DARIEN — Darien artist Steve Fritsch says he got his artistic inclinations from his mother.

“(Art) was always prevalent,” he said. “I love it. I’ve been doing it my whole life. She gave me the genetic structure. It’s in my blood.”

For nearly 10 years, Fritsch channeled his artistic abilities as an art director for BBDO, a worldwide advertising agency network, before opening his own illustrator studio where he worked on the likes of cartoons like the Kool-Aid Man and the Nesquik Bunny. However, as computers became more popular over the course of his two-decade freelance career, Fritsch was faced with the choice of learning to illustrate digitally or trying his hand at a different type of art.

“Technology came over,” Fritsch, 73, said. “It was adapt to that or do what I wanted to do which was fine art.”

Around seven to eight years ago, Fritsch officially retired from freelance work and began focusing on doing oil paintings of still life inspired by the world around him. For the past several years, he’s been showing his work locally. Atria Darien will be featuring his work for the entire month of December. It will be his fourth show at the living center.

“All those years, I wanted to do this,” he said. “I wanted to smell the turpentine, to hold the brush.”

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Check out the show

Atria Darien, an independent and assisted living community, will be featuring Steve Fritsch at its monthly art show.

The exhibit will be on display at the Gratia Gillespie Gallery at Atria Darien, 50 Ledge Road in Darien, CT during the month of December from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily.

The exhibit is free and open to the public. Artwork is for sale

Despite spending most of his career in illustration and cartooning, Fritsch received fine arts training while studying at the Paier School of Art in New Haven. He said he was one of the few students from his high school in Wethersfield that went on to college. He was able to do it with the help of a one-year scholarship he received from the Army after being drafted to serve two years in Korea.

When Fritsch returned, he began showing his work along the East Coast. When he married his wife, Linda, in 1969, he took a job with BBDO in New York City. Fritsch and his wife moved to Darien in 1972 and raised their two children in town, as well as Norwalk.

For almost 30 years, Fritsch commuted from Fairfield County to the city before moving his freelance work to his home studio in Darien. In 1986, he and his wife moved to their current home overlooking Holly Pond. Fritsch now does his oil paintings and mixed media work in the upstairs studio.

Fritsch is inspired by scenes from his own backyard, as well as seascapes from around Darien and Rowayton. He recently has taken to painting the blue herons that land on his dock. He’s also known as “Mr. Lighthouse” for his work portraying local lighthouses.

“Now I’ve shifted to birds,” he said. “The blue herons we have out there, they’re magnificent.”

Fritsch prefers to work in a controlled environment, such as this upstairs studio, but will take photos outside and then blow them up to use as a reference.

Fritsch’s work of local scenery will be on sale at his Atria show. He’s also shown his work at the Darien Library, as well as at the Rowayton Art Center.

“I make it a point of letting everyone know,” he said. “All my friends know what I do. Word of mouth is the best advertising you can get.”

Fritsch makes it a point to capture the hidden gems of the state he’s lived in nearly all of his 73 years. His paintings of scenes like an abandoned shed by the Five Mile River become dear to locals who appreciate scenes of the world around them, especially as it changes. (The shed was torn down a month after Fritsch finished the painting and he gave a copy of it to a neighbor.)

“I do what I think people like and what I would like,” he said. “Connecticut is a very nice state to paint in.”

ekayata@hearstmediact.com; @erin_kayata