Friday, June 26, 2009

Antonio Mancini

Antonio Mancini (Italian b. 1852, Academic Painter) was born in Rome, Italy in 1852. At twelve, he was accepted into the Institute of Fine Arts "Istituto di Belle Arti" in Naples, where he studied under historical painter Domenico Morelli. Morelli was widely know for his use of energetic brushwork and application of chiaroscuro
(chiaroscuro: the treatment of dramatic light and shadow in a painting or drawing, an effect of contrasted light and shadow on a subject with a single light source.) Antonio developed rapidly under Morelli, and would soon exhibit two paintings at the Paris Salon at the youthful age of eighteen. In 1873 Mancini graduate from the academy and soon rented a studio in Napels with his friend Vincenzo Gemito.

Most of Mancini's work revolved around paintings of dancers, musicians, circus and street performers, as well as homeless children. His portrait "Saltimbanco" illustrates a young street performer whose life had been spent entertaining crowds. His painting, "The Poor Schoolboy", exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1876, is in the Musee d'Orsay in Paris. It's realist subject matter and dark palette are typical of his early work. Paintings by Mancini can also be seen in various Italian museums such as Museo Civico-Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Turin and Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Rome.

His first trip to Paris was in 1877 where he was introduced to a number of the French Impressionists including Degas, Manet, as well as portrait painter John Singer Sargent. He later became close friends with Sargent, who called Mancini "the greatest living painter." Sargent became an avid supporter of Mancini's work and often spoke highly of him to gallery owners and collectors. Mancini had a wonderful sense of theatrics about his paintings and "After the duel" is a dramatic example of this sensibility.

Mancini was very much inspired by the Impressionists and thereafter loosened his own brush strokes. His paintings began to take on a brightened palette with a very bold impasto technique (impasto: a technique used in painting, where paint is laid on an area of the surface very thickly so that the brush or palette-knife strokes are visible. Paint can also be mixed right on the canvas.) The word "impasto" is Italian in origin; meaning "dough" or "mixture"; the verb "impastare" translates variously as "to knead", or "to paste". on canvas.

Mancini employed an unusual grid technique which can be still seen in his work today. This approach was a technique where in which the artist would apply a series of criss-crossing strings or wire to a frame or canvas stretcher. During a sitting, the artist employed 2 of these gridded frames. One frame would then be placed in front of the model while the other was placed directly in front of the artist's canvas thus providing an accurate visual context for deciphering proportions and compositions.
Many of Mancini's paintings display this technique and it is clear that these grids were placed directly on the canvas and then painted upon. Mancini would then remove the grid from
the painting and what
remained was a ghostly indication of these small square sections. Walter Richard Sickert, a mutual friend of both Sargent and Mancini, explained Mancini’s sometimes very unusual method in 1927:

"His paintings were done through a wire grille, whose squares correspond with a grille before the sitter. The marks of the grille remain. The sitter being, as it were, pinned down, retained of his mobility alone the facial expression. But, trembling and snorting within that restriction, there is an extraordinary vivacity, there is power and a dashing impasto."

This method can best be seen in his panting of "de Lafenis". Not only did he employ this unusual technique but he also employed such materials as shards of glass, and foil. This gave the paint more illumination; again, "de Lafenis" is a strong example.

In 1881, Mancini suffered a crippling mental illness. He settled in Rome in 1883 for twenty years and then later relocated to Frascati where he lived until 1918. During this period, Mancini was often very poor and relied upon the help of close friends and art buyers to survive. He struggled financially until a Dutch collector named Hendrik Willem Mesdag became his benefactor and signing him to a artistic contract. After World War I, his living situation improved and his work took on a new found sense of serenity. Antonio Mancini died in Rome in 1930.
The Philadelphia Art Museum currently owns fifteen oil paintings and three pastels by Antonio Mancini. The first American exhibition of Antonio Mancini's work was at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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Billy Seccombe

Bibliography Sources:

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

DuCret School of Art Materials List

Below is the latest supply list I have put together for the portrait painting class I will be teaching at the DuCret School of Art for the Summer '09 schedule. I would encourage you to follow me at Twitter at and become a follower. Thank you.

