Pat Fiorello - Art Elevates Life

Art & Inspiration from professional artist and instructor Pat Fiorello. Pat is known for her romantic landscape, garden and floral paintings in oil and watercolor. Her paintings often depict beautiful places like Italy and France. Pat teaches painting workshops in the U.S., Caribbean and Europe. She is passionate about inspiring others to include art in their life. Whether creating it or simply appreciating and enjoying it, there are so many ways that art elevates life!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Painting Challenge #2 Red Roses & Queen Anne's Lace

 Here's study 2 of the 50 flowers painting challenge:

Red Roses & Queen Anne's Lace
Oil Painting by Pat Fiorello
6 x 8

It's fresh off the easel so still wet (sorry for the glare on the photo). These were a couple of the roses which were part one of the floral arrangements I did at the workshop at Halls School of Flower Design last weekend.

 I used dark transparent colors-  e.g. Alizarin plus a touch of Ultramarine Blue and/or Violet for the areas of the flowers in shadow and  then the more opaque Cadmium Red Light for the lit side. The value contrast is more pronounced in the actual painting than it appears in the photo of the painting here. 

 With flowers (as in most of what I paint), I try simplify, capturing the major shapes and values without obsessing too much on getting every detail exact. There's always a fine line between getting enough detail to have it read with some measure of authenticity ( and, for example, to be this particular rose as opposed to a generic rose) but not going overboard on getting every exact detail which then becomes a copy of the photo. I'm learning over time that a big part of our job as artists is to edit. We must decide what we think is essential and what the painting can do without and still work.  "Artistic license" is not only something that is the artist's prerogative, but are choices we must consciously make on what to emphasize, minimize,  include or  delete altogether.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Painting Challenge - 50 Flowers

Inspired by my recent flower design workshop (see previous post on 6/25), I have decided to take on a painting challenge to focus my learning over the next 3 months. I committed to doing a series of 50 painting studies of flowers between now and the end of September. I'm calling this challenge "The Art of Learning".  I have found before that an intensive focus on a particular subject can really accelerate the learning curve and creating a game keeps it fun. I'll be sharing my learnings along the way, so if you'd like to see how things unfold, feel free to "follow" this blog or sign up for an automatic email sending you new posts as they occur (ways to sign up for either options are on the right of this blog).

Study 1 Peach Roses
Oil Painting by Pat Fiorello
8 x 10

Above is the first of the challenges using a few of the roses which were still in good shape from Saturday's class. I laid them on a table in my easel under a light for a simple set up. I will try to paint from life as much as possible, but might use some photo's along the way too. The unusual peachy color was more challenging than expected. I changed the background several times, (see photo and earlier versions below)  but found a more neutral background definitely helped the roses appear more colorful. The brighter green option competed and left the flowers looking duller. 1 down, 49 to go!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Flowers- Design and Inspiration

Summer Roses
Oil Painting by Pat Fiorello
6 x 8

If you have been following my blog for awhile, you know that I teach painting, but also am a perennial student.  Learning something new can really make you feel alive.   I think you are either expanding or contracting- and expansion, or growth of any kind, seems correlated to higher energy and enthusiasm 
(although no one said the process was always going to be easy) .

 In addition to continuing my growth in art, one of my commitments for this year was to take on what I call "Artistic Cross Training" . That is, learn about other related fields which could contribute to my artwork, but are not specifically art workshops- just for the fun of learning something new.

Today I continued with my program in floral design. I love to paint flowers and gardens, so it seems like a natural complement to deepen my understanding  of flowers and facility with arranging potential subjects.

I had the wonderful opportunity to study  at Halls School of Floral Design in Atlanta with John Grady Burns, who is a prominent designer and instructor. He is an author of 2 books on floral design and designs for major events, and has even been invited to create some arrangements for the White House and other dignitaries.

Here is John doing a demo of an elegant centerpiece that might be used at a wedding or other special event. After he did his demos (there were 4 over the course of the day), the participants got the same flowers and created their own version.

And here I am trying my hand at it.

Here I am with one of the other arrangements I did. 

It was a totally fun day and I came back energized and excited to paint some flowers tomorrow.
I think having greater intimacy with your paintings subjects can only help bring an authenticity to your work. How might you deepen your knowledge of your favorite painting subjects?

To learn more about Halls School of Design visit:

To learn more about John Grady Burns and his exquisite work see: 

Stayed tuned, I'll post some of my new flower paintings soon.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Study Art on line

 9 x 12 Oil Painting by Pat Fiorello

As an artist you are often an teacher and a student. Some of my students are surprised that I still take classes and workshops. One even came out and asked "You're a teacher, why are you taking a class?"
 I explained that part of the joy of art is that you are always learning and growing. That's part of the passion for art - the energy and excitement of learning.  I have a plaque with one of my favorite quotes in my studio, " I am still learning", which was said by Michelangelo when he was 87.  I believe as an artist you are never done learning.

