Many young children are fascinated by dinosaurs, and David Hornung was no exception. At age 4, he was captivated by the dinosaur sequence set to Igor Stavinsky’s The Rite of Spring in Disney’s Fantasia.
“That triggered an obsession with drawing dinosaurs on clifftops under lightening streaked Crayola skies – all the essentials of good painting,” Hornung said. “By first grade, I declared that I wanted to be an artist and, except for a brief detour when I flirted with the fantasy of becoming a professional baseball player, I have never wanted to be anything else.”
It was an unusual career choice. Hornung grew up in a blue-collar family near the hamlet of Chadd’s Ford, PA, home of famous American painter Andrew Wyeth. “Art was not part of our life,” he said. “There were never books in our house, and conversation seldom strayed beyond the discussion of labor unions and sports.”
Hornung was the first person in his family to attend college, where he discovered the world of art, books, and intense conversations about creative matters. His mentors at the University of Delaware, painting professor Gus Sermas and art historian John Stephen Crawford, instilled in Hornung an artistic flame that still burns, 50 years later.
From ages 20 to 32, Hornung created abstract paintings exclusively, although he was beginning to wonder if abstract art could communicate to people without an arts education. After completing his masters in fine arts, he met Beth Gutcheon and learned about the burgeoning contemporary art quilt movement.
He was hooked. Hornung thought quilts would be the perfect way to bring the language of abstraction to a broader audience. “I believed that quilts, redolent of their history of domestic utility, would be less intimidating for the average viewer than paintings,” he said. “Over the course of five years starting in 1979, I made 19 quilts, machine piecing and hand appliqueing the tops and sending them out to have them quilted.”
But he stopped quilting and returned to his first love, painting, for a very simple reason: “I hate to sew.” Currently, he makes gouache paintings on handmade paper, oil paintings on panel, and cyanotype collages.
Another important aspect of Hornung’s creative endeavors is teaching. He has taught painters, graphic designers, textile designers, and illustrators at art schools, colleges, and workshops since 1976. “It’s very rewarding when students are engaged in the learning process and open to experimentation no matter what level or age,” he said.
He has a particular interest in teaching the fundamental issues of design, color, or drawing. “Professional singers and musicians never stop practicing the rudiments of their craft, and I think the same should be true of visual artists,” Hornung said. “The elemental principles are both fascinating and liberating.”
That’s the message he hopes to bring to students taking his five-day class at Quilting by the Lake 2019, Elements of Design & Composition.
“My workshops are laboratories in which I try to coax students to forget making art and investigate formal relationships,” Hornung said. “What they produce is often surprising. So much of the benefit comes from simply relaxing into experimentation. I hope they can take a bit of that attitude back into their studio practice.”
What: Quilting by the Lake, a two-week fiber arts conference run by the Schweinfurth Art Center
When: July 14-26, 2019
Where: Onondaga Community College campus in Syracuse, NY
Details: Fifteen different in-depth workshops taught by 10 renowned instructors from around the world. Also available is an option for an independent studio space to work on your own projects without an instructor.
Cost: Varies depending on number of days attending, classes enrolled in, and whether room and board are needed
More information and registration: quiltingbythelake.com
TOP: Detail from David Hornung's piece, Blue Spruce.
MIDDLE: David Hornung has taught at Quilting by the Lake previously.
BOTTOM: David Hornung's painting These Numbered Days.