We connected fall 2013, a brief formal email. A year later, October 3rd over coffee at Starbucks, the weather was a bit chilly but perfect for visiting with Stella. Stella is a magnificent realist painter I initially contacted to commission a painting of my children. Meeting Stella was like seeing my pen pal for the first time, excited and nervous. Will she like me? Will I like her? Is this going to be the right fit? Will she agree to do the painting? Well, no surprise it was everything wonderful and more.
Stella has an extraordinary story, fresh out of college bound for Italy with her husband Fred, now 40 years with her sweetheart. She lived most of her time in the small village of Stazzema (about 250 inhabitants) in the Apuane Alps above the Mediterranean coast with her family. But, her formative years were in Florence learning from Nerina Simi who at the time was 85 years old. And, made Stella work in charcoal for three years before she would let her paint in color. A student for life but 7 years under Nerina. Stella is, most known perhaps for her paintings of dignitaries and celebrity children. This woman is more than an artist she connects with the families she paints for on a real level becoming a member of the family during the process. I would certainly say Stella will be a friend for life. Sharing Stella with you brings life to the possibility of her doing a commissioned painting for your family. And, how appropriate to introduce you to her that Mother’s Day is upon us. In my interview Stella agreed to work my readers on a commissioned work. This is a unique offer that I hope you will take, mention you discovered her work here to take advantage of this rare opportunity. Please contact Stella at email@example.com about your painting, don’t forget to tell her Elle sent you.
Stella in her studio….
Here is our interview:
1. What does your art say about you?
I find inspiration in the visual world around me. Particular combinations of colors will make me want to get out my paints to capture the warm glow of an interior setting or the airy blues of distant mountains in the landscape. I am constantly fascinated with people and portraits have always been one of the art forms that I love the most. I am fascinated with the small changes of expression that animate a face, with the subtle gestures of hands, and the body language of each individual which says so much about them. I am continually amazed at the power of portraiture to convey emotion and depth of character beyond the photographic likeness.
2. Where did your love for realist painting, especially portraits originate?
As a small child, I would accompany my mother to visit a friend who had an oil portrait hanging over the mantel in her living room. I was entranced by this painting and mesmerized by it; it seemed to speak to me. I was enthralled by the idea that this person was so special that she honored her with this painting hanging in the most central spot of her home. It seemed so important and tender at the same time.
3. What is your greatest achievement?
The fact that I have been able to actualize my dream of living my life as an artist has been a great accomplishment. It has not always been an easy path to follow because it requires a lot of discipline to be self-employed and a lot of faith. There is tremendous risk taking involved in not having a paycheck that you can count on! But the joys of having satisfied clients have provided me with a sense of success that I could have found nowhere else. Every time a mother responds to a portrait I’ve created with tears in her eyes, I feel a great sense of fulfillment.
4. How do you prefer to work with clients?
My favorite part of portrait work is getting to know my clients. The initial steps in creating a portrait represent a joint endeavor between my clients and myself. When I’m invited into a client’s home to plan a portrait, I am privileged to share the most beautiful and loving aspects of their family life. They describe the individual attributes of their children (or wife or husband) and how they envision themselves in a painting. We talk about clothing and setting, the attitude of the sitter and the background of the painting. We choose colors together, sizes and the composition of the painting from the photos that I take and preliminary sketches that I present to them. It is important to me to have the client’s feedback at this initial stage of the portrait’s development. When I know that we have captured something unique and personal, I am confident to return to my studio to continue the work. After I have finished the painting or drawing in my studio, I have a final sitting with the client to make any changes that might be necessary. It is an extraordinary honor for me to be entrusted with the job of creating portraits for families.What would you consider your favorite project thus far?
5. In what medium do you prefer to work in?
I enjoy oil, pastel and charcoal. I always do a detailed study in charcoal before beginning work in pastel or oil, but many times the finished work is done in charcoal. There is something very beautiful and unique about these tonal studies.
6. What is your idea of the L’essence de la vie?
Of course I appreciate good wine, good food and good conversation. No one who has lived in Italy for sixteen years as I have could claim otherwise. Sharing life with family and friends, hiking, experiencing nature are all essential components of my life. However, I must confess that the way I experience the essence of life most profoundly is in trying to capture it on canvas. It is my way of reliving every detail and lingering on the nuances and subtleties, of stretching out the fabric of time itself in order to experience life more fully.
7. Being born in New Orleans and raised in Mississippi, has the South had any influence on you that is reflected in your art?
Southerners have a greater appreciation of portraiture and the more traditional cultural refinements. Even in a modern Southern home you will find portraiture which is not as common in the Mid-West, for example.
8. As an artist, you lived the dream of living in Florence and the countryside of Tuscany…Do you find the skills you learned in your formative years under Nerina Simi are a constant that you incorporate into every portrait?
Yes, they are a constant. I brought to her my love of painting and she gave me the gift of bringing it to life. She essentially taught me how to see. Before Signorina Simi took me as a student, she made me agree to work only in charcoal until she thought I was ready to use color. I worked in charcoal for 3 years before she allowed me to bring in my oil paints! That required a lot of patience and trust. Through the study of tone and subtle gradations of value I learned to see color in a completely different way from before. At the end of those three years, my color sense had changed without my realizing it! She also taught measuring techniques that help the artist focus on the proper relationships of form within the canvas.
9. What is your dream project?
Much of my time in Italy was spent in the small village of Stazzema (about 250 inhabitants) in the Apuane Alps above the Mediterranean coast. I’ve always loved painting the landscape there, but I hope someday to paint portraits of the elderly people in the village.
Paintings done by Stella:
Contact Stella firstname.lastname@example.org.
Email Stella email@example.com about your painting, don’t forget to tell her Elle sent you.