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Interview with David Bottini

David Bottini, May Meadow Breeze, 30 x 40 inches, acrylic on canvas

David Bottini, May Meadow Breeze, 30 x 40 inches, acrylic on canvas

David Bottini will be showing his large landscape paintings at the gallery for the month of March. I feel like David’s paintings are a preview of spring and summer as we fill the gallery with his light infused landscapes.

KM: What is your first creative memory?

DB: It is toddler pre-memory, but my parents describe a naptime where I apparently woke-up and stood in my crib tearing off a wall collage that my mother had made – they discovered my “revision” when they checked-in on my nap … maybe I was exerting an emerging aesthetic?

I also remember loving crayons and paper – I am the youngest child, so I recall having crayons and piles of tractor-feed computer paper (my father was a computer programmer in the sixties) that I remember loving to fill with doodles and images. I spent considerable time with my grandfather (he lived with us) – so I always enjoyed the wanders into the woods and time spent in the garden with him … perhaps the seeds of my love of nature were established in those early years.

David Bottini, Summer Leaves, 24 x 12 inches, acrylic on canvas

David Bottini, Summer Leaves, 24 x 12 inches, acrylic on canvas

KM:How long have you been painting?

DB: I had my first formal classes at 10 … worked at my art throughout high school. Really focused and engaged in the process during college and graduate school. So … 40 plus years of working to make paintings … perhaps the past 20 where I sense I am becoming a painter.

KM:Why do you paint?

DB: The reason has changed over the past 30 plus years. I originally painted because it allowed me to engage a fascination with paint, design, and color. As the years passed, and my technical prowess became more intuitive, I have come to see painting as the primary way I can share an articulate experience of the peace and contemplative solace that I find within nature.  Painting is now (excuse my cliché) a lifestyle … I  cannot imagine not working in the studio, and viewing my life experience through a painter’s eye. I sense that my reasons for painting will continue to evolve as I mature physically and creatively.

KM: Do you already have an image in your mind prior to painting or does it develop as you get started?

DB: Not a specific image so much as a sense of light, and the “feel” of a place. As I work from sketches and many photos for reference, I build a painting that conveys the experience I recall from that place.

x David Bottini, March Snow, 40 x 40 inches, acrylic on canvas

David Bottini, March Snow, 40 x 40 inches, acrylic on canvas

KM: Can you tell me a little about your studio practice?

DB: I work in a traditional process that begins in direct experience. I take walks or go out for hikes 3 to 5 times each week. There are always places that attract me – I am drawn to a sense of both enclosure/embrace and some path that is implied or physical that leads outside of the area of embrace.
I generally take many (typically 45- 70 images) from any given location as reference. I will usually return for some very loose sketches.
In the studio, I generally begin with loose paint sketches on paper and then, if the subject/place engages my design interest I will move to a canvas study. I often work a 5 x 7 up to 11 x 14 inch range as my first iteration. If my interest is piqued, I return to a larger (and always revised) larger scale iteration. It is not unusual for my work building a larger canvas to involve weeks of engagement as I build 30 to 40 layers of glazes.

I see a similarity between developing a friendship and building a painting, if the subject is nourishing and continues to engage my art and design interest, I will pursue and maintain a dialogue with the subject. There are places that feel almost archetypal and have had me returning to the visual theme for years of paintings.

David Bottini, Sparkling Summer Morning,  24 x 36 inches, acrylic on canvas

David Bottini, Sparkling Summer Morning, 24 x 36 inches, acrylic on canvas

KM: What artists do you admire?

DB: I have a wide range of artists who inspire and instruct my work in the studio. I love Andrew Wyeth’s rich low-key palette and evocative handling of a familiar Pennsylvania landscape. I continue to be moved by Mark Rothko’s luminous color and still compositional space. I am awed by the luxury and vibrant energy of Maxfield Parrish’s compositional clarity and saturated palette. Corot pulls me into his deep environmental space and carries my eye through his composition with rhythmic brushstrokes and his use of a dark and subdued palette. The American Luminists and 20th Century graphic design represent bodies of work that offer me endless hours of visual study and inspiration. There are many others – including work done over the years by my students, who often make marks that are fresh, raw, and without analytical baggage.

David Bottini, Autumn Arrives 20 x 16 inches, acrylic on canvas

David Bottini, Autumn Arrives 20 x 16 inches, acrylic on canvas

KM: What do you do fun or to recharge yourself?

DB: I enjoy taking long walks and hikes into the woods whenever possible. I also enjoy any reason to take a train trip as well as reading food columns to find a bartender using small batch liquors and creative cocktail recipes. Eating small plates at wonderful bars is one of my favorite luxuries.

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Al Gury on Collecting

Al Gury, Blue Moon, 8 x 10 inches, oil on panel

Al Gury, Blue Moon, 8 x 10 inches, oil on panel

Al Gury is showing landscape and still life paintings at F.A.N. in the month of February.  I interviewed Al last winter and we talked about nurturing the artist.  I recently got a chance to interview Al again. We talked about artists collecting works and objects.
Al’s studio and home is filled with wonderful pieces of pottery, prints, printings and sculpture he has collected over the years. Some of the objects turn up in his still life paintings and I was curious to know how the printings and paintings inform his works.
I wanted to ask you about your own collection of art and objects. Why do you collect?
As to collecting, I always have since childhood. Objects, like icons, have meaning to me. Like icons, they are windows to imagination and creativity.
 

