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Rick Buttari will be showing new paintings for the month of September and F.A.N. Gallery.
We got the chance to ask him a few questions about his work.
F.A.N. Gallery will show the work of Serge Zhokov this month. Serge is a wonderful painter and a master at creating mood through is landscapes and figures.
Victoria Donohoe of The Inquirer said, “his figure drawings give us an easy sense of his subjects’ reality, but it’s the delicate mix of senses and substance that imbues the oils with an air of uncontrived refinement, while their milky hues set the spirit that appeals to the sophisticated eye.”
I was able to ask Serge a few questions about his influences and how he works.
Who are your influences? Favorite artists or books or music.
My influences, naturally, are constantly changing throughout my life. At one point in time, I skipped through pages in Art History books, which were devoted to Giotto and De Chirico. Now they are my favorite artists. I am certainly influenced by Piero della Francesca, Giorgione. I can examine works like “Legend of the True Cross” or “Pastoral Concert” for hours. I like Balthus, mostly his late works. In literature, it’s Stanislaw Lem, Hesse, Sasha Sokolov, Osip Mandelstam.
How much planning and preparation go into your paintings, do you do a lot of drawing first and then move onto the painting?
It’s difficult to say. If, I have a clear idea about my next project, then painting goes smoothly. However, I have to envision the entire image in my mind first, prior to drawing. I do a lot of drawings. Often my vision is altered when I actually start painting. It happened with “Drawing Lesson 1” where my original idea changed after creating several drawings.
What is your first creative memory?
I mixed toothpaste with watercolor paints and colored a window glass. I was 5 years old.
Thanks Public Walls for the great review.
New Paintings by David Bottini opens Friday, March 1, 2013
March 1 – 30, 2013
First Friday Opening Reception March 1, 5-9 PM
David Bottini’s realist landscapes explore light and atmosphere. His approach begins in direct observation and is enhanced and developed in the studio using a traditional glazing approach. His work draws from training in classical realism as well as his passion for a post-modern abstract sensibility in composing a viewpoint.
Kate Kern Mundie is exhibiting 30 paintings at F.A.N. Gallery for the month of December. Her work in this exhibition is a mixture of landscape, still life, and interiors.
Q: How would you describe your work? What inspires you to put brush to surface?
A: I paint because I like to lose myself in the experience of painting. There is a rhythm to painting: you examine the subject – landscape, still life, what have you; you mix the colors and brush them onto the surface; you step back and look again; you ask yourself if this is an honest interpretation; and repeat over and over.
Q: What is your first creative memory?
A: When I was four years old, my mother sent me to art classes at the St. Louis Art Museum. I have no memory of the classes except looking at a Picasso painting. I cannot remember what I thought of it at the time, but the painting became seared into my brain. We moved from St. Louis to Boston, so I had not seen that painting for years. I came across the painting in a book many years later when I was in college and was very excited to see it again.
Q: What was it about that painting that appealed to you? Do you think it has an influence on your work today?
A: I would do “exquisite corpse” drawing with my dad and the line work in the painting looked like the drawings we did. I also really love the leaf shapes. I don’t know if it has any influence today but I wonder if I had not seen the painting and had such a connection to it would I have ended up a painter?
Q: Do you have a creative habit? How do you shape your art making practice to nurture your work?
A: I am trying to make a creative habit. As I get busier with kids, family, and work building in time to make artwork is a challenge. My husband is also an artist so I cannot be selfish and sneak away to the studio all the time. I end up working in bursts; I will paint for a few days and then nothing for a week or more. However, I am trying to be more mindful about scheduling dedicated art-making time.
Q: What do you read, listen to, or look at to recharge you or fuel your work and find inspiration?
A: I read a great deal. I usually have two or three books going at the same time – a mixture of fiction and non-fiction. The best books I have read in 2012 are The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp and Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson.
While I paint, I like to listen to music – such as Charles Mingus and Joe Strummer, or I listen to the news and interview programs on NPR.
Al Gury taught me the importance of keeping a journal. Journaling helps you learn to write better. Writing about your own work can make narrative themes stand out and can help you to better understand and develop your work. It’s also great when you are applying for a grant and can take great chunks out of your journal and clean up into an application essay.
I look at a lot of art. I really like the work of many of my contemporaries like Alex Kanevsky, Tim McFarlane, Jon Redmond, Stanley Bielen, Katy Schneider, Peri Schwartz, and Jenny Saville. I look to the Ashcan School painters like George Bellows, Edward Hopper, and John Sloan for inspiration.
