Some Notes on Art: Its Purposes and Methods.

Adamo has been painting for more than six decades. Writers have noted that he “uses the techniques of classical Italian painters” and all have commented upon the fact that his “paintings have a luminescence” rarely seen in artworks today. In the comments below, Adamo speaks about his approaches to painting.

I agree with artist and critic John Ruskin, who maintains that works of art should be beautiful. Beauty entices the viewer to enter the peaceful, unthreatening environment of the artwork.

Artists have attempted to create beauty in both non-objective and objective artworks. Artists who create non-objective works avoid recognizable objects and focus solely on the academically understood and formulated syntaxes of color and contrast to produce beauty. Artists who create objective works add objects found in the world around us to their syntaxes of color and contrast to produce beauty. Objective painters understand that realism and abstraction differ not in kind but in degree. These artists portray objects in their works somewhere along the abstraction/realism scale—to some degree more or less abstracted or to some degree more or less realistic.

"Boating in Central Park"
10" x 8", Oil on Board. Private Collection.

I am an oil painter. I produce objective artworks. Lastly, I am a realist painter. Like other objective artists, I present my ‘objects’ subjectively. That is, my understanding of the world is drawn from my interactions with the world. One may refer to these attitudes or viewpoints which comprise tone in my pieces as the content of my work. All artists are—to some degree—attempting to manipulate the mind of the viewer, objective artists more so than non-objective artists.

"Bananas on the Sideboard"
10" x 8", Oil on Panel. Private Collection.

To lay claim to the viewer’s attention (and ultimate allegiance), each artist strives for some additional ingredient that will work in his or her favor. Neither realism nor abstraction is an end in itself, as are the design calculations of the non-objective artisan. Objective art must possess a special something that will hold the viewer captive within the artist’s visionary world. That special something affects the viewer in a way that is quite distinct from the influence of content. That special something is aesthetic impact, a force that ‘makes the eye dance.’

Non-artists often presume that there appears to be no limit on ways to paint objective artworks. But there are essentially only two painting methods: direct painting (the alla prima method) and glazes applied to an underpainting (the glazed grisaille method).

(a) In alla prima painting, the artist essentially mixes and applies colors required for each passage in the painting. When all passages have been painted, the work is complete. Light strikes the surface of the painting and reflects back to the viewer. Technically speaking, a competent color mixer could complete an alla prima painting in one sitting.

(b) The glazed grisaille painting requires a monochromatic image first, usually in grays, which serves as an underpainting. Once dry, the image receives coats of glaze, that is, translucent films of color, using semi-transparent or transparent oil colors. Each glaze must dry before the next is applied. Light passes through the translucent glazes of the finished painting, strikes the underpainting, and reflects back out. The resultant effect is that the painting seems to glow from within. As one can readily see, a glazed grisaille painting requires quite a bit of time to produce.

Both of these methods of painting in oil colors have long traditions in the history of art. However, because the slow deliberate processes of glazed grisaille painting are too time-consuming, that method is disappearing.

Over the past several decades I have resurrected and adapted this centuries old method of painting, fabricating effects with as many as twenty or thirty glazes in a single artwork. I feel that the time and effort necessary to do this is worthwhile. Remember, I am an oil painter. I produce objective artworks. I employ some degree of realism; but, more importantly, I present my ‘objects’ subjectively. Therefore I want the content of my paintings to engage the minds of my viewers. I count on the luminosity of my glazed grisaille paintings to produce the aesthetic impact that makes their eyes dance.

"Bing Cherries and Clementines"
7" x 5", Oil on Panel. Private Collection