Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Studio Visit with Patrick Romelli

“I like to play.” Patrick Romelli was distracted with moving the perfect shade of green-ish blue around the canvas. Dotting it here, sweeping it there, with loose thoughtful brushstrokes. He’s finishing up the under painting of a new commission and I can already tell it’s going to be beautiful.

A native Cincinnatian, Romelli had enjoyed a rather successful commercial illustration career/business, when about ten years ago he decided to expand his creative boundaries and started painting with oils. Oil painting allowed him the freedom of emotion and artistic expression that his professional subjects did not.

Romelli is an Impressionist painter. But what does that mean exactly, especially considering the contemporary context? Impressionist painting, in the simplest of terms, is a painting that is able to describe the sense of something without actually depicting it in detail. For instance, you can get the sense of looking at Monet’s Water Lily paintings that the plants are floating in a pond without the artist actually painting water lilies. You get the impression of them. While the Impressionist Movement was one of the most influential artistic developments in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (and arguably ever), many artists today still paint in the Impressionist style. Like an impressionist painter of years past, he understands light. The way he captures the light gives life to each painting. Romelli paints a variety of Cincinnati subjects close to his heart – Union Station, horse racing, and musicians. He also paints Italian landscapes.

My mom’s college friend lives in Cincinnati. While we were in town he said his father-in-law is an artist and we must see his work. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times a friend has said, “you should see my friend’s work, you’d love it” and I have to politely compliment them while desperately trying to find my way to the exit. This was not the case with Patrick Romelli. As soon as we stepped foot in his studio I realized he was talented. I didn’t have to politely compliment him. Instead, I wanted to know what he was thinking. What drove him to paint and why the ubiquitous Italian scenes?

It was hard not to take one of these littles home as a souvenir.

Horse racing at Churchill Downs

Romelli recently went to Tuscan Italy. He took up a castle residence with five other artists for a few weeks to paint. Just to paint. Everyday, twice a day, he left his comfortable surroundings to venture out into the landscape and simply paint what he saw and felt. As he told me the stories of his trip, I couldn’t help but think that this is out of a romantic movie where one finds the answers to life’s questions. But this wasn’t a movie, he was there. And he painted it.

He went were many have gone before, but in a good way. When you look at the loosely painted brushstrokes on the orange rooftops of a neighborhood in Cinque Terre, you remember it. It’s familiar. It brings back those good memories of being on vacation – even if you’ve never been there.

Romelli’s work isn’t serious. It isn’t searching for a deeper meaning to our humanity or rejecting the politics of his city. He paints because he cannot imagine doing anything else. Simply put, he enjoys painting what makes him happy. His energy leaves the viewer with a sense of content nostalgia for a moment when they themselves were happy.

Thank you Steve and Patrick for the tour!

See more of Patrick Romelli’s work on his website here.

Detail of a Las Vegas painting, love all the little brushstrokes.

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