Recent Italian Studio Paintings

Here are a couple of larger studio landscapes done from smaller plein air studies done on site in central Tuscany in September. I realize I haven’t posted anything in a while as I’ve been working on these larger studio paintings and they take a long time. I have three more on the easel and I’ll try to update the post as I finish them.

Studio landscape painting of Castelmuzio, Tuscany by Marc Dalessio

Castelmuzio. 120 x 150 cm, oil on linen.

Oil painting of Scrofiano, Tuscany by Marc Dalessio

Scrofiano. 90 x 110 cm, oil on linen.

Update: Here are a couple more, I’ll keep posting them here as they come off the easel. Some are heading for the Grenning Gallery this summer, one is off to Constantine Lindsay in London.

Landscape painting of Castelmuzio in Tuscany by Marc Dalessio

Castelmuzio, Backlit. 90 x 110 cm, oil on linen.

Landscape painting of Giudecca in Winter in Venice, Italy by Marc Dalessio

Giudecca in Winter. 90 x 110 cm, oil on linen.

More on Color Calibration for Photographing Paintings

ICC Color Camera Calibration for photographing artwork.

The CoCa interface.

A quick post on calibrating color for photographing paintings. I wrote a longer post in 2014 on photographing paintings with a DLSR using a Colorchecker Passport, Adobe DNG profiles and Adobe Lightroom. That system has worked well for me for the last couple of years, but recently I wanted to use Phase One’s Capture One Pro as I find it to be superior to Lightroom for my needs. The problem I previously had with Capture One was that it doesn’t use the DNG profiles that the Colorchecker Passport software creates.

The only solutions I had found for making ICC profiles were very expensive. The oft-recommended PictoColor InCamera is a ten-year-old plug-in that sells for $200. You then have to find a copy of Photoshop 5.0 to use it with as it’s still 32-bit. There are a couple of other solutions that cost even more.

Enter CoCa, the freeware ICC Color Camera Calibrator. The software works with a number of physical color reference cards. One inexpensive one that I picked up ($30 plus shipping) is the IT 8.7 Calibration Target from Wolf Faust at coloraid.de. It’s the C1 order number on his website (it says it’s for cameras, not scanners) and the package comes with the printed target as well as a CD with the reference files.

The IT 8.7 target from Coloraid.de.

The IT 8.7 target from Coloraid.de.

The CoCa webpage has instructions for the software but to sum it up briefly: You first photograph the calibration target under your lighting set-up, then crop it and save it as a TIFF file in your camera’s software. Next, select the image in CoCa, then select the target type and the reference file from the Coloraid CD (R131007.txt). Finally, save the ICC profile in the proper folder so your software can use it (for Capture One it is explained here). You can then apply it to your paintings in whatever software you’re using. For Capture One it gets applied via the Base Characteristics box under the Color tab.

CoCa should work with the Colorchecker Passport too, though I haven’t tried it.

For those using OSX, you can run CoCa through Wine though the process is somewhat complex and requires that you’re either handy with command line interface of Terminal or, like me, reasonably good at following instructions and copying and pasting.

A few people I’ve discussed color calibration with have balked about the high prices for calibration gear. In my opinion, this works out to be a good solution for a bit of time and $35 ($40 in the US).

Below are a couple of images of a painting of mine for comparison:

Photographing artwork with Coca and a coloraid.de IT 8.7 calibration target.

CoCa with a Coloraid IT 8.7 target and Capture One Pro.

Image of a plein air landscape photographed with a Colorchecker passport calibration card.

Colorchecker Passport with Adobe DNG and Lightroom.

Florence Academy (New Jersey) Show

Marc Dalessio Plein Air Landscape Painting Exhibition at the Florence Academy of Art in Jersey City.I have some paintings on display at the Florence Academy of Art‘s New Jersey campus. They’re having an open studio today in their new space in the MANA Contemporary art center. If anyone is in the neighborhood, be sure to pop over. The teaching staff is excellent at the FAA’s new space, and it looks like a very promising endeavor for the school.

Mana Contemporary Florence Academy Exhibition
My show will be up until the 11th of December.

Recent Tuscan Plein Air Paintings

Plein air landscape painting of Sinalunga (Siena).

Sinalunga from the Valley Below. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

These plein air paintings are actually from a few weeks back, but I never got around to posting them. I was working in the area around Montisi (east of Siena), and looking for views that would work as larger compositions for studio paintings to be done over the winter.

