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Merry Christmas!

xmass 2017

I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

Here are some images from a life size nativity scene that I created for the church of Sant’ Ambrogio from awhile back.  The post about that wonderful project can be found here.

1 presepe
Front view of Sant’ Ambrogio presepe
2 presepe
Side view of presepe
4 presepe copy
Detail of the Madonna
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A Brief Walk Through of a Dream Incarnate

Here is a video of a brief walk through of my show A Dream Incarnate: Italian Landscapes and Portraits at the Oak Park Public Library.  The show runs for the month of July.  Please stop by and take a look.

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A Dream Incarnate: Italian Landscapes and Portraits

 

This summer I will be having a show of my Italian landscapes and portraits. Kindy hosted by the Oak Park Public Library it will be up for the month of July.  Entitled The Dream Incarnate, the work represents my experience in Italy through a visual interpretation of the places and people that have inspired me.  It opens Saturday, July 8th.

For more information about the show please follow the link here.

Below is a selection from the works that will be represented.

Rhapso2

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Premio Arte Laguna Show

arte laguna logo

The Arte Laguna Prize show opened last weekend and it was a wonderful event.  In addition to being very well attended, there was a positive energy and a lot of engaging work.  My painting “Consolation of Philosophy” held its own and attracted a lot of interest.  The show is up until the 9th of April.  For more information click here.

arte laguna show1

arte laguna title block

arte laguna show 2

Catalog Cover

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Premio Arte Laguna Show to Open

Consolation of Philosophy
The Consolation of Philosophy, oil on linen, 60cm x 80cm

Premio Arte Laguna, the international competition and show, will open its 11th edition this Saturday, March 25th.  My picture shown above was selected a finalist in the painting section.  The opening is open to the public and more information can be found in the link.

 

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Interview Feature

Matthew James Collins - Amore1r
Inheritance: A Portrait of Amore, oil on linen, 50cm x 60cm

While in Chicago this summer I had the opportunity to participate in a short interview feature about my life and work.  Footage from the opening of my Iter Animae that took place at Loyola University is featured as well.  I would like to thank Matt Baron and Joe Kreml for developing and creating this wonderful piece.

I opened a YouTube channel as well and that can be found here.

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The 4 week Classical Oil Portrait Course in Florence, Italy 2015

Carlo, oil on linen, 50cm x 60cm
Carlo, oil on linen, 50cm x 60cm

I just finished teaching another 4 week oil portrait course in Florence, Italy for the Cecil Studios.  The students started out with a bit of cast drawing before working directly from models in charcoal and oil.  The sight-size method, as it was originally intended, is used to create life-size portraits under natural light with a historical limited palette.  The class size is limited to 10 students.

The great challenge is the ‘reprogramming’ of the student’s expectations of the portrait painting course.  The goal is not to walk away with several pretty oil sketches.    Ultimately, the emphasis is developing observation skills and the student’s ‘eye.’  The fundamentals of charcoal and oil technique are covered and explored.  In this visual approach to image making the shapes are evolved directly on the canvas.   The resulting work often lacks polish but honestly reveals a diligent study from nature.  Hopefully one leaves with a basic knowledge of important principles that will guide them in their future work.

The model next to the painting in the sight size set up.
The model next to the painting in the sight size set up.

The above picture is of a model in a sight size set up with one of the completed demos that I did during the class.  The one below shows one of the studio spaces.  It was a great experience with a really nice group.  Everyone really applied themselves and the results were excellent.

The studio room at Piazzale Donatello
The studio room at Piazzale Donatello
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Enrico and ”Boreas”

A selection from
A selection from “Boreas,” oil on linen, 70cm x 110cm

The images shown are from a recent painting that I completed.  The title is Boreas, which is ancient greek for the north wind, or commonly known in Italian as the Tramontana.  You can find more about the north wind here.  To learn more specifically about Boreas, click here.  One of the Anemoi, or wind gods, Boreas brings the cold winter.  Enrico, the model, shares many of the characteristics of the north wind.  He is dressed in a heavy leather jacket and holding a pipe that just went out.

