Born in Brooklyn, New York, Victor Stabin became an artist in narrative painting, an interest and talent he pursued from his teenage years while
studying at the Art Students League in New York, the High School of Art and Design, the Art Center College of Design and the School of Visual
Arts. His work is inspired by many facets of his own life including his family, an interest in the connection between man and nature, water and the
water’s edge, doodling, 20th Century Surrealists, the 19th Century Japanese watercolor print artists, the Advertising Art, Graphic Arts and
Modern Art of the 20th Century, the spirit of the Italian Renaissance, and the fragility of life.
A few years after leaving the School of Visual Arts, Victor was hired by Marshall Arisman to teach ‘Conceptual Thinking for Illustrators’ at the
school. Shortly thereafter, his illustrations began appearing in publications like Time, Newsweek, and Rolling Stone. His credits also include
nine postage stamps commissioned by the US Postal service, a mural for RCA/BMG’s headquarters, the cover of the KISS album,
“Unmasked”, most recently he has had four pieces installed at radio station WNYC and his ABC Book Daedal Doodle is on sale at the
Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Despite the consistency in his achievements, in 1999, Victor was forced to slow down and refocus both his personal life and his artistic
creations when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. His life expectancy was only 50%, with two years of intensive chemotherapy
to follow. Though he lives cancer free today, the reminder of life’s frailties has only stood to sharpen and refine the talent and priorities that
began in childhood.
The Stabin Morykin Building
In 2003, Victor moved, to the small northeastern Pennsylvania hamlet of Jim Thorpe, where he and his wife, Joan Morykin, purchased a 200-
year-old/15,000 square foot building that had housed everything from a wire mill to a toy factory. It was in serious disrepair at the time of
purchase, but over the next four years, Victor and Joan, would convert the abandoned building into a thriving art factory.
In addition to being Victor’s studio, the Stabin Morykin Building, (formerly called the Carbon County Cultural Project) is an artistic and creative
hub that houses The Victor Stabin Gallery (where Victor’s original paintings are on display in the main room), the Dynasty and Arisman Galleries
(which contain the work of his children and students), Flow Restaurant, and The Thing Shop. In addition, there is a weekend rental loft and a
large studio space designed as a visiting artists’ workshop. The Stabin Morykin Building, first a vision of Joan’s, was designed to bring a
variety of cultural disciplines such as art, music, and theatre the greater Carbon County area.
Stabin Morykin Building Images
Home to Jim Thorpe and the Turtle Series
After moving to Jim Thorpe, Victor decided to remove himself from the constraints of illustration, and he began dedicating his time to painting.
His thematic decision was largely guided by two paintings: Le Joueur Secret, an oil painting by Rene’ Margritte, in which a leatherback turtle is
portrayed floating above a cricket match. The other painting is a poster by Marshal Arisman, a former teacher of Victor’s. It depicts another turtle
floating past a man’s head, which is surrounded by a bright yellow aura.
With these two works in mind, Victor was inspired to create The Turtle Series, a suite of oil paintings, using turtles as autobiographical
allegories. As the series unfolded, he discovered a connection to the natural world and found he had a taste for visual storytelling.
The Turtle Series Book is a collection of the paintings, coupled with short essays on preservation and conservation. It is currently in production
and Victor is committed to donating a portion of the proceeds from this book to select conservation groups.
Turtle Series Images
One afternoon, Victor taught his two year old daughter to repeat the phrase, “My daddy is a megalomaniac,” which enlightened him to the
obvious fact that children are capable of using advanced words. They often simply lack the encouragement from adults to do so.
After reading various ABC books to his daughters, Skyler and Arielle, Victor became disappointed in the lack of substantive literature offered to
children of their age. He decided to create his own.
Fueled by the love he felt for his children, drawing, and the dictionary, Victor began combing through the pages of the Oxford English, Merriam
Webster, and Chambers Concise in search of alliterative couplets that would work well with illustrative narratives. The result is a whimsical revue
of 26 characters known as Daedal Doodle.
The book was released in 2011 and was immediately well-received, winning noteworthy praise and awards for its design. Leonard Lopate of
WNYC radio deemed the book “A visual stunner with thoughtful definitions” and Wharton Professor, Jeremy Siegel, stated, “Looking at the book
reminds me of the first time I saw the work of M.C. Escher.” Editor-in-Chief of MacMillan Dictionary wrote a piece on Daedal Doodle entitled,
“An Alliterative ABC,” in which he describes the book as an assemblage of “bizarre alliterations accompanied by surreal illustrations.”
Victor has also created a series of short stories, “Unauthorized NPR Cautionary Tales”, based on the characters in Daedal Doodle and their
unique interactions with the radio. The work has garnered the attention of other talented writers who have written their own cautionary tales for
the series. The collection will soon go to print and includes contributions from conservationist Carl Safina, author Tad Crawford, and WNYC
archivist Andy Lanset.
The Accidental Curriculum
In 2011, Victor was invited by the Allentown Art Museum to begin a teaching residency. He gave a presentation to a large group of local
students, after which, the students chose to take a course with Victor in the next semester.
Though still unsure of what curriculum he might use, he introduced a broad sampling of his work to the group, and waited to see how many
students would become part of his class. Twenty-six students enrolled, and Victor decided to have the class create their own ABC book, one
letter per student.
The lesson plan included his own creative process for Daedal Doodle. Each student was assigned a letter and the accompanying section of the
dictionary. The goal was to use unfamiliar words to create alliterations that loaned themselves to illustrations.