Recently I started taking an on line class with Dan Edmondson. It's a 10 week program that you can do at your own pace and I'm about 1/2 way thru it. I have really been enjoying it and am learning a lot. These are some examples of the paintings I've done as part of the program. Dan is an excellent painter , a great teacher and has the whole program organized quite well. When you sign up for the program, you get 10 CDs with permanent copies of the lessons and also links where you can view the lessons on line as well as excellent reference photo's that you can print out. 

I will typically watch Dan do a demo of the painting, then try my hand at it and afterwards send Dan a jpeg of my finished painting. He sends back a  short video critique with feedback on the painting. The cool part is that you hear him speaking  and he can point to specific areas of your painting on the video so you feel like he's right there talking to you rather than reading comments in a dry email.
I have really found this to be a great value and it could be especially worthwhile for people who can't travel to workshops or don't have nearby classes or who have unusual schedules because this can be done  anywhere, anytime( after work, after the kids go to sleep etc..)


What makes this best though is Dan. He is  an excellent teacher. He explains things clearly, give practical tips- not just theory or concepts and is genuinely concerned about people growing as artists. He is very supportive and encouraging. I found this well worth the price and wanted to share it with other artists who might find it of value. Dan has lots of free short video segments on line so you can get a taste of his instructional style
 at: or thru his website

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Plein Air Workshop


Yesterday I taught a plein air workshop at the Smith Gilbert Gardens in Georgia. It got pretty hot, up into the 90's by the afternoon, but we were able to find some shade and had a fun day painting in this beautiful  spot.

I did a brief demo in watercolor of this area of sunlit lilies.

Started out capturing the yellow lilies and establishing the light areas

                                          Continued building in the darker foliage behind.

Here is another beautiful view of the garden with lots of contrasting yellow and purples ( and one of our artists Barbara on the right).
Everyone had a fun day and I am planning another for the fall ( September 19) when things cool off a bit.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Geraniums in Italy


With so many greens in the landscape in Tuscany, the occasional red accent flowers, in this case, geraniums, appear even more vibrant.

 I took the opportunity to do a quick demo on colors to help students while teaching my recent workshop there.

Started out with a variety of reds and oranges, warmer on the sunlit side

Added in a dark background in a neutral tone which will have the flowers ultimately appear more colorful

Here's another example of the geraniums. I think they like the Tuscan sun- they are some of the biggest geraniums I've ever seen.

The final oil painting study 6 x8 Geraniums 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Impressionist approach

Earlier this year I took  a workshop on painting in an impressionistic/ colorist style. The approach is very different than traditional oil painting and I haven't quite figured out how to fully integrate it into my painting process, but occasionally I come across a subject which inspires me to try that approach again. This still life of a glass bottle seemed well suited since it was really all about the light on that transparent bottle.

A main premise is to distinguish early on the major shapes and what's in light( and paint that in a warm color) and what's in shadow( and paint that in a cool color). The initial step looks very harsh since you are using fairly intense colors( straight out of the tube with some white to adjust values). All of this is done with a palette knife to keep the colors as clean as possible.

 Then you go thru a series of steps adjusting the intensity( dullness or brightness) and adding subtle color bands seen within in each major shape. Lastly, you refine any shapes or details for finishing touches. Here's the result of that process. I find the paintings done in this manner do have a luminosity that I like. There's a vibration that comes from putting opposite temperatures next to one another during the latter stages that I like.  But I do miss using the brushes so I need to experiment a bit and see if it's possible to incorporate brushwork at the finishing stages without over blending or dulling things down too much.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Painting demo in Italy

Here's a scene looking down the driveway at San Fedele, our home base for my recent workshop in Italy. I choose it for a quick watercolor demo while there since it has a strong value pattern and also the trees are very typical of Tuscany.

Started out with a simple sketch of the big shapes, painted in the light areas first.

Then proceeded to add in the darker trees and shadows. there are lots of greens so I have to continually remind myself to change, change, change for the sake of variety

Here's the final impression of the scene.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Painting in Italy

Pat Fiorello painting in Radda in Chianti, Tuscany

Hi, you haven't heard from me for awhile since I have been away for about 10 days painting in Italy. Last week, I taught a workshop in Tuscany.

Our home base- The Tuscan Renaissance Center in San Fedele

We stayed at the Tuscan Renaissance Center which is a really special place. It's a 12th century monastery that was active thru the 1980's. It was abandoned for about 20 years after that and then a private family bought it and over the course of 6 years of work and millions of dollars, they restored it to an amazing place intended to foster creative growth.  It's the best of both worlds, modern amenities and comfort in an authentic and sacred building with lots of character . We have the place all to ourselves so it makes it feel like home. We used that as our home base to take day trips to other painting sites in Tuscany as well.

Two students painting on location- Tom in oils, Haylee in watercolor

 I was crazy enough to bring both oil and watercolor painting supplies ( which consumed most of my luggage space), so did some of each every day! Will share some of the highlights in the coming days.

 If you have always wanted to paint in Italy, I have another trip planned for late September of this year to Northern Italy- beautiful Lake Garda, so get in touch if you want to find out more.