Tuesday, 25 April 2017


Since I founded Print Solo I realised that even people who are very interested in visual arts don’t have a clear idea about what printmaking is. The main element that they retain, I found out in conversations, is that it allows artists to make more than one copy of a piece. In an age in which technology can reproduce paintings and drawings with stunning fidelity then, ( did you see the Borgherini Chapel reproduced with 3D printing techniques for the Michelangelo and Sebastiano exhibition at the NG in London?) why not just go for digital reproductions, why do artists keep making original prints ?

The answer is of course that printmaking is not, or not just, about multiplication, but that the process involved in the various techniques is unique and has been fascinating visual artists for centuries.

In a recent talk in which I was introducing Print Solo I reflected on what some of these peculiar elements of original prints were, and the first one that occurred to me was the gap between the work of the artist and the birth of the print.
As you might know, in order to produce an original print the artist works on a matrix that is of a different material than the artwork itself: the print is on paper while the artist has been in fact carving a piece of wood, or cutting into plastic, or engraving a metal plate.
The artwork takes its final shape not under the hand of its creator but at a different time and place, when the tools have been put down and the object they created has been inked and is passing through a printing press.

These degrees of separation between the artist and the artwork have the effect of producing a surprise, a moment of real thrill when the paper is lifted from the matrix after having undergone the small journey on the printing press bed.
In the words of William Kentridge, a keen printmaker, at that precise moment the artist as a maker is left on one side of the press and the hands that peel the paper off the plate are the ones of the artist as observer. The surprise is further enhanced by the reversal of the image.
The metaphor that comes to my mind is that one of a person meeting an adult offspring they didn’t know they had, and looking hard to search for familiar features, for a resemblance to the other children.

Printmaking can introduce novelty and unexpected results, which in turn may feed works produced in a different medium. It can teach the artists something about their own practice, offer some insight. Also, the delight of seeing one’s own work with new, fresh eyes, of experiencing it as a viewer, is an almost addictive feeling one wants to relive again and again: when printing an edition or by periodically returning to the printmaking studio.

Evening in the Studio, mezzotint ( 20x15 cm)
Available on Print Solo

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Book Review - Italian Renaissance Courts: Art, Pleasure and Power


 I was recently sent this book by Alison Cole, an art historian and journalist, about the relationship between artists and courts in Italian Renaissance.
The book provides a very precise backdrop to the artworks that we know and love from that period.
I am always interested in the context in which a painting was made, I find that it matters as much as, if not more than, the subject. It was something I noticed when I went to see the "National Gallery" documentary by Frederick Wiseman, that most explanations about paintings were focussing on the subject while technique and context were seldom mentioned.

   In the past I have posted about the complicate interpretation of Piero's Flagellation providing a summary of Silvia Ronchey's book about it, and also tried to give an explanation of the term "sprezzatura", which was born in that period and is so relevant to the art and culture of Italian courts.
Cole's book refreshed and deepened my knowledge on the differences between all the distinct cultural hubs that coexisted in the peninsula during those extraordinary centuries.

   It is easy to forget that there were profound differences between communities that were only a few dozens of kilometres apart, like the courts of Urbino and Ferrara for example: one fortified and based on military strength and all centred on the figure of the mighty Duke Federico, brave and cultured; the other at times defeated but more open to communications and pervaded by poetry, music and chivalric ideals coming from the North.
If we are aware of these characteristics, it is easier to understand how the luminous, solid and rational space in Piero could be painted just a few hours away from the hyperbolic metaphoric one imagined by Francesco del Cossa in Palazzo Schifanoia (the frescoes featured in Ali Smith's excellent novel "How to Be Both" btw), although they were both "sons" of the ubiquitous Pisanello.

  It was a real pleasure, as I opened the book, finding a painting by an artist belonging to my family. Francesco Rosselli was the half brother of Cosimo and mainly known as the author of an important document, a painting that chronicles the entry of Ferrante d'Aragona's fleet in Naples after his victory over the Anjou. The painting had probably been commissioned by the banker Filippo Strozzi who helped finance the expedition and wanted to consolidate his exchanges with the Neapolitan king.

