Tag Archives: Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art

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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New Talent: Claire Haik

Claire Haik, Dusk, 13 X 17 inches, oil on panel

It is that time again, August, when F.A.N. Gallery shows works by new artists. The August group show mixes up new talent with the gallery’s other artists. One of those new artists is Claire Haik. She is a graduate of Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art and University of Memphis. Claire Haik’s work focuses on the natural world of the landscape, she says, “dichotomy excites my imagination, and inspires my depictions of nature. My paintings and prints focus on this complexity inherent in the natural world.”

Claire Haik, 2nd Street, 8 X 10 inches, oil on panel

Recently, I asked her where she likes to paint?

I prefer to paint in more isolated areas. The solitude allows me to focus on my creative process and interaction with nature. In Philadelphia, I look for natural and remote places like Fairmount Park and Valley Green, or the Horticulture center. My favorite type of landscape is defiantly the forest; I am drawn to the complexity and inherent wildness found there. I particularly like the forest in the Catskill Mountains, it is one of the most isolated places I go and I have been painting there since I was a child.

Claire Haik,  Red Octoraro,  8 X 10 inches, oil on panel

Claire Haik, Red Octoraro, 8.5 X 12 inches, oil on panel

In the interest of getting to know a little more about Claire I asked her, what was her first creative memory or the first time she connected to something artistic?

Claire Haik,  Dense Green,  8 X 10 inches, oil on panel

Claire Haik, Dense Green, 13 X 16 inches, oil on panel

As far back as I can remember, I loved to collect sticks, rocks, leaves and other natural things and arrange them in patterns. Looking back, I realize that one of my earliest memories took place when I was about six years old, when someone showed me that you could take the small rocks you find in streams and use them to draw on other rocks. I was amazed by the assortment of colors the different rocks produced; some were red, some grey, others orange! I spent hours collecting them trying to find all the different possible hues. I was really excited by the idea that the whole stream was filled with drawing materials.

Come by the gallery and check out Claire’s work.

Group Show: New Talent and Gallery Artists

August 3 –31, 2012

Opening Reception August 3rd, 5 to 9 PM

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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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Al Gury: Nurturing the Artist’s Spirit

Al Gury, Afternoon Light, 9 X12 inches, oil on panel

Al Gury grew up in the Midwest, and graduated from Saint Louis University. At SLU, Al met a teacher who encouraged him to come to Philadelphia to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He found a home at the PAFA first as a student, then as an instructor and most recently as Chair of the Painting Department.

Al is a generous person, an animal lover who volunteers many hours at Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS). He is a respected teacher, author and painter. I don’t know how he finds the time to do all of it.

I run into Al every few months and it’s always nice to find some time to chat. A common theme for both of us is how we find balance and create an environment that allows us to work and be nurtured as artists.

Al says, “One way, is to try to keep it simple and focused, even though it comes from complex and often confusing sources.” Simplicity, he says, “means treating what I do in a workmanlike way. I don’t make any drama about the artistic process or what I do. I see it all as my job, and I get up and go to work. Of course I worry, etc., but I don’t put things off for long. Painting, teaching writing, caring for friends and family, administering, building community, are the big headings in my life that I try to keep as simple as possible. Under it all is dealing with stresses, self-doubts, fears, deadlines, goals, anxieties, bills, health, losses, and all the other things that betray simplicity.”

Al Gury and Fred at the gallery

Al also finds that his relationships nurture and keep him focused, “Friends and family also keep me learning and loving. Building and maintaining relationships is very important to me. It’s a dance with trips and falls, false steps and stubbed toes. And family is anyone who you love.”

I was one of Al’s students 20 years ago and I was thrilled that he put his wealth of knowledge into two great painting books in the last few years: Alla Prima-A Contemporary Guide to Direct Painting, Random House, 2009, and, Color-It’s Traditions and Practice in Painting, Random House, 2010.

Al reflected on teaching and writing, “As a young kid in grade school, reading and writing was a challenge – part of it was the one size fits all approach of the 1950’s and early 1960’s. Ironically, reading became a passion and later keeping journals of my daily life. The idea that I could actually write articles and books that would be published was a grateful shock.

“I developed a passion for describing complex technical and aesthetic ideas in the classroom in clear language for students to understand. Since so many of my art teachers had spoken in metaphor or not spoken much at all, I vowed I would not be that kind of teacher.

“Writing books and articles have helped me provide as much clear guidance for students as I can and to record an ongoing exploration of teaching methods.” The “one size fits all approach” was not a positive experience in Al’s early education. As a teacher, Al takes time to help each of his students and create an individualized approach to learning. As he finds ways to reach his students it also helps him develop as a painter.

“Painting and teaching have always fed each other. Something that happens in a painting I’m working on ends up being a story I tell students who are struggling with a confusing technical problem. My students inspire me all the time, both with awe at what they are trying to achieve and what someone does in a painting class. I learn so much from them and try those things in my work. Teaching is an art, a relationship and a great love, as is my work in the studio. No one is more surprised than me that I love administering educational programs, chairing, and guiding, all for the good of the students and PAFA. When there are bad days, as we all have, I just remind myself that it is all for the PAFA students and I feel fine.

