Artist of the Month: Joe Remillard

Val d’Orcia (oil, 63×42) by Joe Remillard was a Landscape finalist in the 25th Annual Art Competition. Remillard is our March 2009 Artist of the Month.

Residence: Atlanta, Georgia

Website: www.joeremillard.com

His art career: I took my first art class as a senior in college studying American history. I didn’t take another until I graduated from law school three years later. While I practiced law in New York, I took art classes at night. At the old age of 27 I retired from law and moved to Georgia to study art. I was accepted into the master of fine arts program in painting and drawing at the University of Georgia and earned my degree. I’m now a full-time professor of art at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia.

Inspiration for this painting: The rolling hills of Tuscany and the history of the region were my inspiration for Val d’Orcia. I teach art students in Montepulciano, Italy, every year. The view in this painting is from the nearby town of Pienza. Leonardo da Vinci was the first artist to codify atmospheric perspective, and he often included views of Tuscany in the backgrounds of his paintings. My painting is, in a way, a tip of the hat to his genius.

The greatest challenge was getting the atmospheric perspective just right. It’s a large painting and took many passages of paint to fine-tune the values, edges, intensities and details in the different layers of space. My favorite part is the path I tried to give the viewer to follow. The path is a series of diagonals that zigzag from right to left. It starts with the diagonal of the roof peak, moves through a series of tree lines, through the meandering road on the right and eventually ends at the extinct volcano on the left.

Good luck charm: Painting on-site is great. Folks are constantly coming up to chat, and the morning air in Montepulciano is refreshing. The city has lots of swallows and pigeons, and on more than one occasion they’ve flown overhead and pooped on me and my art. In Italy that supposedly brings good luck, so I simply say “Grazie” and keep on painting.

His process: I spend a great deal of time at the place or with the person I’ll be painting. During that time I sketch, take digital photos and sometimes do studies in oil or watercolor. I try to paint from life as often as possible. I sometimes begin painting on-site and then finish the work in my studio with the aid of the reference materials I’ve gathered.

Working from digital images has its drawbacks. It flattens the form, deletes details and never accurately reproduces the color of the scene. It also takes the artist a step away from his inspiration. By not painting from life, one misses the opportunity of subconsciously integrating all five senses into one’s piece. Hearing the birds early in the morning or feeling your fingers start to stiffen as the temperature drops—all of this goes into adding more life to the painting.

But I wouldn’t be able to create as much as I do with out digital images. They provide me with the opportunity to return virtually to a scene that I didn’t have the time to stay with.

If I paint alla prima, I typically spend three to four hours on a painting. For a piece using the indirect method, such as with Val d’Orcia, I will spend much longer. Val d’Orcia has at least 70 hours of work in it.

Why he creates art: I create art to feed my soul. My art serves as a constant reminder to me of how beautiful life is and how much I love living.

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