   The book is pleasant, with a lot of illustrations,  and also offers information on the character of the princes and their heirs, the dynastic intricacies and pecking order within the courts. A good read.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

A Landscape, a Project, a Workshop and an two Art Fairs.

I have had a long Mediterranean summer visiting my family and now I am back in London ready for the next busy months. I haven't been painting much while I was away but I still managed a couple of oil sketches that I am turning into larger works.
What I found out about landscape painting is that it is indeed possible for me to get engaged with it as long as I have a deep and meaningful connection to what I am painting.

This was painted from an oil sketch, a drawing and a black and white photo of a stretch of coast close to my birthplace.

A Place of Untold Secrets, 102x87 cm, oil on linen


I also have been very busy with, yes you guessed, Print Solo ! The website is almost ready to go online and soon it will start accepting applications from potential sellers. If you don't know about Print Solo yet ( how is that possible?) here's a video that explains what it is. I am entirely to blame for the idea and its execution.


Because of my involvement with Print Solo I have stopped teaching regularly but I will be doing a weekend Masterclass at the Art Academy in London on the 10th and 11th of October. I will try to cram as much information as possible in those two days, talking about palette, composition, tonal range, paint application You can find all the info here. If you wish to attend please book well in advance.
A recent commission: G., oil on panel, 40x50cm


And finally my very nice gallerist Kathryn Bell from Fine Art Consultancy will be showing one of my works at the 20/21 British Art Fair at the Royal College of Art in London next week. It's always a very good fair with the best galleries that deal in British art. Please get in touch if you want a free invitation to print out. And next week the ubiquitous Kathryn will also show my work at the Affordable Art Fair in New York.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015


Summer is always a long pause away from the studio as I spend some weeks in Italy and Spain so here's a brief recap of what happened in the past months and what's next while I enjoy a lot of family time.

If you follow this blog you should know about my new adventure, Print Solo
I hope that you have already visited the website, and that you will check it out again upon reading that starting from last week we have a great new addition: Print Solo Summer Gallery, a page with some prints for sale !

 All the prints in the gallery are an online exclusive: not only they are not for sale anywhere else on the internet, but some of the artists don't even have them on their website yet. And the good news is that they are very affordable and made by international printmakers who, on top of their artistic sensibility,  have great craftmanship and impressive CVs.

Golden Walk, a monoprint by Alicia Rothman on Print Solo Summer Gallery

Last week I have been interviewed by Lisa Takahashi (I really like her Cyclists prints) on the Jackson's Art Talk blog about Print Solo and my own work.

Of course the work on Print Solo has been at the expense of painting hours, but I feel like a strong push is needed right now and if the project works I will then be able to work more in the studio next year. Besides, creativity can be expressed in many ways.  I also had to travel a little more often during the winter so I worked when I had time without looking too much ahead. The resulting works are some still life that are about disorder and sedimentation in the studio.

Sopra 51x67 cm

Sotto 51x67 cm
I showed this one at Heatherley's School of Fine Art in an exhibition on Still Life and it will soon be shipped to a new collecctor in the Far East. 

Babel 102x76 cm

The next show will be the 20/21 British Art Fair at Royal College of Art in September. 

In May I had a painting selected for the Royal Society of Portrait Painting which is always a great show to be in. I recently completed a couple of commissions that I enjoyed very much, working from life with two beautiful girls and their musical instruments.

Not too much to report: I had a monotype almost selected ( the exact definition is shortlisted but not hanged) for the Royal Academy, best luck next year I hope. In June I paid a visit to my friend Maureen Nathan who is so brilliant with linocuts that it made want to have a go, it's addictive !

Head of Woman, linocut, 10x5 cm
Satyr III, monotype, 20x15 cm

I have quit teaching regularly in Lots Road but I have been doing some substitutions standing in for Alex Fowler and James Bland. I also have been asked to take on a Weekend Masterclass at The Art Academy in autumn and I am looking forward to it. Details will appear soon on the Art Academy website , but dates are confirmed and it will be on the 10th and 11th of October.

