Last seen on a Dan’s Papers cover in October, with a colorful watercolor that exemplified his ingenious merger of realism and surrealism, Savio Mizzi graces this week’s special Montauk issue with the painting “Montauk The End.” Mizzi worked for, among others, Dell, Norton, Bantam, Barnes & Noble, Newsday, ABC and the New York City Opera. A son of the Mediterranean country of Malta, Mizzi proves a son of Erin this St. Patrick’s Day parade weekend by honoring the Montauk Point Lighthouse, an icon in a region long associated with the Irish of the East End. Though the ground around the lighthouse at this time of the year would naturally be brown, Mizzi’s green promontory could be said to nod to the holiday. As the Irish say, Cha chinn feur air an rathad mhòr.
At least half of “Montauk The End” is dominated by the sunset-orange clouds over the lighthouse. What prompted that dramatic sky?
Believe it or not, the sky is often like that out in Montauk. It’s amazing how gorgeous it can be, especially after rain, though for this painting I exaggerated a bit for dramatic effect. I love Montauk. I fish there all the time, on a boat, off the point, from the beach. But I don’t do plein air. I prefer working in my studio. I can’t stand anybody watching me when I paint, and I like to be in my own surroundings, because I usually work on a few pieces at the same time, jumping from one to another. I get bored doing only one thing. Also, I have lots of thoughts that come at me at once that may cause me to stop painting at one point and maybe draw. I sketch every day, and I may draw a preliminary version of a painting. Typically, by the time a painting is finished, it will be different from the sketch. Not here, though, with “Montauk The End.” The scene was pretty straightforward.
You have suggested that a difference between illustration and painting was less technique or style than subject matter. Would you elaborate?
Art is art. I like fine art and fine illustration, which I did professionally. I like expressionism in my art, a different approach. But as you know, even dog poop can be art, some say. There should be more to it than that, don’t get me started. If you know how to appreciate art and use your tools well, that’s it. I take photos, for example, because I don’t do plein air, but the painting’s never like a photo.
You work in other media, and you love to draw. What about watercolor attracts you the most?
I love the waterish movement, the freshness of watercolor, though sometimes, after I finish a painting, I’ll go back with some charcoal to highlight, or paint over. “Montauk the End” is a simple painting, most of my pieces are more complex and involve Surrealism, but it does show how I like to work with watercolor—wet on wet. I used hand-made Indian paper here, because of the texture. It’s very absorbent.
Savio Mizzi shows regularly at Salon Xavier in Sag Harbor. On March 26 a new exhibit opens at 6:30 p.m. (salonxavier.com). The artist welcomes visits to his studio, where he prepares limited edition prints of some of his work. See more at savioartsstudio.com.