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Monday, November 3, 2014

Patron of Painters

sign on the via Roma, Buonconvento
From Buonconvento to Rome

in situ, outside Buonconvento
On October 18th I found myself painting, without realizing it, on the feast of the patron saint of painters, St. Luke; I was in Buonconvento visiting painter friends, and we had an afternoon of painting en plein air outside of town on an estate in the process of changing hands (historically, it had belonged to the hospital in Siena). Days later I would be in Rome at a conference at the Accademia di San Luca, honoring the head of the artists’ and architects’ academy at the turn of the eighteenth century, Carlo Fontana. Serendipities.
in progress, outside Buonconvento; oil on gessoed board
I left the two paintings from the afternoon outside Buonconvento with my friends, since I use a slow-drying medium, and I was too loaded down to take wet paintings to Rome. Shown here is the first and larger of the two, in progress on site; I was using the burnt siena/ochre ground as the brickwork of the wall, allowing me to focus on modeling the shadows, foliage, etc. It was a two-hour painting, something I try fairly rigorously to hold to as a parameter; my second painting was quicker still, about an hour, and while less ambitious in subject it may have been more effective as a composition. No photos of that one in progress to share…

the Acqua Paola on the Janiculum, Rome
In Rome I stayed for two weeks at the American Academy on the Janiculum Hill, near the spectacular Acqua Paola; I tackled the fountain twice, once on the day I arrived, in the afternoon, and again a week later, early in the morning. For the second I managed to finish within an hour, partly because I was working under very changeable atmospheric conditions, partly because I didn’t want to get bogged down in details (see the photo). I think this may actually become my new target, one (intense) hour forcing me to focus on big issues and avoid fussing over the details. I use a linseed/stand oil medium because I appreciate the unctuous quality of beautiful paint, although it is paradoxical that quick painting is paired with slow-drying medium. Whether the narrow window of time makes for better paintings I don’t know, but it does make me, I think, a better painter.

afternoon, Acqua Paola; oil on paper
early morning, Acqua Paola; oil on gessoed board

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