When did you start collecting? What is the piece that started your collection?

There is no one object that started me on collecting, but there are some that stand out. On my birthday in 1980, I also happened to be moving. I was grabbing packing boxes out of a dumpster in center city to help with the move. In the dirt in the bottom of the dumpster I saw some shapes that didn’t seem right for the situation. So…, I climbed in. What I pulled out of the filth were two very beautiful decorated boxes. It turned out they were sewing boxes from the 1830’s, made in China*. They were also filled with the delicate ivory tools for embroidery. An amazing find that I cherish to this day. And a beautiful birthday gift.
Al Gury, Snow Fields, 20 X 24 inches, oil on panel

Al Gury, Snow Fields, 20 X 24 inches, oil on panel

What attracts you to a piece of art or an object?

Generally, the first thing I notice in an object, even in flea markets, will be the shape of the object. I have a strong feeling for shapes, whether it’s old hand made tools or pottery. When I’m looking for particular objects to add to one of my collections, I will often scan a shop or a market for particular shapes to identify the object of the search.  When I draw my sketchbooks or journals, I start with shapes.
Al Gury, White Peonies, 14 X 11 inches, oil on panel

Al Gury, White Peonies, 14 X 11 inches, oil on panel

How does your collection influence your art making?

I have surrounded myself with objects and collections that have meaning for me: icons, pottery, paintings, prints, sculpture… These create an environment that helps me keep alive the  feelings, beliefs, hopes and traditions I love, and nourish the aesthetics I wish to bring to my painting.  
*link to sewing boxes similar to Al’s collection

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Interview with Kate Kern Mundie

Kate Kern Mundie, City Hall in Fog, 14 x 12 inches, oil on panel

Kate Kern Mundie, City Hall in Fog, 14 x 12 inches, oil on panel

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.

Kate Kern Mundie, Smiling Barn, 12 x 12 inches, oil on panel

Kate Kern Mundie, Smiling Barn, 12 x 12 inches, oil on panel

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.

Image via St. Louis Art Museum: Pablo Picasso, Pitcher and Fruit Bowl, 51 1/4 x 76 3/4 inches, oil on canvas, 1931
Image via St. Louis Art Museum: Pablo Picasso, Pitcher and Fruit Bowl, 51 1/4 x 76 3/4 inches, oil on

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.

Kate Kern Mundie, Hats, 20 x 40 inches, oil on panel

Kate Kern Mundie, Hats, 20 x 40 inches, oil on panel

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.

Kate Kern Mundie, Delaware Canal, 24 x 16 inches, oil on panel

Kate Kern Mundie, Delaware Canal, 24 x 16 inches, oil on panel

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.

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Interview with Carlo Russo

Carlo Russo, "The Blue Dress", 25 X 42 inches, oil on linen

Carlo Russo, "The Blue Dress", 25 X 42 inches, oil on linen

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.

Carlo Russo, "Orientaliste," 20 X 23 inches, oil on linen

Carlo Russo, "Orientaliste," 20 X 23 inches, oil on linen

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.

Carlo Russo, "Quinces," 11 x 22 inches, oil on linen

Carlo Russo, "Quinces," 11 x 22 inches, oil on linen

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.

Carlo Russo, "Arizona Afternoon," 16 x 22 inches, oil on linen

Carlo Russo, "Arizona Afternoon," 16 x 22 inches, oil on linen

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.  

 

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Gregory Prestegord: Urban Artist

Gregory Prestegord, Building in the Rain, Abstraction, 48 x 48 inches oil on panel

Gregory Prestegord, "Building in the Rain, Abstraction", 48 x 48 inches oil on panel

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.

Gregory Prestegord, Soccer in South Philly, 16 x 36 inches, oil on panel

Gregory Prestegord, Soccer in South Philly, 16 x 36 inches, oil on panel

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 Prestegord, "Inside the Divine," 24 x 48 inches, oil on panel

Gregory Prestegord, "Inside the Divine," 24 x 48 inches, oil on panel

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.”

Gregory Prestegord, "Scrap Metal Yard," 12 x 12 inches, oil on panel

Gregory Prestegord, "Scrap Metal Yard," 12 x 12 inches, oil on panel

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.”

Gregory Prestegord, " Under It," 12 x 12 inches, oil on panel

Gregory Prestegord, " Under It," 12 x 12 inches, oil on panel

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.’”

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December 2011

Rick Buttari and Joshua Koffman, December 2011

F.A.N. has a wonderful new exhibit opening in December.
Rick Buttari: New Paintings and Joshua Koffman: Sculpture

There will be a group show on the second floor featuring new work by Jesse J. Gardner, Al Gury, Kate Kern Mundie, Carlo Russo, Serge Zhukov, and introducing new artists Nick Patten, Philip Corey and Olga Nielsen, plus work by many more or FAN’s artists.

December 2nd – 31st, 2011
Opening reception:
Friday, December 2nd, 5-9:00 PM

Hours: Wednesday – Sunday, 12-6:00 PM

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Tezh Modaressi

“Hard Times”

Oil and encaustic painting in discreet sizes,  5×5, 7×7 and 9×9 inches.
The paintings depict care worn spaces, abandoned equipment or cars but are painted in richly layered  jewel like color.

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