As I’ve discussed before on this blog, the Holy Grail of landscape painting is a view where the foreground, middle-ground, and background compose well and I spend a great deal of time every year driving and walking in search of such a view. An obvious question would be ‘why not just invent it from parts of views taken elsewhere?’ The answer for me is that, in part, my training makes it difficult. I was trained with the more ‘Impressionist’ methodology of sight-size, which requires the subject to be in front of the artist (as opposed to a ‘construction’ based painting system). In part though, it’s also a component of my philosophy on painting of taking a more humble and reverent approach to viewing the natural world. Furthermore, there is a historic precedence as seen in the work of a great number of plein air painters, and Henry Fuseli said it best: “Selection is the invention of the landscape painter”.

It means a lot of driving though.

Plein air landscape painting of Castelmuzio.

Castelmuzio #1. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air landscape painting of Castelmuzio.

Castelmuzio #2. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air landscape painting of Castelmuzio.

Castelmuzio #3. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

I’ll often do a number of paintings of the same view when I do finally find one that will work on a larger canvas. This is in addition to a number of pencil sketches to figure out the balance and composition of the final piece.

One of my favorite ‘tricks’ to finding good views in central Italy is to look for the cemetery. They tend to be placed just the right distance from the town, usually with a very good view on the town, and they have parking and shade to work under.

Plein air landscape painting of Scrofiano, Tuscany.

Scrofiano. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of a sunset in Tuscany.

Tuscan Sunset. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Overall I was quite happy with this short excursion and I think I can make at least three larger studio pieces from a few days worth of scouting.

September in Salzburg and Hallein

Plein air painting of a honey seller in Hallein, Austria.

Honey Seller in the Market, Hallein. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

A few plein air paintings from earlier in the month in Salzburg and Hallein. These are part of a continuing series of paintings I’m doing in the area for an exhibition in Hallein. The show was supposed to be coming up fast, but I’ve pushed it back a year to next October, so I can try to get four seasons worth of work into it.

Plein air painting of Schöndorferplatz in Hallein, Austria.

Schöndorferplatz, Hallein. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

I really enjoy painting in the valley west of Hallein as well, (even though it’s Germany and I’m supposed to be working on an Austrian show).

Plein air painting of a church in Oberau, Germany.

Church in Oberau (Germany). 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

I painted a lot in Salzburg again. I tend to focus on smaller areas as walking a lot to scout can take up too much time for these short trips. In this case I was in the Mirabell Gardens for a couple of days.

Plein air painting of trees in the Mirabell Gardens, Salzburg, Austria.

Mirabell Gardens #1. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of the Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg, Austria.

Mirabell Gardens #2. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of statues in the Mirabell Gardens, Salzburg, Austria.

Statues in the Mirabell Gardens. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of a street musician in Salzburg, Austria.

Street Musician, Salzburg. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

This last one is unfinished as I didn’t calculate the shadow of the bell tower blocking out my light for an hour. It was my last morning there so I didn’t get a chance to go back this trip.

Unfinished painting of carriages in Salzburg, Austria.

Carriages in Salzburg (unfinished). 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Cape Cod Paintings

Plein air painting of an umbrella on Marconi Beach, Cape Cod.

Red Umbrella, Marconi Beach. 11 x 14 in., oil on linen.

These are some of the small plein air paintings from last week on Cape Cod, in Massachusetts. We stayed with the excellent landscape painter Joseph McGurl and his wife, and he showed us the good spots for landscape painting.

Plein air painting of a lifeguard station on Marconi Beach, Cape Cod.

Lifeguard Station, Marconi Beach. 14 x 11 in., oil on linen.

Plein air painting of a Cranberry Bog.

Cranberry Bog. 8 x 12 in., oil on linen.

Landscape painting of a cranberry bog.

Side of a Cranberry Bog. 11 x 14 in., oil on linen.

Painting of Quissett Harbor, Cape Cod.

Quissett Harbor. 11 x 14 in., oil on linen.

Plein air landscape painting of Fisherman's Beach, Quissett Harbor.

Fisherman’s Beach, Quissett Harbor. 11 x 14 in., oil on linen.

Some of these paintings will be going to Collins Gallery in Orleans, MA.

Painting of Surf Drive Beach in Falmouth, Cape Cod.

Surf Drive Beach in Falmouth. 8 x 12 in., oil on linen.

Plein air painting of a painter at sunset.

