My painting process – you asked it

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I’ve recently received an email from an English college student of A level Art who asked me to tell about my art and painting process as she has choosen my artistic activity as subject of a critical study of the college.

My answer:

Dear ….,
I’m pleased that you have chosen my work as subject, I’m willing to help you. I suppose you have arrived to me through my website (if not, please visit it as it contains some information about me and my art)
To begin with, I am a selftaught artist, I’ve started with digital art in 2003, later I’ve learnt the traditional techniques as well. Actually it happened so: my digital paintings have obtained a good success and in 2008 I’ve been invited to a contest organized by a castle in the Loire valley, France. I had to present an oil painting but I have never painted before! So I’ve bought materials and begun to paint. The result was good enough considering the total lack of experience, but it obviously didn’t win the prize. Anyway, it was enough to put me on the way to become an artist.
I have bought a number of books about art both technical and art history, and since then I am always in full immersion. I’m also subscriber to art magazines and I watch instructional videos. I try to improve continously not only my technical abilities but also to have a better understanding of what means to be a real artist.
I am particularly attracted by portrayal as I find it fascinating to be able to reproduce not only a good resemblance (it’s a minimum) but also “to give life” to the  portrait. Actually, some time after beginning a painting I have the feeling that an other person is there on the canvas, waiting to be called to life. It’s a really fantastic feeling!


In this moment I work on various projects  connected to the region I live (Central Italy). One is about actors, actresses and film directors born in this land, like Marcello Mastroianni. The other is reproducing famous works figuring models originary of this region, painted by masters like Corot, Sargent, Bouguereau and others.

Copy of a painting of Bouguereau

As for my method, it is a personal combination of “alla prima” and layering (the classic masters’ method)

First day:

  • I prepare the base with an acrylic uniform monochrome layer (white mixed with burnt siena or yellow ochre or a little black)
  • I begin to paint, actually draw, positioning the figure/head with oil: burnt umber and very little solvent (turpentine). I always draw freehand, I never use grid or projection or any aid. When I do wall painting, street painting, a complicate or very large painting that needs planning, I might prepare a sketch and I might do some grid system to help orientation, but I draw always freehand and rather loosely. That’s to develop my drawing ability and prevent stiffness, lifelessness. When I work from fantasy I need of course some preparatory sketches. In this example I work from photo. I eyeball the basic proportions (the pencil method) and lay them down. In the beginning they must be checked and doublechecked, as they are important especially in case of portraits to assure resemblance.
  • I block in the major shapes
  • I block in loosely the shadows, wiping out exceeding paint.

At this point I have a very rudimental monochrome sketch (underpainting) that I leave to dry a day (because doing so it’s easier to work on)

2nd day and after

  • I decide the color of the background and paint it (in case of single portraits it’s usually monochrome with variations)
  • I mix the basic colors,and begin to apply them in patches, working from dark to light (dark shadows first, highlights at the end), from lean to fat (little turpentine at the beginning, more linseed oil at the end, so I prevent cracking).
  • I switch from one part to the other, to develop the painting altogether, assuring unity.
  • I continue adding paint, increasing precision. I work until satisfied with the result. Developing the whole painting altogether I can stop when I like it, leaving it impressionistic, alla prima style or continuing until realist or hyperrealist rendering (in case of hyperrealism of couse the initial measuring must be yet more accurate). During the whole process I step back often to check the effect and the resemblance.

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