Portraitist and landscape painter Marc Dalessio captures the beauty of the world around him in a way that is distinctly his own, in a style that stems from a long tradition of plein air painting. Currently working in Croatia, Dalessio gives us a behind-the-canvas glimpse of his life as a painter and where he’s going next.
Have you always been a plein air painter?
Yes. I first studied painting in California at UC Santa Cruz, where our teachers encouraged plein air landscape painting, as the local scenery is so picturesque. Later I moved to Italy and studied with Charles Cecil, who has won prestigious awards for his plein air landscapes.
Who are the artists that you most admire?
Isaac Levitan, Telemaco Signorini and Camille Corot are my favorite historic painters. Contemporary artists whose work I admire are Joseph McGurl, Joe Paquet and Donald Jurney.
What inspires you?
Everything really. I think inspiration is like any other skill—if you practice walking around and finding something to inspire you, after a while you get good at it. Now I see beauty everywhere. For subject matter, I have a lot of technical things to consider when looking for a view….That said, the real challenge for a working plein air painter, like the poet, is to show people the beauty in the mundane world around them.
Working outside, do you have to paint quickly or do you paint part of it outside and finish it later inside your studio?
Yes, plein air painting requires that one work fast, and I try to finish everything on site. I find I’m more inspired in front of the subject. Sometimes, however, I have to finish back in the studio, but I try to avoid it if I can. I’m able to paint quickly, as I was originally trained as a portraitist in Florence. For portraiture you have to paint very fast, and with a lot of precision, since the clients often want to see progress after only the first session.
Where was this cover painted and how often do you include figures in your work?
This painting was done on a farm in Tuscany. I was interested in painting something black and white in dappled sunlight, since black looks almost the same in sunlight and in shade, whereas white changes so dramatically. It was something of a technical exercise. I never used to paint models outside, as it is complicated getting stable light and reliable sitters for multiple long sessions. Lately though, my wife poses for many of these paintings, and we collaborate on the work. In this case, she picked the pose and I asked that she wear this black and white dress.
Where is your home-base studio?
I don’t have one at the moment. Now that landscape season has started I’ll travel for the next few months and will have all of my equipment and canvases in the car. I’ll pass in and out of Florence, where my framer and shipper are, to send the paintings off to galleries.
You both studied and teach at the Florence Academy of Art. What is/was that like?
It was great. I taught landscape painting at the Florence Academy of Art for about six years. It’s one of the best institutions around at the moment where one can learn traditional painting and sculpture. The school is great as it gives a very well-rounded education in fine art. The students are taught anatomy, art history and philosophy, as well as academic drawing and painting. Their program is very successful and, after recently expanding to Sweden and England, they will be opening a new school this year at MANA Contemporary in New Jersey.
Where do you wish to travel next?
I’d really love to paint in the American Southwest, especially Arizona. My next choice would be Samarkand, in Uzbekistan.
For more info, visit marcdalessio.com. Dalessio’s work is at Greening Gallery, 17 Washington Street, Sag Harbor.