Recently I’ve posted several painters’ interviews from Painting Perceptions, so today I wanted to branch out a little. I was happy to find this Youtube painting demo with some helpful information about painting outside. When I dug a little deeper to see what else I could learn about this painter I found an interview: an interview on Painting Perceptions. Ha. Dalessio offers helpful information about site-size, compressing values, mixing black, and how to position horizon lines for landscape paintings. He says nothing about how to stay warm while standing in cold alpine air, though the long puffy coat and hat likely help. Oil paint doesn’t freeze, but it does get rather stiff when it’s cold. I don’t really freeze either, but I do complain a lot. Addendum: Marc Dalessio just sent me a note: Hi, I saw you linked to my winter painting demo and interview with Painting Perceptions. I just wanted to say thanks, and that I have written about staying warm while painting outside in winter: http://www.marcdalessio.com/winter-gear-for-plein-air-painting-part-ii/ All the best, Marc https://youtu.be/G0QeUviRgqYhttps://youtu.be/8iKTGkJOSE8 Interview with Marc Dalessio April 27, 2009 By Larry on Painting Perceptions (Marc Dalessio) Self Portrait 2003 I recently discovered the website and blog of Marc Dalessio, an amazing landscape painter in a naturalistic style. He currently teaches at the Florence Academy of Art as the landscape painting instructor and also is a noted portrait painter. Marc works from his studio in Florence, Italy but also ventures on painting expeditions to various spots around the world including a recent venture to Myanmar. He post fascinating descriptions of his travels in Myanmar on his blog here. He has a few posts on this topic so hunt around his blog and website to get all the articles. His blog has lots of useful and engaging material – well worth investigating. You can also see more of his work on his Grenning Gallery website here. I was curious to find out more about him and asked if he would be interested in doing an interview, I was thrilled that he took the time out from his busy schedule to agree to this interview. Atlas Mountain Village Oil on Canvas 2004 20 x 32 inches Larry: You studied fine art as undergrad at University of California at Santa Cruz, what lead you to Florence, Italy to train at the Charles Cecil Atelier? How do you compare these two approaches to learning how to paint. Marc: I started at UCSC studying biology, assuming that I had just been born in the wrong century for naturalistic painting. I was fortunate to have two excellent teachers, Hardy Hanson and Patrick Aherne who gave me a taste for what I really wanted to do. Then, in my senior year, I did a year abroad program in Europe to see if I could find someone to teach me there, assuming that the last home of great realist painting would still have people around teaching. I stumbled upon Cecil studios by accident and ended up staying in Florence for 17 years. The main difference between a university art course and an atelier training is that the university wants you to learn a little bit about a lot of different subjects and study under various teachers with very different ideas on art, whereas an atelier teaches you how to one thing very well. I don’t know of any university which has the kind of rigorous drawing course required to learn to be a proficient draftsman. A good atelier will have at least a year-long intensive drawing course with 4 week (or more) poses. In my opinion, for traditional painting, the atelier system is a much stronger program. Larry: Charles Cecil Atelier seems to advocate the Sight-size Technique in a major way – is this something important in your current work and is it something you use in landscape as well as portraiture? Marc: I use sight size almost all the time. Even when sketching. I find it incredibly useful for portraits, obviously, but I have also developed a way to use it for landscape painting where I pretty much don’t have to worry about proportions and shapes while I’m painting. It allows me to focus on everything else. Larry: Looking at your work I imagine Velequez, Sargent, Corot and other Masters of the past must influence you. Who are some contemporary painters who influence your work and how? Marc: I think Corot, Sisley, and above all Isaac Levitan influenced my outdoor work the most. Velasquez, Van Dyck and Sargent my portraits. Living in Europe I feel actually out of the loop as far as contemporary painters go. We only really have Antonio Lopez Garcia. When I get back to America or browse around online I’m always inspired by how many great contemporary realists there are working in America today. Keeping my list to painters whose work I’ve seen in person, contemporary landscape painters I like