It was a great privilege for me as I have been an admirer of Israel's work since I came across it a few years ago.
There are several interviews in which Israel talks about his work, his views on painting, on contemporary art, on teaching (Read them at JSS, Painting Perceptions, Powers of Observation).
He shares on line images of his work, technical information on his palette, images of the artists who inspire him and images of the work of his students.
There are not many major artists who are so generous and accessible and make it their mission to promote painting as he does. Last year I made a small donation to the school in order to show my appreciation to the work they do: I have learnt so much just browsing through their blog and I became aware of many artists who gravitate around JSS, are part of the faculty, visiting faculty or have studied there.
Last week Israel has very kindly showed me the small painting he is working on at the moment. Behind it are the huge stretchers which he is going to use for his next big landscape from the same motif as the small panel. I could feel his excitement at having found the right spot from where he is going to paint: he told me that he works many months ( years) on a painting, and concentrates on one painting at the time. Each work is a huge investment in terms of time and requires a total commitment and faith in the subject.The view towards South from Monte Soratte provides Israel with a huge field of view ( as he titled his upcoming show), spanning many kilometres all the way to L'Aquila.
Being able to stand at a few inches from the small painting on the easel was a great treat. There is just enough paint on the surface to say what matters, the paint is handled in a straightforward manner, and the colour variations are subtle and terribly clever. I have a persistent nostalgia for italian light, and it is always very moving to see it understood so deeply.
He will be soon showing some new works at the Israel Museum and is very satisfied with the way his paintings will be presented: few large canvasses, each with a bench in front. My painter friend Roni Taharlev was explaining to me that to have representational ( figurative, perceptual or however you want to call it) painting in a museum in Israel is extraordinary and that Israel has single-handedly changed the attitude towards painting in his country.
The school occupies a large space on the last floor of a tall building. The first and second year students were drawing all together from the model, while students from the third and fourth year, who also are in school every day, have each their own space. All the hours they put in definitely pay off, the quality of the students output is extremely high and clearly they have acquired invaluable skills.
They work from life and there is also a lot of studying from old masters ( so many drawings from paintings by my nemesis Poussin, but also Titian) in charcoal investigating tone and placement.
JSS is organising a summer program in Civita Castellana (Italy) again next summer, and I am already making plans to go. This year the program will last longer and there might be a surprising new space. As I don't really paint much landscape, I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to benefit much from the tutoring since I am really lacking the basics, but then Israel told me that still life painters won't be neglected : the visiting tutor will be Susan Jane Walp !
Many thanks again to Israel for letting me steal so much of his time and arrivederci a Civita !