La Tramontana, oil on linen, 70cm x 110cm
Boreas, oil on linen, 70cm x 110cm

A constant problem in sharing my oil paintings is the difficulty of taking a decent photographs.  My technique, a distinctly 17th century visual approach, uses a lot of translucent glazes and scumbles that the camera simply doesn’t read.  To capture some of the subtle halftones I am forced to F stop down to the point where all the darks melt together.  As a result my oil paintings therefore are not very ‘photogenic.’  However the purpose of painting is to create unique objects/images that are experienced in person and enrich the viewer over time.  The fact that my oil work rejects technological recognition is ultimately part of my purpose.  The capability of human vision is much greater than the machines created to emulate them.  The quality of art(figurative) should never be measured by the false paragon of the photograph.  Otherwise we forfeit the stuff of poetry that it is made of.

Detail of the hand
Detail of the hand
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Jesus Carrying the Cross Redux

Jesus Carrying the Cross, oil on linen, life-size figures

This is a repost from a while back but today makes it again relevant.  My picture is also being reproduced in a book about the Sorrowful Mysteries published by PB Grace Publications.  Check it out here. I finished this painting a while ago.  Completed within a year, the scale is a bit over life size.  The image was worked up using a variety of models and a lot of imagination.  The picture is now sitting in storage.  Hopefully it will find a home someday. This is a very personal picture that is an expression of my spiritual journey.  More specifically it is an investigation into my relationship with faith and Christ.  The formal characteristics are important to the meaning.  I placed myself in the painting with a self portrait as a roman centurion holding the rope.

Detail of Centurion

The composition is an circular with the movement guided by a play of gesture and hands. The two protagonists of the picture(the roman soldier and Christ) both embrace the cross in completely opposite ways.  They relate to each other through the cross but have no direct contact.  The soldier is engaged the ambiguous activity of either raising or lowering the cross.  The ambiguity is important as it reflects my personal state. Christ embraces the cross.  He bears the weight without strain.  His portrait is the visual hub of the composition with the cross acting as the spokes of the wheel.

Detail of Jesus

The other two figures, St. John and the Madonna flank the scene.  St. John whispers into the soldiers ear, a precursory act to the spreading of the good news that he is destined to diseminate later.  The Holy Mother is visually isolated from the scene by the cross and quietly grieves.  Her emotive presence bridges the void between the works of Christ(symbolized by his hands, one active and the other passive) and the work of man(symbolized by the hand pulling the rope).  Mary is consoled by a divine light that falls from the break in the clouds.

Detail

Creating the painting

As it sometimes happens, after a couple years of reflection the composition came to me quite spontaneously.  I produced a thumbnail sketch after a nap under a cypress tree outside of the gate of San Niccolo in Florence.  The drawing has gone missing in the meantime. After preparing the canvas I sketched the main elements of the composition in directly from my imagination.  As you can see, in the original concept Jesus was seated with a different arm position.  The gesture emphasized a tired Jesus and the rear figure was more actively raising the cross.

Charcoal sketch on canvas

The model for Jesus was the same architecture student(Alfredo Pace, now architect) that posed for my painting of Jesus in the Garden of Olives.

Jesus in the Garden of Olives, oil on linen, 70cm x 90cm(life size)

He posed holding a l cross that I constructed and was set up along side of the canvas as you can see in the photo below.  Another model posed for the arms of the soldier and I painted in my self portrait from a study.  The Holy Mother in the picture below was developed from my imagination.  Later I brought in a model to develop her in oil.  St John was originally supposed to be another soldier holding a lance rising up from the center rear.

Initial stages in oil

At this point I had changed the torso angle of the soldier to reduce the thrust to the left and therefore transformed the meaning of the picture.  With the new torso angle, the lowered arm of the Jesus mimicked excessively the right (our left) arm of the soldier.  The facture of any painting involves a series of decisions that combine the formal, thematic and ultimately emotive aspects of the work.  Subject, form and meaning are so closely intertwined that one element cannot be changed without affecting the whole.

Painting in progress

I changed the gesture of Jesus to take a more active role.  Instead of a tired man resigned to his fate, he actively embraces it.  He is kneeling with his right leg about to push himself back on his feet.  The final change was to the other leg.  It became more bent and foreshortened to help bring Jesus forward in the picture and reinforce to potential movement upwards.  This helped create a movement in a counterclockwise direction.  The new movement ultimately redeems the soldier as it reinforces the possibility that he is trying to help Jesus raise the cross.

