HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN AT TAP?
Oil Painting/ Charcoal and Graphite Drawing. I drew with Graphite ever since I was a child, copying figurative work I like and comic book heroes. I painted briefly with Acrylics in high school but I despised it. I was trained and taught the classical methods of Oil Painting and draftsmanship in Florence, Italy at the Florence Academy of Art. I've only been painting in oils for about three years, but like most people I've been drawing all my life.
WHAT IS YOUR PREFERED MEDIUM? HOW DID YOU COME ABOUT USING IT?
IS THERE ANOTHER MEDIUM THAT YOU'VE
ALWAYS WANTED TO TRY?
WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING A STUDIO/ CREATION IN YOUR LIFE?
A creative space, full of the artists own work, collections and inspirations is vital to the healthy mindset for the artist to work in. It serves in the production of ones own work and sanctuary for creative exploration. Having great ideas is only half of the equation; a space geared to facilitate the needs, ideas and aspirations of the artist is the soil in which one grows in.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF YOUR STUDIO?
The natural light. It serves both my work and my mindset. I've always found solace in natural light. Some prefer to be in enclosed spaces, which is perfectly ok, but to have a bit of the natural world enter my studio reminds me of the truth to be found beyond the subjects I depict. Not only was I taught to work in natural light, but to understand and appreciate its ever revealing multiplicities of the world around us. What is man-made maybe stable and structured, but the beautiful randomness to be found in nature is what gives life meaning. That is what the light reminds me of every time I walk into my studio space.
ARE THERE ANY FUN STUDIO HABITS THAT YOU HAVE DEVELOPED?
I think with whichever model or subject I have in the studio, it's always fun to see how they affect the environment I've placed them in. Each person I paint brings with them their experiences, personalities and preferences. To observe how they react, contrast or compliment my studio is always fun to see. It also adds to the working process; getting to know the subjects I paint over the course of months makes a project more intimate and therefore more engaging. The studio then becomes more than a creative space but a place of discussion, laughter and openness. No two sessions are ever the same, and the creative process therefore reflects life itself. What more could I ask for?
When it comes to picking a model, I suppose I'm not that picky. You can find any person fascinating, everyone has unique traits and quirks that can make them charming. If I spent all my time choosing a specific type of person, I'd never work. Beauty can be found in all aspects of a subject; it is up to the artist to translate it through their decisions and expression.
However, composing the image comes from education. The understanding of space between and within shapes you see, the organization of light and dark values, etc. all must be considered and attended to. I'll do a lot of prep sketches in charcoal before a project, trying to harmonize light and dark abstract shapes. Once I find harmony in these abstractions, I think about cropping, size and the refinement of these shapes. I do a lot of reading for research as well; either about paintings, the lives of artists or their working methods. Other times I'll listen to music to be
WHAT IS THE PROCESS OF CHOOSING A MODEL, SETTING UP A POSE AND CREATING A SETTING?
inspired or read for leisure. It's only then that the project can begin to manifest; so oddly enough the bulk of the brainstorming comes from a harmony of principles and researching older work I find inspiring. Every work of art has an influence, or series of influences, big or small. Nothing can manifest itself in a void.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN DIFFERENCES BETWEEN WORKING FROM A MODEL TO PAINTING A SELF PORTRAIT?
I like this question, because the answer can be applied to a lot of aspects in life. How do we see ourselves versus others? Painting a model or a friend poses different questions, and in most cases what we think people look like is actually different from the objective reality that becomes clear when we really look at them. You are in a constantly trying to reach your depiction when you paint someone else, your eye is at the service of trying to translate them honestly and beautifully. Their portrait is the wellspring of solutions you must arrive to.
A self portrait is a much more introverted experience. Their is no face you have seen, critiqued and experienced more in your life than your own. It's also changed as well. So the questions that are being asked of yourself are: How do I see myself? How do I want to see myself? How do others see me? The range to experiment is potentially broader and yet much more intimate, because you could service your ego, or be quite vulnerable and brutally honest. We all see our own flaws and strengths to a degree, so when presented the opportunity to paint them, we have to face them head on.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE OIL PAINTS TO USE?