Billy Seccombe

Ramon Casas I Carbo

Briefly, I'd like to mention Ramon Casas I Carbo. Four samples of his work are pictured above. Carbo was a 19th century figurative painter from Barcelona, Spain. Matthew Innis introduced me to his work and does a much better job at providing detailed information on his life as well as additional Carbo works. The link to his blog is listed above. Follow me on Twitter at or subscribe to this blog by clicking the "follow" link in the right hand column. Thank you.

Billy Seccombe

Sunday, June 21, 2009

"John on Sunday"

This is the very latest portrait I painted as part of the Salmagundi Club's artist demonstration series on Sunday June 21st. "John on Sunday" as it is titled, was painted over a 3 hour time period. My very talented musician cousin John Gaenzler was the model. There were roughly 30 people in attendance for the presentation on Sunday.

As always, I would encourage you to follow me on Twitter
at and become a follower. Thank you.

Billy Seccombe

Friday, June 12, 2009

Download IPhone Wallpaper

Above are the current downloadable IPhone wallpaper designs created by 716 Fineart, a gallery is Racine,WI exhibiting my work Drag an image to your desktop, or save the image to your desktop with a right click. You can use it as a wallpaper on your iPhone or iPod Touch. [NOTE: It also looks great on some other phones.] Follow me on Twitter at

Billy Seccombe

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sharon Sprung Painting Demo

I want to include a great exceprt from a Sharon Sprung demo that I found on Here is the direct link: I have pasted a portion of the article below as I have found this pretty useful.  Follow me on Twitter at

Billy Seccombe

Sharon Sprung Paints a Portrait
February 20, 2008
by Louise B. Hafesh
Sharon Sprung, the cover artist for The Artist's Magazine's April 2008 issue, paints the figure from life but positions that figure in abstract fields. A double life is what Sprung admits to when it comes to her art. Her portraits are beautiful as fields of color sometimes heightened with ornament, yet they provoke the viewer into feeling each subject’s soul and guts. Sprung wrestles with the dichotomy between realism and abstraction.

“There’s a beautiful freedom in the mergence of the two that allows me to speak visually to more people,” she says over coffee in a cafe near her teaching gig at the Art Students League in New York City. “I’ve grown to dislike the hard edges and flat planes of the photorealist. I strive to give my paintings the life and energy of modern work, yet suggest the depth and craft inherited from the great tradition of realist painters.”

A gifted and generous teacher, whose classes at the Art Students League and the National Academy School typically have long waiting lists, Sprung gets high praise for her ingenious approach to the class demo, which involves her completing a portrait in sequence during a typical semester.

“Rather than cut into valuable student studio time, on the first day of a new course, I ask for a volunteer who will commit to pose during the regular model’s long breaks,” she explains. ”In that way, the class gets to see me develop a painting from start to finish—including tackling any challenges along the way.”

Nine-Image Painting Demonstration
(shown below)
By Ruth Callaghan, student at the Art Students League
First day: Sprung toned the linen canvas (12x14) with a light, bluish tint. Then, working with a small filbert brush with black paint and a small amount of turpenoid, she sketched a center line and the general shapes. She focused on the planes and the structure of the skull.
Second day: She defined the drawing with more black, dividing shapes into smaller shapes and always comparing the drawing to the model.
Third day: She prepared her palette: Payne’s gray, titanium white, yellow ochre, raw sienna, ruby red, permanent bright red, alizarin crimson, cobalt blue, Prussian blue, vermilion, scarlet sienna, burnt sienna, raw umber, burnt umber. ivory black, brilliant yellow light, phthalo green and phthalo turquoise.
Fourth day: Sprung told her students, while she was working on this portrait, to “make each brushstroke mean something.” She also said, “It’s OK to make a lot of strokes because one is bound to be correct.” Sprung stressed the importance of refining the drawing; she then started the underpainting in blue.
Fifth day: Using a medium-large brush (No. 6 or 8) and loose arm movements, Sprung used a crisscross movement to cover the canvas in shapes of color. She used violet, black and yellow as she worked on the background. For the shirt, she used Prussian blue grayed with alizarin crimson and white.
Sprung painted what she called “patches or shapes” in both the light and the dark areas. For the hair, the darkest shape, she broke the mass into shapes of color, as well. She used pure color with a heavier stroke; it looked as if she were pushing the paint into the canvas. Her mixture for the hair was black and burnt umber.
Sprung told her students never to use ivory black by itself, as it tends to crack. Therefore always mix ivory black with another color. Sprung repeated, “Change colors when the planes (on the face or anywhere else) change.”
Sprung used the following for the flesh color: raw sienna, cobalt blue, burnt sienna and white. Working with large puddles of color, she made the warm areas warm by adding yellow; for the cooler areas, she added white.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Nelson Shanks Demo 10/6