In progress

Over the course of the completion of the picture a spiritual research corresponded with the development of the painting.  It included study, reflection on the gospels and the Stations of the Cross, and meditation. Very little is written about Jesus’s actual bearing of the Cross in the Gospels.  That is one of the reasons I was drawn to this subject.  It is a powerful moment in the life of Christ and merited to be explored.

Painting towards the end

For the goal of the sacred artist is not to illustrate the gospels but to be an image creator whose work communicates the richness and profundity that its subject matter deserves.

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Four Week Oil Portrait Painting Course at Charles Cecil Studios in Florence

Students at work in the studio
Students at work in the studio

I just wrapped up my 4 week oil portrait painting course for the Charles Cecil Studios in Florence, Italy.  It was a great group and everyone made a lot of progress.  Above is a not so good photo of one of the two studios in action.   Basically the course is a condensed experience of the normal full-time 2 year course.   The students start out with a bit of cast drawing before working directly from models in charcoal and oil.  The sight-size method ,as it was originally intended, is used create life-size portraits under natural light with a historical limited palette.  The class size is limited to 10 students.

The great challenge is the ‘reprogramming’ of the student’s expectations of the portrait painting course.  The goal is not to walk away with several pretty oil sketches.    Ultimately, the emphasis is developing observation skills and the student’s ‘eye.’  The fundamentals of charcoal and oil technique are covered and explored.  In this visual approach to image making the shapes are evolved directly on the canvas.   The resulting work often lacks polish but honestly reveals a diligent study from nature.  Hopefully the student leaves with a basic knowledge of important principles that will guide them in their future work.

Below is a progress shot of one of the paintings that I worked on during the course.  It is a detail of the 50cm x 60cm.  I hope to finish it this September.

Detail of Zambi Exile, oil on linen, 50cm x 60cm
Detail of Zambi Exile, oil on linen, 50cm x 60cm
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The Dancing Faun of Pompeii

 

The Dancing Faun of Pompeii
The Dancing Faun of Pompeii

My second article for the Epoch Times Art Speaks feature comes out today in the New York city edition.  It is about the Dancing Faun of Pompeii.  If you are not able to pick up a print copy the pdf can be found here.

Dedicated to Aunt Nancy.

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Spring Portrait Workshop at Cecil Studios

Spring portrait workshop in action.
Spring portrait workshop in action.

I recently finished running the Spring Oil Portrait short course for Charles Cecil Studios in Florence, Italy.  Trying to teach life-size oil portraiture properly within in two weeks is nearly impossible.  But this group did well and I am very proud of their results.

For those who want to know more below is brief explanation of what happens.

Vinicio, oil on linen, 40cm x 55cm
Vinicio, oil on linen, 40cm x 55cm.  One of the strengths of the of the course is that I work alongside the students, not just a brief demonstration.  Here is an example of one of the paintings that I did during a July course.

The short courses are essentially condensed versions of the regular training that occurs at Cecil Studios.  The basic didactic philosophy is to provide a historically valid training that addresses the major principals, methods and materials utilized by great artists from the past.  Projects are developed using the sight-size approach as it was originally intended: life-size portraiture.  Working exclusively under natural light, the student begins with drawing in charcoal from the model.  Over the first 3 days, two portrait drawings are created (morning and afternoon) for the transfer to canvas.  The remaining sessions are dedicated to painting with a limited palette and olio-resinous medium.  In addition to the discussion of the practical stages of picture making a museum visit to Palazzo Pitti and a lecture explore the evolution of Renaissance and Baroque portraiture, focusing on the Florentines, Titian, Rubens and Van Dyck.

James Jones, oil on linen, 50cm x 60cm.  A recent head I did during the portrait course I taught this summer in Florence
James Jones, oil on linen, 50cm x 60cm. A recent head I did during the portrait course I taught this summer in Florence
A portrait study of Anais that I started during the spring course and hope to finish off later.
A portrait study of Anais that I started during the spring course and hope to finish off later.