The students quickly embraced the idea, and by the end of the 10 week course, they had created their own ABC book published under the title,
Daedal Doodle 2.0. The Art Museum then turned the results into an exhibit that featured both Victor’s and the class’ original illustrations from
their respective books.
Shortly after his work with the Allentown Art Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art commissioned Victor to teach his process to young
people in a program called “ARText: Linking Line and Language”. Victor has also been awarded several grants from the National endowment
for the Arts, which has allowed him to continue his Daedal Doodle curriculum.
Victor begins his next residency at The High School of Art and Design, where he was also once a student. There, he will teach his unique
creative process for two semesters with the expectation that students’ work will culminate in the publication of their ABC book.
The oncologist informed me I had a tumor sitting next to my heart the size of an orange. She said that I had a 50% chance of survival. I was 44
One difference between fine art and illustration is that an illustration assignment begins with a phone call. I no longer had the luxury of time or the
desire to wait for that call to get illustration assignments. I wanted to create a personal series of paintings and this was my time.
Chemotherapy primarily works by poisoning fast growing cancer cells and in doing so it wreaks havoc all over the body. One of my negative
symptoms was a kind of anemia that reduced the oxygen to my brain. While the chemo brings you down you’re given steroids to get you up. The
result is a steroid/chemo haze generally called “chemo brain.” In my haze I wrote on my guitar, or should I say, repeatedly slammed out “Three
Chords That I Like.”
Needless to say the song had three chords, only five words, and I sang it loudly. It was horrifying, but this song was the first step to figuring out
my painting series.
What to Paint?
I gave myself an assignment: Use three elements that would appear in each painting, to hold a series together.
1. I spent about ten summers on Fire Island New York – one side of the island sand bar, the Atlantic Ocean, on the other side the Great South
Bay of Long Island. The moonlit bay was as magical a place as I have ever been. My favorite element was the soft edge created by the grass
where the water meets the land.
2. The ellipse was my favorite shape. Elliptical orbits define the shape of the universe plus I had had a long standing secret love affair with a very
special set of drawing tools – my elliptical tracing guides.
3. Last but not least, Turtles. For some reason I had always loved looking at other painters’ paintings with turtles.
Why Turtles? Part A
1. Until this point in my life, I had primarily lived in New York City and did not have much contact with nature or the wild. When I was 26 years old I
visited friends in the Caribbean. My island friend Ray said, “Man, if you can catch a turtle you will get a ride, man”. While snorkeling I
encountered a sea turtle and tried to catch “her.” She allowed me to get as close as a couple of inches away, but never touch. We swam
together for half an hour, and then she rapidly vanished off into a distant depth. Alone, I found myself awed by her playful intelligence, humbled by
her dominance of the environment, hypnotized by her graceful moves, dazzled by her beauty and stunned by my ignorance.
2. Years later I saw a painting by Renee Magritte, Le Jouer Secret (1927), where in his seminal surrealist way he portrayed a leatherback turtle
floating above a cricket match.
3. Soon after seeing the Magritte painting, I was walking past the Barnes and Noble Bookstore on Astor Place, NYC when I spotted a poster by
Marshall Arisman, my art college teacher. It was a stunning image of a man’s head exploding into a bright yellow aura as a turtle floated past
him. This was the tipping point. I could not help seeing the connection between these two paintings and what I was to start creating myself.
After two years of chemo I was declared cured. It had been a rough two years with nightmare struggles. But the struggles weren’t over—my first
wife left me soon after my final treatments. Though my life had been given back to me, it was going to be different.
I was alone for five whole days and then I met Joan. Four months passed and I asked her to marry me. A month after my engagement to Joan
she told me she wasn’t suffering jet lag from a London business trip, but that we were going to have a baby. This is a surprise. I was told my
course of chemo was so intense it would leave me sterile for ten years. Life was moving on—fast.
I continued to do the work on the “Turtle Series”. As it progressed, I could see autobiographical allegories emerge. I started to wonder why I was
so comfortable painting these creatures and having them tell my stories. I start to search for reasons why this series was so easy to connect with.
Why Turtles? Part B- Still Searching
A turtle was my first pet-like animal. In the 1950’s almost every kid had one until the second week, when it died. Intellectually this just did not
seem like enough history to hinge all this work on.
Though I like the tension/juxtaposition created by using what I consider to be a borderline pet as a warm and fuzzy affectionate symbol, I
eventually discovered the book “Biophilia Hypothesis” by E.O. Wilson. Very simply put, humans have coexisted closely with animals until as
recently as 200 years ago pre-industrial revolution.
We evolved as creatures deeply enmeshed with the intricacies of nature, and still have this affinity with nature ingrained in our genotype today.
Wilson supported his theory with scientific accounts of human and other species interrelations that read more like fables than reality. The more I
read the more I saw the connection to the work I am doing. To date this is the easiest and most personal connection I have had with my work. It
seems only natural to paint my family in the context of this beautiful mythically iconic creature. Life span aside, I feel these paintings give me an
immortality that my children will pass onto their children. These pictures are my stories. The more of this work I do the longer I live.
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|KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE BALL
|It started out as a logo, J.T. FRINGE. The Stabino Fringe font was originally made for an Arts Festival in Jim
Thorpe, PA. It was so well received, I spent the next year and a half creating the rest of the alphabet. The type
face has never been licensed commercially and can only be purchased through VictorStabin.com or the
Victor Stabin Gallery in Jim Thorpe.