The following series of photos were taken at a recent Nelson Shanks demo at the Art Students League of NY which I attended on 10/6 as part of my studies with Shanks. The picture quality isn't great but they should be sufficient enough to outline the steps taken.

Billy Seccombe

The first image includes Nelson's palette. On a previous entry to my blog I had outlined the colors and particular brands of paint used so I won't get into that now. You will notice that the only two mediums used here were Turpentine and Stand Oil. The Stand Oil was cut with Turpentine which appear in two small tins to the right.
Secondly, he began on a medium gray toned canvas where he sketched out large forms much in the way that a sculptor would approach a block of marble. He looked for large geometric forms and an inner harmony among all the shapes in the composition. Many of the strokes continued beyond the figure which he then used to draw relationships to all of the parts as a whole. This is the main approach to Shank's teaching and he continually reinforces this principle throughout the class. This concept is also taught by Dan Thompson at the New York Academy of Art.
After the initial search lines were established he began to break down the figure into highlight and shadow forms not to get caught up in small details.
At this point, highlights were filled in with a warm yellow-orange flesh tone. There is no pre-mixing of flesh tones but rather mixing as he needs it to give more of an immediate impression upon the colors observed.
As the painting developed he continued to add various mid tones and other colors such as pinks into the nose and lip areas and followed that with the addition of the shadow colors in the hair and along the neck. His shadows were achieved by scumbling purple into the brown underpainting. Shanks is constantly moving his arm in rather large gestural motions as he sculpts out the form. This lends itself well to capturing a sense of energy and movement in his work. He is always stands at an arms length distance from the canvas even when painting the smallest of details.

At this stage we took a short intermission and we had a chance to take an up-close look at what would be considered a half-way point.

Shanks continued to refine the values and colors established in the first session of painting.

The final image took roughly 2 hours from beginning to end. His portraits have a rather rich quality to them. His paintings tend to be very saturated and small areas may consist of a variety of colors. I would also mention that at the final stage he uses a large 4" brush and gentle glides the bristles across the surface in different directions to smooth out some of the planes. This gives the whole painting a very softened and unified feeling.

-William Seccombe

PBS's David Dunlop on Monet's Water Lilies

I have been recently watching a show on PBS's Create TV which features a plein air landscape painter by the name of David Dunlop. The most recent episode took place at the setting of Monet's gardens in France. Dunlop spoke to a few ideas which as a painter you hear quite often but really may not fully embrace until you see a great example. He referred to Monet's Water Lilies when he said that "the vocabulary of brush strokes makes a painting more interesting." Quite often it seems to me that the only approach to achieving a level of success in a painting has been through the tireless rendering of a subject and it is in Monet that we find a confidence to paint with an implied gestural looseness. He went on to talk about soft, blurred edges and how as a viewer, the mind wants to complete the image. In this way, the painting takes on a more interactive quality instead of a dictated form of hyper realism. Essentially, the softer edges create greater volume and harder edges conversely, less volume. And finally, in speaking about Impressionism, I think it is only fitting that I end with a paraphrased quote from Corot to Monet "Trust Your First Impression." In other words, that in the initially moments of a painting does the artist truely capture the energy, feeling, and gesture of a subject and it is these first impressions which we as artists should strive to maintain trhoughout the painting process.

Billy Seccombe