Painting at Sunset. 12 x 8 in., oil on linen.

For the last stop of our two month trip to America, I taught a couple of three day plein air workshops in Boston for Leo Mancini-Hresko’s Waltham Studios. Boston is gorgeous. Probably the most beautiful large city in the US. I had been there 25 years ago for a couple of days, but didn’t remember it being so picturesque.

I didn’t have time to paint any cityscapes, unfortunately, but here are the unfinished demonstration pieces from the plein air classes. I painted the same view twice as it worked technically for the points I was making during the demo.

Plein air painting of the Boston Gondola dock on the Charles River.

Boston Gondola Dock. 11 x 14 in., oil on linen.

Plein air painting of a Charles River Gondola in Boston, MA.

Charles River Gondola. 11 x 14 in., oil on linen.

Nova Scotia

Painting of the Picton Castle in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

The Picton Castle. 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

Here are the paintings from the last week in Nova Scotia, Canada. We rented a place just outside of Mahone Bay and painted up and down the coast from Blue Rocks to Chester.

Plein air painting of a street in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

Street in Lunenburg. 25 x 35 cm, oil on linen.

Plein air painting of Lunenburg Harbor, Nova Scotia.

Lunenburg Harbor. 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

Lunenburg was a particular favorite. There was a wide selection of views in a small area, the weather was great (the food too) and the people were very friendly.

Plein air landscape painting of the point at Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia.

The Point at Blue Rocks. 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

Plein air landscape painting of Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Blue Rocks. 25 x 35 cm, oil on linen.

Because of the microclimates in the area, we often had sun all day in the town of Mahone Bay, when other parts of the coast had the fog.

Plein air painting of the churches in Mahone Bay.

Fog Lifting, Mahone Bay (#1). 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

Plein air landscape painting of fog lifting in Mahone Bay.

Fog Lifting, Mahone Bay (#2). 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

Plein air painting of boats in Chester Harbor, Nova Scotia.

Boats in Chester Harbor. 20 c 30 cm, oil on linen.

Plein air painting of a dock in Chester, Nova Scotia.

Dock in Chester. 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

Plein air painting of dinghies at sunset in Lunenburg.

Boats at Sunset, Lunenburg. 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

Maine Paintings

Below are some of my paintings from the last week in mid-coast Maine.

Plein air painting of Broad Cove, Maine.

Osier Dr, Broad Cove, Maine. 11 x 14 in.

Painting of fishermen in Friendship, Maine.

Fishing, Friendship. 12 x 8 in.

Plein air painting of a boatyard in Round Pond, Maine.

Boatyard, Round Pond. 11 x 14 in.

Plein air painting of Round Pond, Maine.

Parking Lot, Round Pond. 8 x 12 in.

Plein air painting of a road in Friendship, Maine.

Road to the Town Landing, Friendship.

Plein air painting of a sailboat in Rockport, Maine.

Sailboat, Rockport. 12 x 8 in.

Plein air painting from outside of Waldoboro, Maine.

Grey Day on the 32. 8 x 12 in.

It was my first time painting in Maine and I have to say it’s one of the best places I’ve ever painted. The weather has been great, sunny but cool most of the time, the people are incredibly friendly and knowledgable about plein air painting, and there is a great wealth of stunningly picturesque places to work.

Plein air painting of a dock in Friendship, Maine.

Dock in Friendship. 8 x 12 in.

Plein air painting of Friendship, Maine.

Friendship, Maine. 11 x 14 in.

I have an opening tonight at Haynes Gallery in Thomaston, Maine. It’s actually a few group shows. My ‘group’ consists of Karen Blackwood, T. J. CunninghamBen Fenske, Greg Howitch, Leo Mancini-Hresko, Joseph McGurl and myself.

Joseph McGurl was a big influence on my work when I was first starting out as a landscape painter (and still is), so it’s great to be showing with him.

Plein air landscape painting of Haynes Gallery in Maine.

Haynes Gallery, Thomaston. 8 x 12 in.

I’ll also be giving a painting demonstration at 3:30 pm, if you happen to be in the area.

Plein air painting of a street in Thomaston, Maine.

Afternoon Shadows, Thomaston. 8 x 12 in.

California Central Coast Plein Air Paintings

Below are some paintings from the Central Coast of California over the last ten days. I was based in Carmel Valley, but moved down the coast quite a bit.

Plein air painting of Green Valley, Cambria.

Green Valley, Cambria. 32 x 40 in.

