Monday, January 18, 2016

Interview Article with Artist Marc Dalessio

Marc Dalessio, Self Portrait
Marc Dalessio is a naturalistic painter who is equally adept at painting portraiture and landscapes. I first saw his landscape paintings at the Ann Long Gallery in Charleston, S.C. While visiting the gallery, his work instantly caught my attention. Marc's paintings give the impression of effortlessness and spontaneity. His colors have a sense of clarity, freshness, and aliveness. You feel as if you are standing in the scenery. 

Marc an accomplished artist who studied at the University of California at Santa Cruz and the Charles H. Cecil Studios in Florence Italy and currently lives in Croatia. He has taught at the Florence Academy of Art and teaches workshops abroad.

This summer Marc taught two workshops in Boston, and I was able to attend one of those workshops. The one I attended was held on the banks of the Charles River on the Esplanade. Prior to the class, I contacted Marc to see if he would agree to an interview, and he kindly agreed.  

What do you feel is an integral component to the work of an artist?
Marc:  I believe great art is a combination of technical skill, having something to say, and having a strong emotional response to the subject.

Greguric Breg, Marc Dalessio
What role does the artist have in society?
Marc:  I think art is pretty fragmented today in regards to the artist's place in society. There are lots of different arts which accomplish different goals. For me, Plein air landscape painting holds an important place in society as it shows the viewer the beauty in the natural world around them.

Which style of art do you most identify with and why?
Marc:  Late 19th-century Naturalism is probably my favorite style of art. I love the way the artists looked at the world around them and captured it with such empathy and honesty.

Which artists inspire you? What is it about their work that draws you in or pushes you further?
Marc:  Isaac Levitan and Telemaco Signorini are the two artists who inspire me the most. I love the religiosity of Levitan's work. There seems to be something greater than just the view in his work. Signorini also seems to have a real reverence for his subjects, but I love the wit and the politics in some of his best work.

What personal narratives or intentions do you translate into your paintings?
Marc:  Sometimes I try to show parts of the world with a balance and harmony between the man-made structures and their natural setting. In other paintings, I try to show people the beauty in the seemingly mundane world that surrounds them. We don't always stop to realize how miraculous even our little neighborhoods can be. The artist can show people that beauty where they hadn't noticed it before. 

In the Face of All Aridity, 47"x59" Marc Dalessio
To date, what’s your favorite painting that you have created and why? 
Marc:  My favorite painting is a large painting of a small vegetable garden in the Tuscan countryside. I titled the painting ‘In the Face of All Aridity’ after the line in the poem ‘The Desiderata’

The painting shows the garden at the height of August, when the grass has died all around. It’s a little parable on the energy, love and dedication needed to keep the things we need and love alive through dry times. It’s a painting that’s over six feet long and was done entirely on site at the garden. 

Technically, it was a great challenge to capture the various plants over the course of the weeks it took to paint the piece. It also has a lot of meaning to me as I’ve spent many summers on that wonderful property and it has been an integral part of my growth as an artist and a person.

Compression of values. You talk about this in one of your videos. Would you please expand on this topic?
Marc:  Compression of values is the idea of having minimal value changes in a similar area of the painting. Beginning painters will often key their values by looking at one value and then the value just next to it. Compressing the values is really about looking at any two values and then comparing them first to each other and then to a third value.

In Plein air landscape painting, we often use the sky as the third value. So a good example of this would be to look at the shadow of a tree then the light part of the same tree and compare the two. Then, the two values are compared to the sky, and the painters will see that the light and dark of the tree are actually quite close in relation to each other, especially when compared with the light of the sky. So the light and dark of the tree will be 'compressed' to be quite similar to each other. We do this, in part, because the full value scale in nature is impossible to recreate with oil paint.

Wheat Fields Along the Clitunno, Marc Dalessio
How do you approach your work, techniques, materials, and processes? Has your practice changed over time?
Marc:  For my plein air work, I usually do a lot of scouting with a pencil and sketchbook first. I can move from subject to subject faster and find the best compositions. Once I’ve decided on a location, I’ll go back with my paints.

I use a limited palette of ten colors (titanium white, cadmium yellow light, cadmium yellow medium, yellow ochre, cadmium orange, cadmium vermilion, cadmium red medium, cerulean blue, cobalt blue, and ultramarine blue) and a medium based on a recipe from a student of Anthony Van Dyck. I use a method called sight-size, whereby I see the view next to my canvas at the same size.

My practice has changed surprisingly little over the years. Charles Cecil first trained me in these methods 23 years ago, and I find they work very well for my purposes. I’ve honed down the limited palette he originally showed me as I found I never used some of the colors (an earth red, Naples yellow, and viridian).

What advice has influenced you?
Marc:  An early teacher I had, Hardy Hanson, used to say that one should always be improving. He would say that our last brush-stroke, as we lay in bed dying, should be the best brush-stroke we ever made. I think that always influenced me, this idea that we should constantly strive to better our work.

Via San Agostino, Marc Dalessio
Do you have any advice to share?
Marc:  From my experience as a teacher, I see that painting students don’t draw enough. My advice to painters starting out would be to get in the habit of keeping a sketchbook and drawing all the time. It is really essential. One can only paint as well as one can draw. 

I would also say to slow down. I see students trying to finish paintings much too fast. Speed should be secondary to accuracy. If one paints an accurate painting slowly, they will later get faster. If one paints an inaccurate painting fast, they will never get the accuracy later.

Are you involved in any upcoming shows or events? 
Marc:  In 2016 Marc will be showing paintings with Constantine Lindsay in London and Laura Grenning in Sag Harbor, NY. In May 2016 Marc will be showing at the Ann Long Gallery in Charleston, S.C. Marc will be at the Gallery on May 27th for the opening day. The show will run until June 10th. 

Marc will be doing workshops in Europe in 2016 and he has retained an association with the Florence Academy of Art and will hopefully work with them again in the future.

Thanks to Marc for such an insightful interview. To see more of Marc's work please visit his website. Marc's website is home to his gallery as well as his blog, articles, and videos. He provides information on grinding your own paints, as well as the various materials and methods he uses and videos. 

Note: I spent a week in Boston first going to museums and then attending Marc's workshop. Leo Mancini-Hresko of Waltham Studios hosted the workshop. Leo offers ongoing classes and workshops at his studios in Waltham, MA. To read more on my trip to Boston please click here. 

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Artfully Yours,

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