“With all the things I do, I’ve learned that the myth of painting every day all the time doesn’t work for me. I’ve become conditioned to thinking about painting every day, sketching most days and then making studio time count when I can get it. So, when I get into the studio, the work is already half born from carrying it in my mind often for weeks or months.

“Making a painting is something like building a piece of furniture. It has to be solid, able to withstand inspection and be interesting to look at. Direct alla prima paintings and small oil studies are a great love of mine. My flower paintings, portrait and figure studies allow me to craft a painting through the directness of drawing with the brush. Their small scale allows for a quick completion that is a rich aesthetic in its own right. Planes of color and tone have clear simple meaning in this context.”

I asked Al about journaling and its importance in nurturing his art.

Al reflected, “A journal is a way for me to sketch out ideas and record thoughts and I do that almost daily. It is very important as a form of self-reflection. Self-reflection is essential [for any artist], but again, I try to apply things and not live solely in my head as many artists do.” Al encourages his students to keep a small sketchbook wherever they go. This is to practice quick thumbnail sketches of faces to learn likenesses and to record ideas for compositions and that will help them think through and reflect on things in their life and work.”

Al Gury, Peonies and Sunflowers, 12 X 9 inches, oil on panel

Al’s body of work encompasses the figure, portraits, still-life and landscape. Over the last 20 years that I have known Al I have seen him move from painting large figure paintings to his lush landscapes. For this most recent show at F.A.N., Al is showing mostly landscapes and a smaller number of still-life pieces.

“My larger works, landscapes, figure paintings and formal portraits demand an expansion of the direct approaches to encompass much more complex layering and effects that cannot be achieved solely by a quick brush. Even so, I want them to have the energy of the simple direct paintings and clearly by the same hand.

“The current group of paintings at F.A.N. Gallery includes two of the subjects that I love: landscapes and small flower still-lives. [The landscapes are] more layered, the other [still-lives], very direct – representation has many nuances.

“As much as I use observation of nature as a base, the more abstract elements of shape, pattern, color harmony and paint surface come to the fore for me as powerful needs in my work.”

Al Gury’s methods of working: reflection, teaching, writing, drawing, painting, and his relationships with others sustain and nurture him as an artist. The cycle of work continues to feed his painting.

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FAN is looking forward to the Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit

Photo via Philly.com: Staff at PAFA hang Henry Ossawa Tanner's "The Resurrection of Lazarus."

For the last 20 years, F.A.N. has been representing living artists who work in the spirit and tradition of American artists such as Henry Ossawa Tanner.

F.A.N. is looking forward to the Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. It will be wonderful to see Tanner’s expressive yet detailed works, some of which have never been shown in the United States.

Photo credit: Philly.com

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F.A.N.’s 19th Year at USArtists American Fine Art Show & Sale

USArtists American Fine Arts Show & Sale

Serge Zhukov, Drawing Class, Right part of diptych. Acrilic, oil on canvas 36×36 inches

Al Gury, Twilight, oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches

USArtists is the nation’s premier American art event. Many of the country’s
finest art dealers exhibit and sell an extraordinarily rich and diverse collection
of 18th- through 21st-century American art.

This will be F.A.N. Gallery’s 19th year exhibiting at USArtists American Fine Art Show & Sale. Please come and share in a selection of new paintings, sculpture and works on paper by David Bottini, Rick Buttari, Lesa Chittenden Lim, Al Gury, Robert Heilman, Tezh Modarressi, Kate Kern Mundie, Gregory Prestegord, Carlo Russo, Kathleen Weber, Serge Zhukov, and others.

Friday, Saturday & Sunday, September 23-25, 2011

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts | Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building

Opening Night Preview Gala: Thursday, September 22
New Collectors Night: Friday, September 23

Show Hours:
Friday and Saturday, 11:00 am – 8:00 pm
Sunday, 11:00 am – 5:00 pm

Admission

PAFA members & children under 12 are free!

General Admission:                                   $15 pp

Seniors & Students with ID:                    $12 pp

Groups of 6 or more:                                 $12 pp
Benefits of Admission:  Receive one full-color show catalog, unlimited entry to USArtists 2011 and one free admission to PAFA valid until October 2012.

Receive a $3 discount on a full price admission ticket when you purchase online.

All proceeds from USArtists directly benefit student scholarships
at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

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Matt Greenway, F. A. N.’s July Artist

Matt Greenway, The Bridge, 30 x 62 inches, oil on canvas, 2011

I met F.A.N.’s July artist, Matt Greenway, when we were both teaching at Fleisher Art Memorial. I have admired his work for the last 10 years and I am glad that he is now exhibiting at F.A.N.

Matt and I recently talked about some of his working methods and inspiration. I was familiar with some of his older work and have been delighted with the direction of his newer paintings.