Plein air landscape painting of Big Sur, California.

Big Sur. 32 x 40 in., oil on linen.

These first two paintings were quite large so I tied the canvases to the ubiquitous barbed wire fences to keep them steady in the high winds. I picked up a lightweight rope-and-plastic-carabiner combo from Nite Ize at a local camping store and the system worked perfectly.

Plein air landscape painting set up in Big Sur, California.

My set-up in Big Sur.

Plein air painting of a model standing in rye grass.

Rye Grass. 40 x 32 in., oil on linen.

One great thing about painting in the Monterey area is that there is a handful of world-class plein air artists who live there to paint with. On the above painting I worked with John Burton, and the sketch below is of Mark Farina, who we painted with one morning south of Carmel.

Plein air painting of an artist working in Carmel.

Mark Farina painting at Monastery Beach, Carmel. 8 x 12 in.

Plein air painting of the hills near Hearst Castle.

Hearst Castle Hills. 11 x 14 in., oil on linen.

Plein air painting of San Carpoforo beach.

San Carpoforo Beach. 8 x 12 in., oil on linen.

Plein air painting of Notley's Landing, Big Sur, California.

Cows at Notleys Landing. 8 x 12 in., oil on linen.

I’ve always felt I became a landscape painter because of growing up surrounded by the beauty of California, so it’s great to get back there and paint when I can.

Plein air painting of a patio in Carmel Valley, California.

My Folk’s Patio. 8 x 12 in., oil on linen.

Update: We stopped and painted for a bit in Lake Tahoe on our way out of California. Here are a couple images:

Plein air oil painting of the Tahoe Princess on Lake Tahoe.

Tahoe Princess. 8 x 12 in.

Plein air painting of a street in South Lake Tahoe, California.

Street in South Lake Tahoe. 8 x 12 in.

Carbon Fiber Painting Gear

In my quest for a lighter and more portable plein air set-up I’m currently experimenting with a carbon fiber photography tripod and paint box.

Sirui tripod for plein air landscape painting.

My current camera tripod set-up.

The camera tripod I settled on is a Sirui T-025X with their C-10X ball head. It was originally recommended to me by plein air painter Paul Rafferty who has used one to great success for a year now. Sirui is a Chinese company who, apparently, used to make photo equipment for Gitzo (the very expensive Italian company) and are now making tripods with their own brand name. The tripod folds up to be tiny and weighs only 1.54 lb (0.7 kg) -slightly less than the Fome aluminum easel I’ve been using for a while. (For anyone thinking of getting the Sirui, you can find one on Amazon and support my site).

The tiny Sirui T-025x all folded up.

Sirui T-025x. Banana for scale.

To use sight-size one’s panel or canvas should ideally be at eye-level. This puts the surface quite high off the ground where stability becomes an issue. On the other hand, after years of working on canvas, I don’t really mind a little give while I’m applying paint. Even with my extremely light backpack hanging off the supplied carabiner, this set-up becomes stable enough for me to paint comfortably.

Sirui tripod for a painting easel.

The mast bolted to the Sirui quick-release plate.

I also don’t like the pochade-box-on-camera-tripod system that most plein air painters use. With sight-size it means the paints are right under my nose. The solution for me is to use a mast to get the panel high enough, and attach the paint box to the bottom. For the mast of this set-up I picked up a pre-made carbon fiber slat, drilled a hole with a 1/4″ drill-bit, and bolted it to the quick-release plate of the Sirui. The Sirui quick-release plate has screw threads out, so one can switch to a longer bolt without permanently affecting the tripod. One could drill a hole in the aluminum or steel mast of the Fome easels and get an even stiffer design. I settled on a shorter mast to be able to pack it in a suitcase easily. With the taller camera tripod it is still big enough for my 11″ x 14″ (25 x 35 cm) panels in a vertical position, even if I have the easel set up downhill.

Carbon fiber painting box for plein air landscape painting.

Carbon fiber ‘cigar box’ palette.

I’d love to be able to triumphantly declare that the carbon fiber painting box was a great success and is the future of plein air painting equipment. Unfortunately, after an annoying amount of time and money spent, I have to admit that a $5 dollar Ebay cigar-box works just as well. Leo Mancini-Hresko has written a good blog post on making one. The carbon fiber isn’t any lighter or sturdier, and it lacks the charm to boot.

Carbon fiber cigar box style palette.

Carbon fiber painting box.