November FEATURED artist

Todd Bonita

Todd Bonita Plein Air painting

Shoreless 24 x 30 oil

Holding You Close 24 x 30 oil

Paris Cafe #1 Plein Air oil

Visit Todd's website at www.toddbonita.com

“Life is Short, and Art is Long” ~ Socrates

By Todd Bonita

After three decades in front of an easel, I’ve learned Socrates wasn’t whistling Dixie when he suggested that “Life is short, and Art is long.” The theme of my ongoing artistic growth has been in keeping genuine curiosity as the heart of figuring out how to crack the codes to good painting. Asking, “How on earth did they do that?” has opened doors for me.

After graduating art school in the ‘nineties, I treated myself to the experience of the major Italian Renaissance cities, including Florence, Venice, Rome, and Milan. I wanted to see the work of the great masters, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Caravaggio. Their superior example of academic principles guided my initial artistic endeavors; sound design, carefully measured draftsmanship, sensitively observed values and an indirect method of applying paint monochromatically, followed by thin layers and glazes of color. This has been my primary studio approach for more than two decades. This method relies almost entirely on dark, light, and mid-tone value ranges as a metaphor for light. It has stood the test of time and I’m grateful for discovering the heroes that took me down that road. 

A significant moment in my personal growth occurred when I discovered that most of my painting heroes had a common denominator. They painted outdoors in natural light. Many were studio painters who spent half the year outdoors to gather information and develop sensitivities to seeing the subtleties of light and color in nature.

This began my own personal journey painting en Plein air, trying to capture the atmosphere and light on natural forms. My first efforts were ghastly and made me question my career path. The truth is studio painters who endeavor outdoors are humbled with their first efforts. It’s mostly a result of unrealistic expectations meeting the realities of rapidly changing outdoor light and the adjustment to a more simplified, economic way of painting. With practice outdoors, exponential growth comes in your painting intellect and your ability to see subtlety of color values.

For my journey, seeing the world differently meant that my Plein air painting techniques have weaved their way into my studio work. A place typically reserved for carefully drafted, monochromatic, classically executed works with thin layers and glazes of color. Instead, my outdoor work is collaborating with my indoor work, introducing color monochromes instead of traditional brown and white underpaintings!! There are opaque and semi opaque passages complimenting thin, translucent glazes, outdoor tools like palette knives and squeegees are finding indoor studio time. It’s refreshing to see new and exciting things happening, and truth is, I’m just playing with tools and materials with child like curiosity. 

Isn’t the goal of this to achieve self-expression in painting, to put our own visual poetry on canvas? May variety forever reign in both our indoor and outdoor studios, with a balance of practiced academic principles and a freedom to wonder and play.

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