Q: What do you do for fun when you are not in the studio?
A: I spend time with my family, taking my kids on bike rides. I do yoga to unwind, and have begun to teach it as well. I like to watch movies. When it comes to movies, my tastes are all over the place. I like movies by directors like Hitchcock, Frank Capra, John Woo, Yimou Zhang, Quentin Tarantino, and Guy Ritchie.
Well-known portraitist Jesse J. Gardner will present his most recent series of landscape paintings, On the Streets of Philadelphia, at FAN Gallery this October. This series explores several neighborhoods familiar to the artist; Kensington, Frankford, Northern Liberties and Manayunk. Sculptor and critic Leslie Kaufman has written of the artist’s work; “Gardner’s Philadelphia is not on any visitor’s map…he searches city neighborhoods and industrial locations to illuminate lost places whose histories were long abandoned and forgotten. As an urbanist dedicated to environmental issues, Gardner wields his paintbrush as a spotlight – to reveal both what we have lost, and to suggest what may still be reclaimed.”
Jesse J. Gardner grew up on farms in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom and Canada’s Cape Breton Island. Before he began focusing on art, he was a volunteer firefighter at the Pine Plains Hose Company #1 in New York and worked as a long distance trucker and construction worker.
What is your first creative memory?
I was always drawing, and recall that the subjects that interested me as a young child were similar to my subject matter today: houses in the landscape. The first serious drawing was done around age 11, when I looked down the hill at the rooftops of my neighbor’s barn and outbuildings and produced a pencil drawing on a cheap tablet. My parents decided at this point that I was serious about being an artist, and gave me extra time off on our busy farm to draw and paint. I had an interest in preserving historic architecture as a teenager, and when we lived in Nova Scotia in the 1970’s, began making detailed pencil studies of Canadian National Railway stations that were being demolished.
How do you think about your body of work, the portraits and the landscapes? Does one inform the other or are they separate in your mind?
I see the subject matter as emanating from the same conscious desire to dig below the surface and reveal the inner light. It is part of the same narrative; restoring a measure of dignity to the invisible and overlooked. I have integrated the two occasionally. Look for these two separate themes to come together in my work in the near future. It is a natural evolution for the work.
You can find out more about Jesse’s portrait work and involvement with firefighters here.
How did you get involved doing the portrait work?
It grew out of an interest in the invisible service class–workers who keep the world moving but are taken for granted–rarely acknowledged or recognized for their efforts. My parents were very involved with the Labor Movement when I was growing up, so it felt right to be documenting in paint these hard working, ordinary people. I know that my concept of the heroic firefighter was shaped very early on, growing up as I did with farmers and mechanics as role models.
How do you choose your landscape subject matter?
I paint obscure places for the most part, far removed from the tourist itinerary and the “center” of things. When I paint familiar landmarks, like the Ben Franklin Bridge, I look for vantage points that most would dismiss as non-picturesque, even ugly. In the series River Town, I ended up painting the bridge from underneath, with a focus on the floating March ice and abandoned piers. The bridge was the focus, but treated as a secondary element. It makes one rethink the familiar and question assumptions.
Who are your influences art or otherwise?
I owe a great debt to my parents, who are writers and farmers and who shaped my approach to my work by emphasizing the importance of craft and honest labor and self-reliance. They exposed me and my siblings to a wide range of art and culture, which was unusual on a working Vermont farm. They taught us to do everything to the best of our ability. Most importantly, they nurtured an appreciation for lost and endangered places–we restored farm equipment, homes and barns, and cleared abandoned fields for grazing land.
My artistic influences are wide ranging. I love the expert drawing and chiaroscuro of Rembrandt and Velásquez, Whistler’s portraits and nocturnes. I appreciate Egon Scheile, Toulouse-Lautrec and Degas for their draftsmanship. I am profoundly moved by Käthe Kollwitz’s etchings The Weaver’s Cycle.
There are Russian realist painters from the pre-Stalinist era who have had a profound effect on me. I feel a kinship with Grant Wood, George Bellows, Rockwell Kent, and Edward Hopper. There is a contemporary painter named William Wray who I really admire. Brad Holland’s poster illustrations for the Public Theater provoke a visceral reaction in the viewer; he is a brilliant artist and this is a body of work that every artist who is interested in portraiture should study.
