Students collaborate on Huntoon book
By Dan Colton
Correspondent |

Anthony Edwards / Staff Photo

Virgil Van Guilder, right, and Austin Bach work on designing a book in collaboration with Vermont artist Peter Huntoon on Friday.

High school students at Stafford Technical Center in Rutland have been hard at work this semester, engaged in the layout design for a local professional painter’s new book of art, “A Day in Vermont.”Middletown Springs resident Peter Huntoon launched the project via the Internet in March 2013. He’d been painting professionally since 1996, but was looking for a change. So he quit his day job, and devoted himself to full-time painting.

“Since March 2013,” Huntoon says, “I did two paintings a week, Monday and Thursday, religiously, for this ‘Day in Vermont.’”

“A Day in Vermont” is an omnibus collection of 45 of Huntoon’s watercolor and oil Vermont landscape pieces for sale on his website. The site has thousands of subscribers, Huntoon says, who purchase his originals or reprints during auction.

The “A Day in Vermont” website launched in March 2013 and quickly attracted 700 subscribers. Huntoon reports that number has grown to 3,000 today. “I’ve sold virtually every painting, which is beyond my wildest expectations.”

While the website has brought Huntoon success, he’s become interested in another longtime goal: to engage and educate the community in art and share his love of Vermont’s beauty.

So when Huntoon gave a painting demonstration at Stafford Technical Center two years ago, things just fell into place, says Stafford media design instructor Karen Kysar.

“Peter Huntoon contacted me last spring about the class creating a coffee-table book based on his ‘A Day in Vermont’ website,” Kysar says. ”We started in the fall and we went through, and the kids each came up with different layouts for different pages, and we sifted through the artwork and chose 48 or 50 different paintings.”

At that point, Huntoon came in and decided which layout design was his overall favorite.

“Then we based the book on that one design with variations,” Kysar says, “so there is kind of a rhythm and unity as you turn the pages. They’ve done a spread for each painting. It’s kind of a passing through the seasons in Vermont.”

To assure the pages mesh cohesively, a small team of advanced students hunched diligently over their Mac computers. Layout programs testing different color combinations and picture locations for the book’s pages darted around the students’ screens while they multitasked across several tab windows. But not a single Facebook or YouTube page was open among the browsers.

Virgil Van Guilder, 18, was one of those students at work. “Right now, I’m doing the color of the layout for our page at the end of the book and Peter Huntoon’s thank-you page,” he says.

“It’s been an experience working with Peter Huntoon,” Van Guilder continues, “because it’s really gotten us a lot of experience with creating things, working together, problem solving, everything like that. Last year, Mrs. Kysar taught us well how to do everything, so this was our first real experience with doing something in the real world.”

Another Stafford student, Austin Bach, 17, worked on the task alongside his teammate. “I’m trying to find a cream color for that back page there that (Van Guilder) is working on,” he says.

Kysar says Huntoon is as great to work with as he is a painter. “(Huntoon) has been a great client for these guys, too, because he’s a creative, you know?” Kysar says. “And he’s really open to letting the kids decide what they want.”

That’s not all, Kysar says. All the students involved with the project will have designed a professionally published book to go into their professional portfolio.

Huntoon says “A Day in Vermont” was a way for him to reach out to the community.

“‘A Day in Vermont’ was born out of my desire to connect with the community in more of a consistent manner,” Huntoon says. “And I really wanted to go beyond a website and create a community that I could share my work with. I have a lot of people that enjoy my work, but I like the idea of creative collaboration.”

The book has already been published, but for the students involved in this professional-grade enterprise, overall benefits won’t be measured in sales numbers alone.

Kysar motioned to one of the students while his eyes turned toward the computer screen. “He’s going to have a published book in his college portfolio,” she says.