KM: Your work that I am most familiar with is from 2001 to 2009. It seems that the paintings are getting looser and the tone is warmer.

MG: There are definitely tendencies toward looser handling in my work. I hope as I mature as a painter, my handling will be less constrained, like many painters I admire.  Right now, the larger pieces are more controlled, finished pieces. I tend to be looser in my smaller works and especially my gouaches. I gravitate to smaller work, some my most favorite paintings are small.

KM: How have your paintings changed over the years and is it a conscious effort to change or is it evolving on its own?

Matt Greenway, The Gathering, 32 x 46 inches, oil on canvas, 2010

MG: My evolution as a painter has been influenced by who I happen to be looking at any given point and I paint in a style reminiscent of painters I like. Some recent autumn paintings were inspired by the work of Daniel Garber . I saw quite a few inspiring pieces at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art’s Museum of American Art a few years ago. I’m still processing that show. The Gathering was an attempt to paint a tapestry-like piece in Garber–like fashion.

KM: Has your painting process changed over the years and has that influenced your style?

MG: The gouache paintings have informed my oils.  They help me understand the importance of freshness in a painting because you cannot fuss with a gouache or it quickly becomes stale.  I think this is true of oil painting as well.

KM: Switching gears a bit. What makes you paint?

Matt Greenway, The Corner, 9 x 11 inches, oil on canvas, 2009

MG: Painting is one way I deal with my mortality – or at least avoid the thought of the end. My demise seems most distant when I have a paintbrush in my hand.  I am comforted by the silly notion that a few of these works will probably survive me. Painting has a lot of things going for it despite it being an antiquated medium.  It affords me a number of things; it is an effort to make meaning of what I see, it is a dialogue with paintings of the past; it gives me a sense of purpose or worth.

KM: What about the landscape or cityscape attracts you?

MG: There is a rich tradition that I am looking to when I commence painting a landscape. There are nearly always a dozen great artists who have painted what I have painted or something like what I have painted [before]. What I find exciting is how I will depict the scene and what this says about my work and who I am. In this sense, I find painting a process of self-discovery as well as mediation on the world and the tradition of painting.

I’m also inspired by what I think would make an interesting painting. This usually involves what I see during everyday life, as well how this intersects with photography and art history.  I cannot paint a pear without thinking about how a dozen other painters might go about this. And in the process of painting that pear I find, through what I choose to include and what I choose to leave out, what kind of painter I am.

Matt Greenway, Bermuda, 7 x 7 inches, oil on muslin, 2009

KM: Can you tell me about your process?

MG: With the exception of still-life, I usually paint an underpainting. In gouache, I paint it in yellows and reds and finish with a cool, then a full color final layer.  In oil, I begin with variations of dark reds and whites – what is a Venetian method, I think.  I try to keep the darks lean and build up the whites. Then I paint a whole other layer on top of this. This way, I find by essentially painting the image twice you learn how the painting works the second time around. Using such a method, Sickert said you may, “learn the song so you can play it by heart”.

Matt Greenway, Dollop, 6 x 7 inches, oil on muslin, 2011

KM: How do your paintings come together: plein air, in the studio, or a mix?

MG: The gouaches or opaque watercolor are often done on site. Still-lifes are done from life in the studio. Otherwise, I paint landscape in the studio from digital or scanned photographs. I sometimes manipulate images on the computer to better understand tonal relationships. Sometimes, I will work from three totally different images of the same picture and take what I need to create the painting. One needs a fresh eye. And when you work indirectly, depending on one image is frequently not enough.

KM: Do you mean three pictures of the same subject from different points of view or three differentially colored or valued versions of the same photo, i.e. a black and white version, a red version or blue version?  By “fresh eye” you mean the different images give you a fresh perceptive on the subject?

MG: Frequently, it’s the same image. I usually desaturate it, and simplify or amplify the tonal values of the image. It’s also important to know the right time to put the source material away and work on the painting on its own terms so that it can stand alone. After all, I’m interested in making a painting – not a painted photo, not photo-realism.

Matt Greenway, Dome, 30 x 40 inches, oil on canvas, 2011

KM: What type of size and surface do you like to work on?

MG: In oil, I work on canvas, muslin, or panel. Someone recently remarked that you can recognize a former Lennart student by whether he paints on muslin or not. In gouache, I prefer hot press [paper], the heavier the better.

KM: Do you do drawings to get started?

MG: On site I’ll do a bare-bones sketch but usually dive in [with paint]. With small oils, I usually work on the underpainting without a drawing and just arrange simple masses. With large works, I generally square them up initially, find a few key points and lay in the masses.

KM: Matt, I know it can be hectic right before the exhibition opening, thanks for taking the time to talk with me about your work and process. The new paintings are beautiful and it was great to get some insight as to how you work.

Please come to F.A.N. Gallery to see Matt Greenway: Recent Paintings, July 1st — 31st, 201, Opening Reception First Friday: July 1st, 5 — 9 p.m.

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