I have discovered Chinese modernists recently. Qi Zhilong’s series Chinese Girls has inspired me to consider a new series of large portraits. There is so much that I want to explore as an artist, and so little time.
Carlo Russo crafts beautiful paintings reminiscent of 19th century works. His work hints at the influence of orientalism in western art of the past century. Carlo is inspired by realist, naturalist and romantic painters such as Ilya Repin, Jules Bastien-Lepage, John William Waterhouse and Claudio Bravo. One can see Bravo’s influence in some of Carlo’s still lifes and in his color choices.
Since Carlo’s work is traditional and impeccably crafted, I wondered if he was trained in Europe. I asked him where he was from.
I was born in Philadelphia but I lived in Bucks County and New Jersey when I was young. I moved back to Philly when I was 13 and have been here ever since. Although I did move down to New Orleans in 2005, my stay was brief. Katrina hit two weeks after I got there so I ended up back in Philadelphia.
When did you discover that you wanted to be an artist?
I really didn’t think about a career as a fine artist until I was in my late twenties. I had studied fashion design at the Art Institute but realized it wasn’t going to be a good fit for me. So after I got my degree I enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) and by the time I was in my 4th year I started to feel that I could make paintings that were good enough to show in a gallery and sell to collectors. I was probably 27 or 28 when I made the decision that painting was going to be my job.
What did your fashion work look like, what materials interested you then?
My fashion work was creative but I wasn’t a natural born tailor, so I think the construction wasn’t too great in my early designs. I got better through lots of practice in the sewing room, cutting patterns, etc. My graduation show was a group of military-inspired designs with touches of biker influence. I ended up using denim and wool as my main two fabrics. I did some hand painting on them, hand embroidery and I even made little skull buttons out of Scuply clay! It was pretty funny. I think my teachers got a kick out of them.
Can you tell me a little more about what you like to do other than paint?
I love to golf, believe it or not. In the summer, I try to play at least once a week. It’s really the most challenging sport I’ve ever attempted. The biggest thing in golf is consistency. Keeping mistakes to a minimum and being able to strike the ball well and make it go where you want, over and over, is one of the biggest challenges. It also helps to have a good short game. If I’m putting and chipping well I know I’m going to have a chance at a good round. Also, it helps to be relaxed and just have fun. I’ve played my best rounds during those times.
You are able to capture the texture of objects in your still lives, whether it is yarn, a sheepskin, glass or terracotta. How do you choose your subject matter or objects? Does the material of the object come into consideration?
The choice of subject matter is not always easy to explain. I choose things that have a certain visual or textural quality that attracts me. It can be an antique clay pot or a feather duster from Ikea. The material of the object has to have a certain harmony with the rest of the painting. Is it harmonious or discordant with the rest of the composition? I consider colors and size/shapes of objects in the same way. These things, plus other factors are running through my mind as I’m setting up what I’m going to paint.
What draws you to the desert to paint?
The desert landscape painting that is in this show was based on a small study I did near Phoenix, Arizona, in 2010. I had never been to the desert prior to that, but the landscape always seemed intriguing. It’s so different compared to the typical eastern United States landscape that I grew up with. It seems otherworldly to me. I made some other studies that will hopefully become larger studio painting in the near future.
Can you tell me what was the most important thing you got out of your education at PAFA and some of the things you try to teach your students? Where do you teach?
The majority of my teaching is done right at my studio. I have a small number of students I work with who study privately with me. I’m actually moving to a bigger studio in June so I’ll be able to take on a few more people then. I also teach at Woodmere Art Museum on Tuesday nights, which is sort of an intro level class. Plus I started teaching workshops at different schools last year and have two workshops scheduled for June of this year at Studio Incamminati and The Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art. I’ve enjoyed teaching the workshops and it’s something I’d like to do more of in the future.
I think the whole issue of my education is an interesting question. I studied at PAFA and I feel fortunate that I got to study with some excellent teachers while I was there. Many of whom are not teaching there anymore, sadly. I really feel like I was in the right place at the right time and it helped to set my career on the path that I’m on. I think what I came away with was an excellent foundation in drawing and anatomy. I think the painting aspect took time to develop after I graduated. I feel like I’ve started to come into my own a bit during the last few years. When I was fresh out of PAFA I lamented that I hadn’t studied at a more traditional, atelier-style school. But in recent years I feel like I’ve changed my tune a bit. I feel like some of the living artists who I really admire the most didn’t come out of the atelier environment. And they are doing some incredibly beautiful, skillful and brilliant work. I could also say they are lots of well-trained painters who have come out ateliers who are creating nice work too. But training doesn’t equal vision or taste. I guess I’m saying that I got to cultivate my own visual aesthetic and I’m grateful for that. So when I teach my students I do teach them the methods I use to create my work but I know in time they will develop their own language and vision.