Typically I like to buy raw pigments and grind the paints myself. It allows me to dictate the consistency of the paint, which will then influence my decisions with the application to my work. Usually I grind the two pigments I use in large quantities: Lead White and Ivory Black. For most other pigments I use, I'll pick between Old Holland and Michael Harding. Each company makes pigments differently.
WHAT DO YOU FIND IS THE MOST INFLUENTIAL STEP IN BECOMING SKILLED IN PORTRAITURE?
I don't think I could pick just one. I have had so many "Eureka" moments because of the quality of teachers I had and revered. Their has been plenty of technical advice which has been invaluable, but the fundamentals of proportion and harmony of values are what I hold most high.
There has also been plenty of philosophical advice as well; Nature is limitless in its variety, therefore the solutions to be found in your own work are limitless as well. But there is one I always come back to: simplicity is genius. The eye doesn't need much to be convinced of what it sees, therefore less is more when it comes to great painting technique.
Subtly is much more beautiful and engaging than complexity because it requires poignant decisions by the artist. This applies to all artforms; music, dance and theatre. Knowing when the right note must be played in a song, or when the arm of a dancer must extend and collapse in a movement; these all come from a mastery of fundamentals and knowing the right moment to place and accent, or soften an edge, etc. If the artist chooses to depict every little thing they see, their is no choice, their is no expression and the image risks becoming a mere copy. Music becomes noisy, dance becomes stiff and graceless, and acting becomes overdone and fake. This idea of simplification owes its genesis to balancing contrasts; light and dark, soft and sharp edges, chroma and value, etc.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST MISTAKE THAT YOU SEE BEGINNER PAINTERS MAKING, AND HOW WOULD YOU FIX IT?
Usually it's two things: lack of structure and over-modeling. Drawing and painting from life is extremely difficult and most students don't take into account the basic proportions of the figure or objects in front of them. Understanding basic anatomy goes a long way to help rectify these initial errors. Learning to dial back the information you eye craves to see is typically the first lesson to be taught. We crave detail, and are constantly looking "locally" as oppose to understanding the whole figure, standing in one space, bathed in natural light. Facial features, drawing every digit or strand of hair are usually the things a new student depicts first. Learning to compress the information you see results in stronger and more digestible drawing or painting. These mistakes consequently lead to over-modeling. Students wont consider the major plains of the body and will render individual muscles without context of how they fit in the bigger forms. Doing this is dishonest to the observation that the entire figure is one individual standing in front of you. Yes, their are smaller forms within the greater form, but allowing natural light to suggest this through simplification, as oppose to rendering it outright and obviously, kills the sense of solidity of the figure. Art is a trick at times. These are mistakes we all make when we begin to learn these techniques. I myself, was and still is terrible with remembering to dial it back because it's so easy to get carried away with the enjoyment of creating work.
IS THERE A BAD HABIT THAT YOU CATCH YOURSELF AT SOME POINT IN YOUR PROCESS? HOW DO YOU MOTIVATE YOURSELF TO MOVE AWAY FROM IT OR HOW DO YOU FIX IT ONCE YOU CATCH IT?
Structure and simplification. The mistakes we start with are the ones we most easily fall back to. Sometimes I have to work backwards in the middle of a painting or drawing because I commonly overlook the simple mistakes. It's really aggravating, because when I seem them it feels so stupid that I overlooked them. I wouldn't say I motivate myself to fix them but rather, I set a standard of work I wish to achieve. This standard is set by the artists of the past I revere, which leads to a lot of dissatisfaction within my own work. When I look at Michelangelo for instance, and all he achieved, I am compelled to chase after the mastery he displayed. It's like your running the one hundred metre sprint. You won't clock your best time running against sprinters similar to you, but you'll always run a faster time when you're placed with sprinters who are much faster than you. The artists of the past are miles and miles ahead of me, but the point is to keep chasing them. Be your own harshest critique.