Letonoff On These Sketch Books

“I’m Victor Letonoff and I’m a Lewes [Delaware] painter. Much of what I do is preceded by a series of drawings and perhaps a period of research. I think whenever I do a painting I always run into a stumbling block of how I’m going to solve some kind of problem. So what I try to do is to work it out by taking a sketch book and sitting down and just sketching out the various thoughts that I have and how I want to do it.”

“I’ve been using these sketch books as a workspace since 1965 or 1966. (And I’ve let a lot of them get away from me as gifts to people because they liked them and everything.) But, I’m always reminded of Meriweather Lewis, who took the group for discovery across the United States in 1805. When he wrote in his journals for Jefferson, he was such a terrible speller that he would spell the same word three times differently on the same page. And I wish now—that these things are now as a group and represent 40 years of workspace—that I had done some things. I’d have been more careful about giving credit in the journals to stuff that I literally copied to learn something. And that I’d been more careful in my spelling and punctuation.”

Letonoff On Working

“I am very much a product of the people who come before me. The Old Masters. I rely heavily on them and what they have to teach a person. And I rely a great deal on using the workspace and my sketch books to work out ideas before I go to a canvas. Which all says, I think, that the most important part of a painting to me—I’m not a spontaneous painter, I’m not a plein ai painter, I can’t go out and simply paint something the first time and have it—the art, to me, is more like John Singer Sargeant. To spend a lot of time making a painting work and making you think that it was spontaneous, but in reality there’s been a lot of homework and a lot of effort going into the design of it and the placement of it.”

“I really believe this: I think that when one gets work that does well—and right now my work is selling well—one has a tendency to keep on doing that same work. And then after a few years somebody walks into the room and says, “Gosh, Victor, that work is tired. Hang your brushes up.” So I’m always looking for different ways to express the material… Lots of times when I’m trying to move forward and trying to break new ground, I’ll start to look at a Master or an artist and how he depicts his material. The techniques of the Masters are adaptable to my work–I don’t know how I can do that much work and that much reading and then not have the way the Masters work slide into the way I work.”

Credits and Legal


The State of Delaware thanks artist Victor Letonoff for his cooperation during exhibit preparation. Without his support this exhibit would not be possible

The Government Information Center (GIC) created and maintains this online sketch book exhibit.

The Delaware Division of the Arts is sponsoring the Victor Letonoff Exhibition and was the liason between the GIC and the artist.

The Delaware Division of Libraries runs the Delaware Library Learning Journeys program, which explores the possibilities of personal journaling techniques.


While direct linking to this exhibit’s images is not permitted (see below), linking to any page of this exhibit is permitted and encouraged.

The sketch book images found in this online exhibit are displayed with the permission of artist Victor Letonoff, who retains all rights. The sketch book images may only be used for on-screen personal viewing. Other uses, such as linking to images directly, copying and then including images in outside locations like blogs and webpages, reproducing images in print, etc., requires written permission from the State of Delaware and the artist. For additional information, contact the Government Information Center via the Contact Form.

Please note that this exhibit is covered by usage policies.

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