Carlo Russo continues to develop a rich and beautiful language in his work and I for one, look forward to seeing his growth as an artist over next few years.
Gregory Prestegord’s paintings capture the noise of an urban atmosphere, the movement of a city that does not sleep; sun baked ball fields, rain on steel and glass and all the grit and glory that is urban living. Gregory explores Philadelphia, his home town, through energetic paint splashed and brushed on panels. His work bridges between traditional “Philadelphia Academy” style and neo-expressionism and abstraction.
I asked Gregory if I could talk to him about his work for F.A.N.’s blog. Gregory said, “I’m an urban painter. There’s not much more to it.” While he may see it as just painting, his work connects to Philadelphians and their love of this city. Gregory is an energetic painter. He reminds me of some of the great painters of the last century in his physicality, energy, and fearlessness. He is an urban painter who captures the feel of a city’s time and spaces. Gregory’s work is like Dutch genre painting of the 17th century mixed with a little neo-expressionistic graffiti style of the 1980s.
Gregory does not cite any particularly influences but feels, “There were a few artists who really captured the period they lived in. So I can’t say I’m influenced by one artist more than by all the great artists of their period. Some were better at capturing the feeling of their time. My work is very gritty it reflects my life and what I find to be interesting subjects that others can relate to.” Gregory’s paintings distort and abstract reality as he tries to portray the grittiness of Philadelphia. Within his energetic paintings he makes room for the viewer to find places of rest in the visual cacophony, “I’m mixing more abstraction with reality trying to create a space for the viewer to be calm in. I’d like people to look beyond the surface of the painting and just enjoy the feeling of it; the light the texture and the chaotic process. It’s like nature is anyway.”
Gregory was trained formally at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. “I was doing everything– cast drawing, figure painting, but I went my own route, into the streets, while others were in class I was outside working. I was bored of the everyday still life setups and the models posing. I felt that was very boring after a while. If I wanted to make a career out of this I needed to get outside and work on the street. So I did. I would paint in alleyways and street corners. I was inspired to paint my city not some pretty park or rich street corner, or vase of flowers. I was inspired by the grittiness of things around me. That was life to me and I think it’s a way of remembering the past.”
Besides his painting, Gregory study’s capoeira, a Brazilian art form that combines dance, music, gymnastics, and martial arts. I asked him if studying capoeira influences the way he paints or if it helped him to focus on his work or was a way to recharge and be a part of a group after the isolation of working in the studio. Gregory said, “Capoeira helps with both focus and getting out of the studio, but all old forms of exercise help by shaping the mind. Yoga, biking, tai chi, capoeira, swimming, running – any of these types of group activities change your perception of the world and can reshape your artistic mind. Being an artist is a blessing and a curse. The blessing is after you sell a painting. I don’t mean that as a joke but when someone buys a painting you know you’ve inspired and connected to someone (and made some money to get through the month). Painting is like mediation. You are alone with your thoughts or trying to get away from your thoughts. You are a prisoner in your own mind in a way. You never know if your painting will connect to someone. A couple of years ago I worked with prisoners teaching art to inmates. I felt a sense of camaraderie, I understood their isolation.”
I always enjoy talking to Gregory. He is upbeat and full of energy. He told me, “This past year has been one of the most successful years of my life and I only can pray that it continues. But that can change fast. I would say to people, ‘If you think artists have an easy life, think again.’”
Charles Newman will have nearly new 40 oil paintings on display this month at F. A. N Gallery. Newman’s paintings are atmospheric – giving the viewer just enough information to connect to the painting and infer one’s own meaning into the interior spaces, still lives or landscape. The paintings’ sketchy and layered paint or scraped down textures allows the viewer to discover more about the painting with each investigation.
I have been corresponding with Charles while he prepared for Charles Newman: New Paintings, March 2 to 31, 2012.
What do you think about when you paint?
