WALDWICK, N.J. — Painter Sal Caldarone of Hawthorne walks among the students in his Waldwick art studio, offering a word here and suggestion there.
On a Wednesday morning, Caterina Grambone of Hawthorne paints fierce orange persimmons into life on the canvas.
They are from a family garden, she says.
Next to her, an intent Irma Cummings of Park Ridge quietly recreates “Maternal Kiss,” an 1896 classic by Mary Cassatt.
This is their time.
And they spend it at C&S Studio on East Prospect Street in Waldwick , a haven for artists young and old since 1997.
“We all need some times for ourselves,” Caldarone said.
“With painting, they achieve something, too. At the end of the day, they have a sense of accomplishment.”
That makes painting rewarding for them, he said.
He can say the same for himself.
These days, Caldarone, who is 78, works on his own commissions – mostly portraits of people’s beloved family members, painted from photographs – on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.
“I have to paint,” he said, simply.
The rest of the days, he holds morning classes starting at 9:30.
He teaches techniques of composition and light and encourages budding artists to explore their emotions toward their subjects.
It’s all a dream come true for Caldarone, whose love for art blossomed during his boyhood in Montella, Italy.
“Till I was 15, I copied a lot of Leonardo’s work,” he said. “I loved Leonardo da Vinci.”
Starting at age eight, he made his own colors.
“My uncle owned a hardware store in my town,” Caldarone recalled. “He would give me colors and linseed oil and I would spend days mixing the colors.”
When he came to the U.S. in 1954, he developed a fondness for the fluidity of John Singer Sargent’s work and the realism of Thomas Eakins.
He started developing his own style in the 1960s, even as he was hired as an apprentice for the Hiemer Studio in Clifton. It made stained glass windows for churches nationwide.
“In the ’60s, a lot of churches were built,” Caldarone recalled.
Some of the windows he worked on can be seen today on many local houses of worship, including St. Paul’s in Ramsey, St. Paul’s in Prospect Park and St. Philip’s in Clifton.
Caldarone kept privately painting in the 30 years from 1967 through 1997 when he worked with his father and brother in the dry cleaning business.
Finally, with his two boys launched into their own lives, C&S Art Studio — the dream — emerged with the blessing of his wife.
C&S stands for Clara and Sal.
He acknowledges there are many fine art studios in Bergen County and always strives to distinguish his by the individual attention he gives his students.
On Wednesday, Diane Ventura of Allendale dabbed at a watery pastel landscape and smiled.
She held up the picture from which she was painting — a dreamy Rhode Island coastline scene.
As Caldarone walked among the easels, answering questions, the spell of each individual painter’s reverie seemed unbroken.
This is their time, and he understands that.
Because he has to paint, too.