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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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Available Work at the Michael LaConte Gallery

 

 

anaiscrop
Study of Anais, graphite on paper, 50cm x 70cm

 

The Michael LaConte Gallery is wonderful, cultivated venue for contemporary art in Chicago.  He is my representative in the midwest and deals regularly with national and international clients.  A portion of my works are available to review online via the respected dealer website: 1st Dibs.  The link can be found here.

 

For those in the Chicagoland area the gallery is open via appointment and located at 1819 West Grand Avenue, Chicago 60622.  The phone number is 773 865 4788.

 

lisianthus
Lisianthus and Holly, oil on linen, 40cm x 60cm

 

 

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Honorable Mention at the 6th Catholic Art Exhibition at the Saint Vincent Gallery

Wanderer pastel
St. John the Baptist, pastel on paper mounted on linen, 50cm x70cm

The painting shown above was awarded an Honorable Mention at the 6th Nationwide Juried Catholic Arts Exhibition hosted by the Saint Vincent Gallery in Latrobe, PA.  I would like to thank everyone at Saint Vincent College for continuing the great work of Brother Nathan Cochran and this year’s juror Denis R. McNamara, Ph.D.

My picture of San Francesco da Paola was also selected to participate.

sanfrancescopaola
San Francesco da Paola, oil on linen, 40cm x 55cm
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Sacred Art Show in Livorno

Wanderer pastel
Saint John the Baptist, pastel on paper mounted on linen, 50cm x70cm

A couple of my paintings will be participating in the upcoming show “The Rebirth of Figurative Sacred Art” that will run from Sept. 7th until the 10th. at the Old Fortress in Livorno, Italy.

My pastel of Saint John the Baptist and oil of San Francesco da Paola will be exhibited.  Entrance is free and the show is part of the Miss Arte Moda Italia program.

sanfrancescopaola
San Francesco da Paola, oil on linen, 40cm x 55cm
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A Sight Size Head Study for Affresco

Il Risorto (The Ressurected Christ), pastel on paper, 50cm x 70cm
Il Risorto (The Resurrected Christ), pastel on paper, 50cm x 70cm

I am currently developing a couple of affresco projects for churches in Matera, Italy.  A lot of preparation is required: compositions sketches, presentation drawings, studies, cartoons etc; before the actually painting can begin.  Studies made from life are important not only for working out ideas but for creating the references that are used to complete the painting.

My pastels
My pastels

My medium of choice is pastel.  I make my own sticks using the same earth pigments that will be used in the affresco.  For the head study of Il Risorto that is shown above, I  used the sight size method.  An approach used by portrait painters for centuries, it is perfectly suited for head studies.

Model with study with a sight size set up.  There is a slight distortion from the camera.
Model with study with a sight size set up. There is a slight distortion from the camera.

Essentially a practical application of one point perspective, sight size is based upon the relationship of viewing point, model and picture plane.  Instead of looking through the ‘veil’ the picture plane is the canvas placed along side of the model.  The least amount of distortions and errors occur when the model and the picture plane are the same scale, thus the natural power of this method for life size portraiture.  However, for my project the head of Christ is to be over life size. To achieve the correct scale I placed my board roughly a meter behind the model.

Easel placement seen from the side
Easel placement seen from the side

In designing large, in situ wall decoration a lot of different factors come into play.  Compostion, visual corrections and varying viewing points all must be considered and orchestrated to create a successful painting.  Sight size, when used intelligently, is a fundamental and necessary tool for not only shapes and proportion but giving work the power of impact at a distance.

To learn more about my pastel approach there is a post here.  For an example of the affresco technique there is another post here.

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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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The 5th Nationwide Juried Catholic Arts Exhibition

The Monk, 50cm x 70cm, pastel on paper mounted on linen.
The Monk, 50cm x 70cm, pastel on paper mounted on linen.

The 5th Nationwide Juried Catholic Arts Exhibition hosted by the St. Vincent Gallery at the St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA opens today.  My painting pictured above ‘The Monk’ was selected to participate.  Sad news unfortunately accompanies this wonderful event.  Brother Nathan Cochran unexpectedly passed away this July.  He was the visionary and driving force behind the St. Vincent Gallery and this Exhibition.

Hopefully we can all learn from his positive attitude and carry forward his dream of reviving Catholic art.  To learn more about the exhibition the link can be found here.

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Off the Coast of Utopia

An old friend and wonderful artist, Martinho Correia, interviewed me for blog: Off the Coast of Utopia.  The post can be found here.  It is an audio podcast.  Honestly, I do not like the sound of my recorded voice.

I met Martinho in 2000 when he was studying at the Angel Academy in Florence.  He went on to become a head instructor.  Now he travels extensively teaching workshops worldwide, founded an artist retreat in Portugal, and is creating a sacred art program for a Catholic university in Canada.  In addition to all this he still has time to create  beautiful paintings.

Here are a couple examples of his work:

Highlander, oil on linen, 50cm x 60cm
Highlander, oil on linen, 50cm x 60cm
Ananstasis, oil on linen, 3/4 life-size
Ananstasis, oil on linen, 3/4 life-size
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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article

Porta CroceThe Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has done several articles about the sacred art show at St. Vincent’s gallery in Latrobe, PA.  The above painting won 2nd place and is the featured image in an article found here.  The other 2 articles can be found here and here.

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4th Nationwide Juried Catholic Art Exhibition

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

The above painting was awarded 2nd place at the 4th Nationwide Juried Catholic Art Exhibition hosted by St. Vincent’s Gallery.  The site can be found here.  I speak in depth about the painting in a previous post found here.  The show is up until December 9th.  So if you happen to be in the Latrobe, PA area, please stop by.

I would like to extend my thanks and gratitude to Br Nathan Cochran, the director of the gallery, and John Spike, the juror.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette did a short article about the show.  Find it here.

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A Forgotten Church Revisited

The cave church of the Madonna degli Angeli

A stolen fragment of an affresco from the cave church of the Madonna degli Angeli has been recovered in Germany and returned to Matera.  The article from the Art Journal explains the story here.  My blog posting about the church is found here.  An image of the fragment is shown below:

'The Good Monk,' affresco(color)

Here is a view of the church interior.  The above affresco was taken from the figure directly left of the opening.

Interior from the cave church of Madonna degli Angeli

I painted a view of the ravine with the church several years ago.  Madonna degli Angeli is on the hill to the right.  Below is an image of the painting:

The Two Churches