The thought of painting stays with me whether I am painting or not. When painting, I try to keep my thoughts simple. Degas said he didn’t think much when he’s painting and I can relate with that. Overall, things work out better for me in the end when I keep it simple.
[When painting] I break down what I see to the basic shapes and forms. I think about the properties of the paint itself. The way one color reacts next to another color. That’s what painting is about. I imagine having a mentor looking over my shoulder constantly reminding me about these things.
Sometimes I have an imaginary dialogue with students when I’m painting, explaining how to find color tonal relationships and good paint application. However, painting is spontaneous.
When doing plein air painting, it’s a race against time. I simplify things to get the overall moment and feeling from the motif. I ask myself what’s important to include and what’s not. I usually go wrong when I think too much and too objectively about things and try to include every window or every downspout in the painting. I’m making a painting, not doing carpentry. For me, that exhausts the painting, but it happens sometimes and I have to remind myself not to worry about stuff like that. Painting is design. I recognize certain passages within the motif and if I like the way a passage looks, I let it be. If I don’t like the way it looks, I’ll scrape it back and repaint it. I heard someone say a while ago to “think slow and paint fast”, and I always keep that in mind.
Charles works for City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and I wondered if his mural work influenced his personal painting work?
Not really, I feel they are two separate practices. Working on a mural is so different for me, in fabrication, paint application, subject, etc. But one thing that influences me when working on murals is the exploration of various neighborhoods, which have elements that I’m interested in when doing my own painting. Sometimes while painting a mural outside, I look across and see light hitting the side of a house a certain way, and I think to myself, I’d rather be painting.
Who are your influences, artistic or otherwise?
I have many influences. Many are painters from the 18th and 19th centuries, and early 20th century. My wife (who is very influential and supportive) recently got me a couple of art books. One is Edouard Vuillard, who is a great influence. I relate to his work because of the direction my own work has been going in. He did a lot of homely, domestic scenes with a spontaneity and honesty within them – something I try to do in my paintings. I also love his use of composition.
Corot has been an influence of mine for a while. I used to take a book of his work, In the Light of Italy, out of the library all the time when I was going to Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. I may have had a few late charges on it. This book focuses on a group of painters who painted the land and elements of Italy during the 18th and 19th century and the importance of the oil study. In my opinion, I see Corot as one of the fathers of en plein air painting.
Two other influences include Charles Hawthorne and Robert Henri. Not only am I influenced by their work, I am influenced by their writings on teaching. Charles Hawthorne has a book Hawthorne on Painting and Robert Henri’s The Art Spirit. I feel that these are the “helping friendly books” on painting. These are books I can always go back to during my practice. So when I feel my painting is getting stale, these writings help me refresh my painting.
Do you prefer to work in the studio or plein air?
I prefer working en plein air and on location because my paintings are representational. I strive to capture the actuality and simplicity of things. I consider my French easel being a portable version of my studio that I can take on the road. It has adjustable clips to prop my painting at a comfortable height, and it has a little table with a little drawer for me to store and use my supplies, which is great. At home, the detached garage that I converted into a studio is primarily used as a workshop to prepare surfaces, frames and rocking out to music. I rarely paint in the studio.
You talk about “filters” in your statement. What kind of filters do you mean?
When I mention filters in my artist’s statement I mean direct observation of the type of light, the filtering of light through atmosphere. If I’m painting on a humid day, I’ll treat my palette differently than if I was painting on a cold day.
On a cold day with no humidity, the light and shadow is crisp and on a humid day where there is more water in the air, the light feels softer and hazier, and I’ll mix accordingly.
The other thing I mean by “filter” is the ability to simplify through seeing. Squinting my eyes helps to eliminate details and distinguishes the tonal comparisons, so I have a better idea about shapes and edge quality. It also helps me distinguish the local colors and the true spots of color.
One example [of filtering] is the painting “Lake at Croft Farms”. I am facing slightly west, where the sun is receding. With the brightness of the sunlight radiating from the background of my subject matter, the light has diffused a cool bluish glow or filter within my field of view. This enables me to block in a very large mass and easily know my local color. Local color is the overall average of the color range within my field of view. Or the color that is mostly seen within the field of view. Squinting or blurring our eyes help to find the local color because everything gets simplified and we see spots of color. The local color is usually a mid tone color within the range.
Charles Newman’s work will be on display March 2 through March 31, 2012 at F. A. N. Gallery
Opening Reception is Friday, March 2, 2012, 5 to 9 PM.