IN THE STUDIO:
Most year was dedicated to painting a group of still-lifes I named Wrap. Although there were two works that pre-announced this series a few years ago, this was the painting that originated it last September, and it was painted for a themed group show in Palermo ( Italy), called Inside/Outside.
I was intrigued and excited by the possibilities in painting parcels and boxes. There is a narrative component to these objects, and, I believe, an emotional content to the paintings that is not told but can be perceived. Painting these simple, architectural forms allowed me to concentrate on composition and quality of the paint.
Something that struck me was how these objects modify the space: the space created by these solids ( rather than natural items such as flowers and fruits) as they stand on the plain immediately becomes the space of Italian Renaissance, of La Citta' Ideale, it's a rational space, organised in perpendicular lines.
The more I reflect upon the series and the more I found in it themes that recur in my work without me being actually aware. What emerged more strongly is that Italy, its warm light ( this year I blocked out northern light in my studio so that I only have light from the South), the longing for the beauty, the feeling of being displaced, permeate all of my paintings.
I learnt to work on larger canvasses and I find them much less daunting now. Technically this year I think my paint got thicker and more matte, as I privileged colours like Raw Sienna, Flake White, Burnt Sienna, Kings Blue Deep, that are all opaque and quite stiff.
I alternated the paintings from the Wrap series with some portraits and still-life with different subjects such as flowers and musical instruments.
Looking back I don't think there was an year when I painted as much as this one. I charged on with this series- I followed Chuck Close advice ( Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work)- and I am happy that I produced a group of coherent works. I am also happy to report that there are only a couple of pieces that have not yet sold, and that the paintings are now scattered between Italy, UK and US.
IN THE CLASSROOM:
I have started sharing teaching with my friend Alex Fowler in order to have more studio time, but I still tried to keep going with my classes on a regular basis.
Verbalising thoughts on painting is a very healthy exercise that has repercussions on my own studio practice. I think I am quite strict with myself and often unsatisfied with my own work, but I learnt that this is not my role with students, and I try to bring in a more constructive and encouraging criticism particularly for those who are talented and eager but don't have the ambition of becoming a "professional" painter.
As per today, my website and blog have had a total of 122,000 pageloads this year. I find this quite astonishing and I am very proud and flattered that people seem interested in looking at my work online and even care about what I might have to say !
Anyway I want to reiterate how important it is for me being a presence online. I do spend too much time on Facebook but I am a natural sharer ( often over-sharing ! ). I enjoy writing about friends painters, raving about art books or sharing any knowledge I might have gained. This sparked a written dialogue with several distant artists and messages progressed to cups of teas, trips, a special cappuccino and very likely a shared painting residency next year.
Forgive me this rant but I want to mention this, perhaps a Brazilian reader might take the cue. I came up with what I thought was a very interesting project for 2012 Olympics. I approached the Italian Olympic Committee, CONI, to see if they would let me paint members of the Italian team during the London games. The idea was to work on very small scale portraits to be started from life in one hour sessions, and if needed finished on a photo. I would have been able to paint at least four every day.
Focussing on the athlete features rather than their athletic gestures was going to stress that it is often the spiritual characteristics ( determination, ambition, self-discipline) that make a world class athlete, of course supported by "THE body".
In the end the idea was to show these portraits, I was hoping to paint about fifty athletes from different disciplines, around Italy to celebrate participants and to inspire.
Also I thought I could write a daily blog about the people I met and their story.
Cost to CONI: 0£ I already had a sponsor and I was ready to chip in for materials and exhibition costs as well.
When I said approached CONI, I meant that after I wrote a couple of emails that went unanswered I asked a friend of a friend to deliver my letter to someone who might be in charge. Power of good friendships meant that I got called, summoned to meet a director in Rome last September, told that the project was very good, interesting, they didn't see why not once practicalities such as where I could set up and how to make appointments with athletes were sorted out ( bear in mind I wasn't really interested in painting gold winners) and I'd get an answer within a couple of weeks. I called every month until June ( emails were ignored), just to be told a decision hadn't been made yet. I gave up at the end of June.
What I have learned: a reminder that Italy is as beautiful as corrupted. A project that is about art and nobody pockets any money doesn't stand a chance, I feel very silly for having even thought it might happen !
And I didn't get in the BP... yet again, oh well.
I was hoping that this might be an Olympic year for my work, well, I think it was in a way. I feel I made real progress and my next work is already on the easel !