are Joe Paquet, my friend Ben Fenske, Donald Jurney, Joseph McGurl and Charles Cecil. For figurative work I like Richard Maury, Elena Arcangeli, Jeremy Lipking, and Graydon Parrish. As for how they influence me, I would say mostly in a technical sense (their colors, edges, values… paint handling… etc), never really for the subject matter. Ingrid Lamminpää oil on canvas 59 x 39 inches 2005 Larry: You draw and paint both the figure and the landscape extremely well. Many painters usually only excel at one or the other yet you do both. Is this from your intense study in observing nature? Some of your landscapes are quite large, do you work on them all on site or from studies and or photos? Marc: My figure work is actually not very good, without being modest. I can get away with portraits because I painted so many while I was a student at Cecil studios. For every good figure painting of mine, I’ve probably destroyed 5 others. I’ve always tried to push the limits of my canvas sizes outside and have managed to paint canvases up to 60 x 40 inches outdoors. In the winters I also blow up paintings from sketches. Lately I’ve tried using a projector to have access to more information than I can get from the sketch, but I try to use photographs as little as possible and I never enlarge paintings that I haven’t already painted a sketch of. Larry: Any particular palette of colors that you tend to use? The tones in your painting are very naturalistic and closely observed – what can you say about color in your work that would be of note? Marc: I use a very limited palette of nine colors and, as such, I need to be very exact with each. I grind about half of my colors myself. I also use mostly very high chroma colors (three cadmiums). My flesh palette is just red, yellow, black and white. Candy. Oil on linen, 60 x 50 inches, 2008 Larry: Your portraits of the young women like Candy, Ingrid and the Serbian Girl are stunning. They have an old-world masterly confidence but don’t seem showy or academic. They seem honest, direct and not formula driven. I can imagine these women as individuals; solid, powerful and very sensual women. Many of your portraits appeal as a great painting in its own right, that you paid them to model for you rather than them paying you to paint their portraits. Ever consider composing painting with multiple figures, perhaps with some sort of narrative? Marc: The portraits you describe actually are all of friends or paid models. As for multi-figure compositions, I’ve never really been interested in storytelling in painting. I was born in Hollywood and grew up in L.A, and I’ve always thought if I had wanted to tell stories I would have gone into film making. For me, art should capture a moment, a certain mood or feeling. Piazza Tasso in February. Oil on linen, 27 x 39 inches, 2008 Larry: Many plein air painters avoid painting contemporary architecture and modern life in general – perhaps looking for the picturesque or longing for pastoral scenes before strip malls ravaged the landscape. You seem to avoid the picturesque and present commonplace scenes where you live, like your painting Plazza Tasso in February, 2008. The focus here appears more on the formal aspects of your selection, the division of space, rhyme of shapes, color harmonies, etc rather than simply reporting some wonderful view you found. What do you think about when selecting the view you paint? Marc: I think for a long time I did try to stick to only picturesque views. Especially living in Italy and after finishing Cecil studios where the superiority of all things 17th century was hammered into me. After a while though, it did seem false and I was very inspired by some contemporary realists, especially Antonio Lopez Garcia, and decided to try to look for more modern subjects. Also, after years of looking for inspiring things to paint I’ve gotten good at it. Now I see beauty everywhere, so I try to paint a range of subjects, from the traditionally picturesque to more modern fare. Essaouria from the Rocks oil on canvas 2004 20 x 32 inches Larry: You teach Plein Air at the Florence Academy. I imagine you must teach on a more advanced level. What would you say are the most common problems that interfere with students painting the landscape. Anything you want to say to someone considering study with you? Marc: I teach the advanced and intermediate students at the Florence Academy and often the ones with less painting experience do better outside for the first time. The advanced students assume if they can paint well in the studio it will translate into strong painting outdoors, but landscape painting is a very different beast. I would suggest to anyone interested in landscape painting that they don’t put it off too long. The earlier you start the less difficult it is.