 Have a good summer everyone !

Monday, 1 June 2015

Introducing Print Solo

Dear Friends and Readers,

  I am finally ready to talk about a new project on which I have been working for the last few months.
The idea came to me as I was looking for a platform to sell my prints online. I felt that large online art-sales websites were not right for me and also that they carelessly bundled up original prints and reproductions.  There is a big difference between them: reproductions, limited editions and giclee prints are basically signed photocopies of an existing artwork such as a painting or a drawing, while to make an original print the artist has to work directly on a matrix made of metal, wood, stone, linoleum etc.

  I wished there could be a website that focussed on the fine art of printmaking and that was reserved to established artists. And so I decided to take the plunge and make it !

  Print Solo is a website for all of those who concentrate their practice on printmaking, for those who, like me, have lately discovered the printing press and use it as a secondary medium, and for those who like to buy art and are keen to support artists, and for those who are open to appreciate and learn something about artworks that they had perhaps overlooked. Oh yes, and for those with a difficult-to-match sofa colour. I think this covers pretty much everyone.

     Printmaking is not just about being able to reproduce an artwork more than once but it is a fully independent medium that allows artists to do things that are impossible in other mediums: take the incredibly fine lines of an etching, or the softness of mark of a lithograph, the grain of a woodcut. Artists like Durer, Rembrandt, Morandi and Matisse have enhanced the quality of printmaking and took it to a sublime level. There is so much exceptional contemporary printmaking that is not often seen in galleries and deserves a space of its own where it can be shown and explained to the general public.

   On Print Solo printmakers will sell prints and artists' books independently; collectors will have a
chance to make contact with artists, see and buy prints from all over the world. There will be a blog with articles and interviews and a wiki section to learn more about printmaking techniques.

   It's not easy to become a startupper when you are a 47 years old artist but I have found a small team who's helping me doing things exactly as I had envisioned them. I hope that from these lines you can infer the passion and enthusiasm I have for the project and that you will support me in this adventure.
There is a group of prestigious printmakers who have lent images of their prints to illustrate the website. They set the bar so high that I now wonder if I'll be good enough to sell on my own website !
My ambition for Print Solo is that it might become a hub for the best in international printmaking and most importantly a direct line of support for artists. I'm also particularly keen to develop the artists' books department: they are beautiful works of art, delightfully tactile.
The whole project shares the same ethos as this blog: promoting knowledge, art and artists.

In the spirit of  hand-made,  the texture for the logo has been devised and made by yours truly.

  Print Solo is online now with a  page designed to compile a mailing list and to receive feedback from artists, collectors and art lovers. It is important that you visit, click through and let me know what you think by answering to the short questionnaire and leaving your email. I am planning to have a fully functional website built in the next months so that it can be launched after the summer.

Print Solo also has a Facebook page and a Twitter account to keep in touch with its community.


Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Tested for you: Periscope (iOS app)

   On this rather idle Bank Holiday weekend I have been introduced to a new app that is quickly becoming popular. The app is called Periscope and it is own by Twitter; at the moment it only works on iPhones and iPads and you have to have a Twitter account to be able to use it.

What you can do with it is broadcast videos directly from your device, you can do that publicly or to a selected audience of people who follow you, imagine skype meets social networking.
Video and audio are of good quality and as you record you can see how many users are watching you and who they are. You can share your video through Twitter and, if you wait a little after you've finished recording, the video will upload to the app and your followers you will be able to watch it for the following 24 hours.

As a viewer you can sign up for notifications that will alert you when one of your contacts is broadcasting and while you view them live you can send a text. Broadcasters can read your messages on their screen and answer you on video. You can tap the screen for "like"s, they appear as little floaty coloured heats ( meh).

