Tag Archives: Pennsylvania Academy of the fine arts

F.A.N.’s Newest Painter: Evan Harrington

Evan Harrington, "Pears With Atomizer," 8 X 12 inches, oil on canvas

Evan Harrington, “Pears With Atomizer,” 8 X 12 inches, oil on canvas

For June 2012 we welcome a new artist to F.A.N. Gallery.  Evan Harrington is a Bucks County native. He received his fine art training at various ateliers here and abroad, and is a graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

I wanted to find out a bit more about F.A.N.’s newest painter.

What advice has influenced you?

I am particularly interested in the advice given by musicians and athletes. They seem to experience the same situations and hurdles as a working artist, but from a different perspective. Two things stand out in my mind: practice and vision. Every time I pick up a brush or a pencil, I feel it is working towards improving my ease with the mediums. Each drawing and painting I work on, no matter how simple or complex, is working towards improving my hand-eye or hand-mind coordination. “Visual calisthenics” is what one of my friends calls it. Vision is the other major influence on my studio practice. It is important to be relaying some thought or visual idea through each piece of art. Some songwriters circle one theme their entire careers while others change it up with each piece they produce. Either way, vision is the backbone to the art I create.

Who taught you the most about art?

My father taught me how to paint and draw from an early age. My mother was instrumental in getting me to lessons and encouraging me. I had quite a few influential instructors along the way that helped me reach some of my own goals. I have always spent a good deal of time looking through books on various artists, which has expanded my knowledge and perspective of art. Of course, there is a huge component of self-discovery, which is also essential to a healthy growing artist.

Evan Harrington, "Abdul Holding A Toad," 24 X 18 inches, oil on canvas

Evan Harrington, “Abdul Holding A Toad,” 24 X 18 inches, oil on canvas

Your father is an artist.  Do you discuss art or your work with him? How is your work similar or different from his?

My dad, Glenn Harrington, has been working as a professional artist for over 30 years. We discuss art quite frequently. Most of the time, we bounce ideas off of each other.

It is hard for me to keep my work free and spontaneous while creating a large body of work for shows so it really helps that my father is constantly pushing me to branch out and try new ideas.

Many people do see our work as similar and some as entirely separate. I am so familiar with his work and so closely connected to mine, that I have no perspective in being able to see the differences or similarities. I rarely see him paint a still-life, and that is my main subject, so I suppose that is a considerable distinction. I can also sometimes detect our differences in brush work. One thing that I know we both share our interests in the same painters and paintings. Whenever we go to a museum or flip through a catalogue, we frequently agree on our favorite artwork.

When you are in need of inspiration are there particular things you read, listen to, or look at to fuel your work?

Every avenue of my life inspires painting. Seeing new places, meeting up with friends, a wonderful painting, all encourage me to get back to the easel. I thrive off of absorbing beauty and history while in the studio. A lot of times, this comes in the form of books. Sorolla, Degas, Kline, Sargent, Garber, and Velazquez are among my most frequently visited artists. I listen to every type of music available, it helps keep the energy and focus level up. My hobbies, which include tennis and aviation, help bring balance to my life and naturally inspire.

How did you get into aviation? 

As a kid, I spent several Saturdays going to the local regional airport to watch planes depart and land with my family. Also, I was fortunate to travel a good deal when I was young, so airports have always been an exciting place for me. A year ago I went up for my first lesson and have loved it ever since. It’s a great way to get out of the studio and gain perspective. It truly feels like another world when you are 5,000 feet above the ground. I have always loved looking at maps, so the visuals of aerial perspectives fascinate me. One flight early on in my training I remember seeing New York City and Philadelphia clearly at the same time, and only 3,000 feet above the earth’s surface. This was an eye opener for me; it was probably a similar feeling for those astronauts who were able to see the earth as round for the first time.

Do you have a pilot’s license?

I do not have my license quite yet. Painting is priority, then flying. My goal is to have it done by the end of summer so I can move onto getting my instrument rating. I have quite a few friends who are pilots,  so I fly with them frequently. I am unable to log flight hours with them, but I still gain the experience.

Evan Harrington, "Morning Flower," 20 X 20 inches, oil on canvas

Evan Harrington, “Morning Flower,” 20 X 20 inches, oil on canvas

How do you hope your work will grow? Are there any other themes you wish to explore with your work? 

I am not sure what direction my work will take this next year. Often I look through my latest body of work, select the pieces that I think are strongest, figure out why they are particularly successful, and then replicate those principles in my next body of work. I have practiced painting everything while I was in school and up to now, so I have prepared myself to be technically ready for whatever lies ahead. My goal is to dig deeper than the surface classifications of subject and theme and perhaps explore things like texture or pattern. The unknown is what keeps the process really exciting.

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Introducing Evan Harrington

Evan Harrington, "Prop Shelf," 12 x 20 inches, oil on canvas

Evan Harrington, “Prop Shelf,” 12 x 20 inches, oil on canvas

Evan Harrington  just joined F.A.N. Gallery. He will have a solo exhibition in June, 2012.

Evan is predominately a still life painter. He is a recent graduate Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Evan studied at The Glenn Harrington Studio, The Arcuri Studio, and The Chocheli School of Fine Art. He also exhibits in Charleston, South Carolina.

Evan Harrington, "Pears with Atomizer," 8 x 12 inches, oil on canvas

Evan Harrington, “Pears with Atomizer,” 8 x 12 inches, oil on canvas

Welcome Evan Harrington!

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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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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.

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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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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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Al Gury at F.A.N. in February 2012

AlGury, Long Evening, 12 X 9 inches, oil on panel, 2011

Al Gury, Long Evening, 12 X 9 inches, oil on panel, 2011

Al Gury, Painting Chair of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art and author of  Alla Prima: A Contemporary Guide to Traditional Direct Painting and Color for Painters: A Guide to Traditions and Practice will be exhibiting new still life and landscape paintings at FAN gallery for the month of February 2012

Al Gury: New Paintings

February 3rd – 25th, 2012
Opening Reception
Friday February 3rd, 5- 9 PM
Hours: Wednesday – Sunday, 12 – 6 PM

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