By Randy Noles
In a city full of artists, Don Sondag is among the best known and most respected.

In a city with more than its share of artists per capita, Don Sondag is one of the best-known and most respected. He may be most renowned for his portraits of prominent Central Floridians — including the iconic image of Fred Rogers (Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood) that hangs in the lobby of Tiedtke Concert Hall on the campus of Rollins College.

But Sondag also loves to paint outdoors scenes, especially those he finds around his verdant hometown. He’s a favorite, not surprisingly, at the annual Winter Park Paint Out, sponsored by the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens.

The Polasek also staged an exhibition dubbed Venetian Canals of Winter Park: The Art of Don Sondag in 2020. An image from that exhibition appeared on the Fall 2020 cover of Winter Park Magazine — one of six (now seven) of our covers painted by Sondag since his first in 2008.

“I enjoy the challenge of capturing the outdoors and color,” says Sondag, a native of Winter Park. “I like the work of plein air painters and photorealists. My large-scale landscapes combine both of these techniques.”

With a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, Sondag also studied painting and portraiture at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League in New York City. Early in his career he did portrait illustrations for Harcourt School Publishers.

In addition to painting, Sondag teaches at the Crealdé School of Art, where he joined the faculty in 1990. He has also taught at Seminole State College, Walt Disney Imagineering and Walt Disney Feature Animation. 

He has been associated with McRae Art Studios — a shared exhibition and display space for about 20 of the region’s most prominent artists — for 28 years.

Sondag has accepted portrait commissions from the Dr. P. Phillips Foundation, Tupperware Brands Corporation and the University of Central Florida, among many other institutional clients. His work has also been featured on posters for Casa Feliz and the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival. 

This issue’s cover, Rowers, captures a scene that Sondag observed on Lake Virginia. Struck by the colors — the blue hues of the sky and water in contrast to the pop of vibrant vermilion provided by the shell — he took photographs and used them as the basis for a studio painting.

A solo exhibition of Sondag’s paintings is now underway at Arts on Douglas in New Smyrna Beach and will run through July 20. Call 386-428-1133 or visit artsondouglas.net for more information.

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