The local painter recalls that when a book report was assigned in grade school, he most looked forward to illustrating the cover.
At 64, Noreika is still passionate about creating, and for more than 40 years has managed to piece together a career as an artist, which is no easy task.
“It’s an interesting profession; I travel, I get invited to all these nooks and crannies to paint that I never would have investigated, I’ve won all kinds of prizes. Yeah, sometimes it’s tough, but the benefits outweigh it most of the time,” says Noreika, a Rocky Hill resident. “You hit a lot of walls and just dust yourself off and keep persevering. I’ll be doing this until I can’t hold a brush, I guess.”
Noreika has held many jobs in the creative field. He spent time in advertising as a graphic designer, and as an illustrator for newspapers, magazines, greeting cards and children’s books. He teaches and lectures, as well. Noreika’s main pursuit, however, is painting. The versatile artist works with oils and fluid acrylics, but watercolor is his “first love.”
“I think some artists draw with paint, and their work is a tighter style. But my stuff is more me. It’s just free-flowing and very gestural,” Noreika says. “You have to remember the brush is an extension of your personality.”
An outdoorsman, many of Noreika’s creations are, fittingly, nature scenes; wooded areas, coastlines. “I think because I’m a Pisces I’m really attracted to water,” the artist says. “I was always tromping through the swamps as a kid, catching frogs and turtles, fishing. Even now, I still like to do that. My children’s books are all nature-related. And my large paintings are turtles, frogs and fish."
Noreika’s pet project is an ongoing series he calls “Turtle-esque,” which are abstract renderings of aquatic life. “It’s very creative,” he points out. “I have artists who say ‘I can only paint what’s in front of me.’ Well, I disagree with that. I think you should push yourself.”
For Noreika, painting has a meditative quality to it. He recalls working on pieces outdoors in frigid temperatures and not minding the chill. “You’ll be painting and all of a sudden you'll forget about the cold, until you’re done. And you’re literally cold right to the core,” he says. “You’re in a zone. It’s like a Zen experience.”
Noreika’s art has garnered numerous awards and accolades, and his work is in the permanent collection of the New Britain Museum of American Art as well as in several corporate, private and international collections throughout the United States, Europe and Japan.
In 2015, Noreika was also inducted into the American Watercolor Society as a signature member. He estimates that only about 500 artists worldwide are signature members in the prestigious society. “I’m pretty happy with what I’ve achieved so far,” Noreika says.
Throughout his life, Noreika has benefitted from the positive reinforcement he received from older artists. In high school, his art teacher encouraged him to pursue his talent “even if it’s only for your own enjoyment,” he recalls.
Later, while attending Paier School of Art in Hamden, a teacher told Noreika he had a knack for watercolor painting. “That set the direction for me,” he says.
Also, Noreika’s family never attempted to steer him away from art and into a more traditional career. A married father of one, Noreika hopes budding artists these days are getting the same encouragement that he did. “Some of these kids aren’t into becoming mathematicians, accountants, or whatever,” Noreika says. “But for some reason, that’s the first thing they cut (in budgets). They cut the funding for non-profits and take away the art courses. That’s where certain kids are going to excel. Kids, if they’re talented, they should really be given a chance to blossom in that direction.”
To view more of Noreika’s work, please visit www.robertnoreika.com.