1972-'73); "Roy Blankenship - A Man For All Arts" by Laura Healy Sutherland, Delaware Today Magazine, January 1971; Biographies of American Artists, 1974; Who's Who In American Art, 1973-'74; Who's Who In The East, 1973-'74;  US Art Magazine,  May-June 1989; The Virginian Magazine, Sept. - Oct. 1989;  Who Was Who in American Art, 1999; Area Painter With An Unusual Background"  by Catherine Quillman, The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 17th, 2000; ROY BLANKENSHIP (featured artist with color illustration), Chester County Town and Country Living Magazine, Summer 2001; Who's Who in America, 2003 - '06;  and Who's Who in the World, 2004 - '06.       
Roy has two children: Troy (b. 1980) and Beth (b. 1987) from a previous marriage. He married professional artist Lois Showalter on April 1st, 2000 and they exhibit their art work together in two man and group shows around the country.
Personal artist statement by Roy Blankenship:

Although I have painted with a number of professional and established artists over the years I still consider myself a self taught painter.  I have always been in the search for the mental as well as the material tools he needs to make his art 'believable'. It is more important for me to keep experimenting with new and challenging techniques in my work than it is for me to establish a set style and
palette of colors.  I do have a creative 'old soul' approach to a peaceful timelessness in my landscapes and marine subjects with a hint of story telling and an attempt to convey hopefulness.  I try to blend my creative thinking with the marriage of my materials.  At times I withdraw my concentration in order to encourage happy accidents but I have a foundational discipline of balance that I am always struggling to alter.

The truth lying within my creative purpose helps inspire a desire to work problems out whether it be a difficult conservation project or in creating a work of art. I am very self disciplined and demanding of myself.  Painting for me is necessary release from the intense patience of my profession as a conservator of paintings.  I've always been creatively energized by listening to the upbeat rhythm of music, the smell of coffee, or by the enlightenment of the broken color brush work of the American and French impressionists. It is as important that I paint for myself as it  is to leave a little bit of who I am behind".

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