I have been browsing the app in these past days and I must say that it's full of people just sitting on a sofa and asking viewers for questions. Silly stuff. Very silly. And of course the app is bound to be misused, after all there's a good percentage of porn in the web, but one can easily stay clear of that.  I have watched reporters walking around the Expo in Milan, a potter being interviewed, images from a concert etc., interesting stuff. 

Current state of affairs of self portrait, still on the easel

I think this could be a great tool for artists. I have tried to broadcast myself painting a self portrait yesterday and this morning, and it went quite well aside from the noisy building works nextdoor.

I set up my phone with one of those little bendy tripod on an easel between me and the canvas so it showed a close up of the surface. On the first broadcast I specified I could not take questions at the start but then later on I did look at the screen and had a few exchanges, though it was a bit distracting.

Set up for recording

Demos, reports from exhibition, studio visits, question sessions... there's a lot that could be done. I think an android version is in the pipeline in the meantime my nickname on Periscope is "ilayuk", I hope to see you there !

Tuesday, 7 April 2015


        In these past weeks I had to travel often and I wasn't able to spend much time in the studio. Perhaps my concentration is not very good but I find it hard to start any serious work when I know I won't have a couple of uninterrupted weeks ahead.  Since I was spending a few days in the countryside in Italy over Easter I thought I'd try at least to cut myself off for some time and sit in the garden to paint. 

All images are iPhone photos of small paintings on paper 23x31cm
   I was confronted with similar problems as when I was in Civita Castellana for a residency two years ago.  Painting the landscape is intriguing but alien for me. I was always drawn to portrait and still life, to interiors, and my favourite artists are not pure landscapists, however a trait of my character is curiosity, sustained by a certain tenacity; I basically just want to understand things on my own by trial and error.
  It is well known in my family - and I'm quite proud of it- that I never had any talent whatsoever for drawing, but I liked it so much that I just had to learn on sheer will. And now I feel the same tingling for landscape: I view it as something I must have a go at if I want to deepen my comprehension of painting.

    The first hurdle I had to face when I was in Civita was that my palette was completely insufficient to paint that luscious area. Maybe I could have managed a desert with all my tubes of thick earths but certainly not the intensity of a blue sky or the saturation of green leaves. I should have had cadmiums of course and some titanium. That thing that any palette might do is not true. In these past days I corrected that and added cobalt turquoise, cad. lemon and sap green while barely touching ochre. Maybe too much but eventually I'll get there. 

    Some notes to self after Civita's meltdown: in an Italian summer outdoor shadows are cool. Full stop. Not warm as I have painted them indoors for the past ten years. 
 Wear a hat. 
 Learn to open and close your easel because you are a total nerd and it is in fact possible to do it with two hands only. 
 When you stand in the sun colours will look more saturated and if you don't keep it in mind when you take the painting inside you'll have a bad surprise. 
 If you worry too much about colour you forget all the tonal relationships and all will be lost. 
 Find a strategy: sky first ? But then it's wet and how does one paint dry branches on top ? Sky first then branches then keep more sky mixture on the side to paint in between branches ? 
 As mother-in-law says, there's nothing more definitive than what you thought was temporary. Mix colour accurately because most times there's no going back. 
 Change description to "Mixed Media: oil and insects on canvas".

    So here are some small paintings from the past days. One thing is immediately clear to me: if I venture ourside it has to be home. Tuscany ( Chianti, Maremma), maybe Rome. 
It makes no sense at all for me to travel somewhere and record my experience there and although I love living in London I don't have that gut connection that might compel me to go down by the river and set up there.  I worked on paper ( which I never do) in order to feel no pressure at all about "producing" anything and so that I could snap myself out of any habit.  

This surface doesn't help but I thought that I shouldn't give myself any unfair advantage since the aim was just to find further, bigger problems. What to paint ? Why ? Is it about space, or light ? What part plays form then ? What is my landscape painting about ? What is the pictorial space like in my work, shallow, deep, intimate, wide ?

I'll be back in London tomorrow, which means there will be no more field work until the summer at least, but I can now have a go at turning these sketches into larger studio paintings and see if there's anything there. It will be a very long process.