Thursday, May 17, 2012

I just had the most in-depth, lengthy fantabulous phone conversation with Nelson, about FINISHING A PAINTING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I have known Nelson since 1987 when I met him at the Art Students’ League, and became one of his students…..and to be quite honest…I’ve always been and always will be, in awe of him, and his work. I’ve been able to stifle the knocking of my knees (I try to always sit when talking in depth to him, but to this day, my heart is always in my throat…)
Whew, here we go……………!!!
I took notes, it was hard to keep up, so if you have any questions please send them to this post, and I will clarify them…..if I don’t know quite how to answer, I”ll get Nelson on the phone again!
First, and foremost……He uses finishing medium number 2 and 2 only and only Finish canvas # 1, and bristles only from his own animals that he hand-picks himself.…
Just kidding…ok here are my notes:
-First of all (seriously this time),“Finish” is not the word he likes to use, because most people think smooth polished painting is finish. Nelson likes the word “refine”.
-Finish is as finished is….its what the painter deems as finished, Some like to leave it as blobs of obvious color. Nelson said that he likes to do this on his sketches, and in his demos. Believe it or not, he has had people, including art dealers, tell him that they like his paintings in this state. (So nice to hear!!!! Don’t you hate it when people say that?!)
-Finish depends on the goal, again what the painter is searching for. For Nelson, it is the soul of the person, place and/or things that he is painting. You can have an unbelievable finish, refinement of technique, but unless you don’t have the feeling(s) you have nothing! This makes me think about American Idol….(forgive me, my secret is out….. I love this show!!!!) Whenever the judges are critiquing one of the singers on the show, they always talk about whether or not the contestant captured the feeling of the song.
For Nelson, refinement is also, of course, about the search for the values and the color between the more contrasting ones.
He hates, no, I know Nelson….he loathes overly polished paintings…..he finds them boring and unappealing. He says that they are over-manipulated, that the feeling of the painting has been severely diminished…..he says that these types of paintings were never started correctly…..they were “unstarted.”
I asked him about his technique, and this is what he said:
-he used painting an eye as an example of what he is looking for….he strives to get inside and behind the the person…into the depths of his/her soul… have to dig wayyyyyyyyy deep!!
He ended the conversation by saying that, and this is from his perspective:
-if you have the technique that we teach here at Incamminati, you have the ability to refine a painting properly… have your scales down and you can let the aria out!!
I love how this conversation about refining a painting was so-o--ooooo-o much about the ability to find the soul of the thing, place, person that you are painting(searching)! It is about one soul to another soul……(I’m gasping right here!) Don’t you just love that????!!!??
Thank-you so much, Nelson!!

Comments and questions puh-leez!!!!


  1. Thanks for sharing the conversation, Robin! As always, enlightening!! I do believe in the "soul" thing...

  2. I've been digging your posts Robin!!! I think u got straight to the heart of the issue with finish. From the conversations I've had over the years with fellow artists and my teachers and mentors, the general consensus has been that finish is when you have reached a satisfactory attainment of your goals - whether that's capturing the soul in a portrait or demonstrating a sound grasp of form in an academic study. Whatever the intention behind the piece, chances are it's a Profound and slippery thing to do - and as a result takes a lot of time of concerted effort and study to pull it off. And yet sometimes when we get into "the zone" it can become quite effortless and the result of our sketches oftentimes get to the heart of what we want to capture better than hours of labor. I think that's why those dealers (and I agree) like Nelson's studies more than the finished paintings in some cases. I think that's true with the old masters as well - Pontormo, Sargent, degas, they all finished their paintings in the initial sketch: the trick is to maintain that spirit as you refine the piece.

    As an incoming student this fall I look forward to learning
    These skills at Incamminati! -alex