Originally from Gozo, an island of the Maltese archipelago, Savio Mizzi now makes his home in East Hampton. “There were a lot of resources for me growing up,” he says of his native Gozo, adding that he “lived by the sea, which is why I like East Hampton, too, because of the water, the fishing and the beach. All that inspires me.”
Can you describe your process for us?
To me, art is about telling a story and should evoke a feeling that inspires me to create paintings that are both real and surreal, with a touch of fantasy. In my attempt to tell a story, I combine my memories and observations of everyday surroundings. It’s from this process and thinking that I find myself being most persistent.
A fair amount of your paintings are outdoors scenes or objects. Do you paint en plein air?
I usually work in the studio. Sometimes I do sketch outside, but mostly I like to be in the studio because I do a lot of surrealistic work. When I do a landscape and it’s not true to what’s there, it is what’s there, but I interpret it my own way. If you want to see what’s out there, take a photograph. When it comes to landscapes, it’s not going to look like that in nature. I exaggerate it.
Do you work from photographs?
Sometimes I do. Sometimes I work from my head. I use any means as a reference to work from. I always do sketches before I paint. I do a layout or a composition for a painting in black-and-white and maybe in color to get to the finished product. It’s a process. I used to be an illustrator years ago, so I’m used to that. Even when I do a commission, a lot of time I’ll share a sketch to work with a client to get to the finished product.
For someone who likes your aesthetic, can you recommend an artist or two you think they would also like?
I’ve said before, I’m a big fan of Bob Peak. He’s an artist and illustrator and I love his work. And Nicolai Fechin is a phenomenal artist—his work is phenomenal. He came to the United States from Russia in 1923.
If you could take credit for any painting from history, what would it be?
There are so many of them. A lot keep coming to mind. Let’s stick with the Renaissance and say Caravaggio’s The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist because the painting itself was done in Malta and is still in Malta.
What do you do for fun when you’re not painting?
Do you have any advice for an aspiring artist?
First of all, draw. Draw a lot before you start to paint. And before you draw anything, learn to see. A lot of time what you want to put on paper, people don’t realize, it’s hard to do. If it’s a figure, a stone or a tree, you learn to see it, before you adapt it on paper. Like they say, you can’t run before you learn to walk. It’s nice to throw paint. There’s certain abstract stuff that I love, that’s great, but of these painters, you ask them to draw something and see how far they go. To me, learning to draw is the main thing. Then you can paint. And of course, study the old masters or artists you admire.
To see more of Savio Mizzi’s work visit savio-mizzi.pexels.com.