Tag Archives: oil paint

Carlo Russo wins Purchase Prize at ARC

Carlo Russo, Dreams of Ophila, oil on linen

Carlo Russo, Dreams of Ophila,  29 x 22 inches, oil on linen


We just found out some good news from one of our artists, Carlo Russo. His painting, “Dreams of Ophelia” won a purchase prize awards at the 2013 Art Renewal Center Salon, as well as winning 3rd place in figurative category. Carlo’s  painting “the blue dress” was a still life finalist too.

Carlo Russo, Blue Dress, oil on linen

Carlo Russo, Blue Dress, oil on linen

Congratulations to Carlo Russo!




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May 2, 2013 · 10:55 pm

Interview with Neil Berger

Neil Berger, "Grain Silo Red Hook," 30 x 42 inches

Neil Berger, “Grain Silo Red Hook,” 30 x 42 inches

During July 2012, F.A.N. will show the work of Neil Berger. Neil’s work includes landscapes, monoprints, and portraits. His paintings capture the familiarity of life without being too specific. Neil edits out the extraneous information giving the viewer the essence of the landscape, urbanscape, or portrait.

Neil’s paintings are thickly built up in juicy layers of paint in vibrant color.  Conversely, his approach to monoprint is more of a subtractive method: thick ink is evenly layered on a plexiglas plate and then areas of ink are removed to allow the color of the paper color to come through after printing.

Neil Berger, "Oil Lube 39th," 21 x 25 inches

Neil Berger, “Oil Lube 39th,” 21 x 25 inches

Do you work through the same subject in a painting and then revisit it through the monoprint medium?

Yes! Many of my monoprints are reworkings of things I’ve painted. It’s funny – if I paint something twice or made two monoprints of the same subject in a short interval I’m sure I’d lose a little ‘juice’, but in switching mediums, the fact that I’ve done it before gives me more energy.

In your statement you talk about becoming a studio painter and working from memory instead of working en plein air. Do you do any preparatory drawings or work directly in paint?

I used to do tiny little preparatory sketches, with more verbal notes than drawing, but now I just look and then paint. Even with the tiny sketches I was doing too much blind copying and not enough inner inhabiting of the subject. I used to think complex things like tree branches were too hard to just make up, and maybe they are, but I hate copying them into my paintings.

Neil Berger, "Chinatown," 24 x 30 inches

Neil Berger, “Chinatown,” 24 x 30 inches

What do you read, listen to, or look at to recharge you or fuel your work and find inspiration?

Music is a big inspiration. Bach is a big hero. I want to do paintings like Bach, like the Brandenburg concertos, or sonatas for Cello and Harpsichord. I look at painting books a lot. In the past year I’ve especially enjoyed Canaletto, late DeKooning, Bellows’ cityscapes and Hudson-scapes, and Diebenkorn, especially the Berkeley series.

I’m not a voracious reader but I like what I like. I just read The Sun Also Rises for the hundredth time. I also have a taste for the right ‘spiritual’ journey book, like the Castaneda books or The Alchemist or The Pilgrimage by Coelho.

Neil Berger, "Lower Man Ship Wake," 36 x 44 inches

Neil Berger, “Lower Man Ship Wake,” 36 x 44 inches

There are small groupings of people or sometimes a lone figure in some of your urbanscapes. How do you use figures in your composition to further the narrative of the painting?

As you can see, I tend to put non-whites, usually women and children in the paintings. Throughout the years I’ve often depicted “the other.” I was putting a lot of figures in my paintings when I lived in Sunset Park, because I loved the people there. I think Mexicans are beautiful, somehow.

Now I’m in a more cosmic period. I often don’t even want the anchor of the earth, much less a figure. I paint to the 2001: A Space Odyssey soundtrack to get me in a “beyond the infinite” kind of mood. But when I do use figures, I would not say it is to advance a narrative. I have nothing to say!  Only to show. But they are there for different reasons: because they are beautiful; maybe to push back against a crushing environment; maybe to show the light – bright noontime gleaming on their hair or Golden Hour rays catching their clothes.

Neil Berger, "Smith St. Folks, " 30 x 36 inches

Neil Berger, “Smith St. Folks, ” 30 x 36 inches

Do you think of your paintings as having a narrative?

Nah. But I’m open to one existing in the mind of the viewer. I just don’t think in those terms, except maybe crude verbal formulations like “bit of life against desert bleakness,”  “dark noontime painting,” or “Venus, Moon and Jupiter lined up.”

What do you do for fun when you are not in the studio?

I guess I wasn’t honest about how central books are to me. I spend a lot of time looking at books, all kinds: ancient cultures, biology, paleontology, archaeology, architecture, war, biography, books that react against accepted, respected news media, spiritual books, etc.

I like to play basketball, though my attendance is down lately. I like to take walks in nature. I like to travel. Lately I’ve been taking smaller trips with my girlfriend to the Catskills, the Smoky Mountains, Cape May, New Jersey, Illinois.

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Introducing Neil Berger


Neil Berger, “Manhattan Thru Girders I,” 20 x 24 inches

Neil Berger will be showing his paintings and monoprints July 6th thru the 28th. The opening reception is July 6, from 5 to 9 PM.

Neil’s paintings are bold explorations that capture the soul of New York city. He edits and expands the subject matter to compose paintings that express the mood of the city at any given time.

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Charles Newman- Plein Air Painter

Charles Newman Sunday Morning 36 x 30 inches, oil on linen

Charles Newman, “Sunday Morning,” 36 x 30 inches, oil on linen

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.

Charles Newman Looking Up 16 x 12 oil on panel

Charles Newman, “Looking Up,” 16 x 12 oil on panel

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.

Charles Newman, "Victorian Home,"  18x 11, oil on panel

Charles Newman, “Victorian Home,” 18x 11, oil on panel

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.

Some of my present day painting influences include Scott Noel, Al Gury, Dan Miller, Jon Redmond, former classmates and family.

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.

Charles Newman Under the Weeping Willow 9 x 12 oil on panel

Charles Newman, “Under the Weeping Willow,” 9 x 12 oil on panel

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.

Charles Newman Lake at Croft Farm_ 18x24_oil on panel

Charles Newman, “Lake at Croft Farm,” 18×24, oil on panel

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.

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