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, March 31, 2011

Painting from Nature

Spring is upon us, ( I promise it's coming for those of you in the Northeast)  so it's an especially nice time of year to go outside and paint from nature.

Next weekend, I'll be taking a group of artists out to paint on location at Callaway Gardens in Georgia where I have been teaching for a number of years. If you've never been there, it's a wonderful huge garden and park that the Callaway family graciously created for families to enjoy leisure time together in nature. I took this from their website   Open since 1952, Callaway Gardens is the centerpiece of 13,000 acres nestled in the southernmost foothills of the Appalachians.  Founder Cason Jewell Callaway longed for a place where man and nature could abide together for the good of both, and now more than half a century later, his retreat continues to offer solace, inspiration and discovery for all who come here.

 While it's a wonderful place year round, April is prime time at Callaway- it's azalea time!

Each year when I return, I get reunited with the feeling of peacefulness of being surrounded by nature. As soon as I drive in the gates, it's as if my body has had a huge sigh of relief. It's only about an hour and a half from Atlanta, but you feel a world away. Being outside painting on a beautiful day, in the midst of natural beauty is a really pleasurable experience.

 If it's been awhile since you've been outside to paint, it might be time to get that easel out and enjoy the springtime!

Keep posted. I'll share  updates from the workshop next weekend.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Getting Started

Yesterday I taught my "Art for Non- Artists" Workshop. It's a one day workshop I developed and have been teaching for over 12 years. It's designed to help people who are interested in art, but feel they are not artistic, to get started exploring art. In just one day they learn basic techniques and then how to apply those techniques to a painting start to finish. Over the years I have had hundreds of people get their start in art this way and continue on to include more art in their lives.

Picasso said " Every child is an artist, the secret is to remain one when you're an adult". 

And it's true, Studies have been done showing that when school children have been asked "who is an artist", the kindergarteners and first graders almost all raised their hands. As they got to 2nd, 3rd, 4th grade, fewer and fewer kids raised their hand to that question. And then by the time they got to high school, typically only one or 2  students raised their hand. Betty Edwards, author of the well respected book, "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain", concurs. When children are young, they draw and paint naturally. They are free and in the moment playing with art. But as they develop, judgement sets in. At some point they conclude they are not naturally artistic ( or they don't make art it as well as their sister, brother, classmate, it's not how it should look vs some standard ......) and they go on to other interests, so they don't continue their development.
Judgment can keep us from learning and growing.

I was one of those kids who gave up on art in the 3rd grade after a bad experience in class. I got reintroduced to art at age 35 ( although  my skills were still where I left off in grade school- they did not magically improve without further education and practice) . I have since learned everything that I know about art as an adult.

That reconnection with art has totally altered my life. It had now become my career, life and passion and I am grateful that I got back to art. It has also altered the way I view and appreciate the world. Through art you see life with new eyes. It has added tremendous richness and pleasure, enhancing the quality of my life.

If you would like to have more art in your life, but believe you are not "artistic", suspend the judgment and take a class- just for fun. By giving up the notion that you can't, you might just be opening the door to Yes I can!

I even had one student who came to learn how to paint at age 93! The good new is it's never too late.

Henry Ford once said "If you think you can or you think you can't , you're right". That applies to many areas of life including your own opinions about your ability to create.

So stretch out of your comfort zone and open yourself up to the opportunities that art can add to your life!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bella Italia

One of my favorite places to paint is Italy. I have been teaching workshops there for several years in both Tuscany and the Northern Lake Region. On my first trip there I was curious about why so many people were drawn to paint Tuscany. Of course it's a beautiful place, and great fun with wonderful art & history to explore, but looking at it from an artists perspective, there's something there that's naturally paintable.

 One of the things I noticed right away is the dominance of diagonals.There are so many diagonals in the landscape of the hills rolling, vineyards, mountains, and even rooftops that it makes for an inherently dynamic landscape. Also there's natural color harmony. Most of the buildings are very old with lots of character.  They are made from local materials from the earth, so the colors of the buildings and land are  naturally harmonious. There's a variety of textures from the stone buildings and lush foliage. Those great dark cypress trees and strong sunlight and shadows provide opportunities for dramatic value contrast on most days. And then there's the intangible, but palpable spirit of La Dolce Vita. A sense of peacefulness and contentment with life that pervades the area and it's people- Or maybe that's the Chianti???

Here are a couple of my recent paintings of Tuscany:

 If you've ever dreamed of going to Tuscany or painting in Italy, there are still several spots available in my May 28 workshop. It's open to artists of all mediums and all levels. Even total beginners have come on the trip before and enjoyed every moment of it ( and left with some nice paintings of memories of their trip). If interested, please get in touch with me at  I would appreciate you sharing this with others you know who might be interested.  It might be the dream trip of a lifetime for an artist.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Follow Your Bliss

 Most likely you've heard the Joseph Campbell quote about following your bliss. Sometimes it can sound like a cliche or even a pipe dream, but you can choose and take actions to create the life of your dreams.  I also appreciate perspective of the quote "Never get so busy making a living, that you forget to make a life".  At the age of 43, I decided to take the plunge and shift careers from business to art. That was about 9 years ago and I don't regret the choice for a moment. I have a life I love, aligned with my purpose and have an opportunity to share that with others.

I was recently interviewed for an article in  the April 2011 issue of Best Self magazine which shares the stories of several people who made big life changes to follow their hearts. You can read the entire article called "A New Definition of Success" on:

Beyond the dream of living my life as an artist, one of my specific dreams was to paint in Monet's Gardens in Giverny, France. Not only did I do that, but I taught a  painting workshop there in 2008. Here I am with some of my students - Sue Wierzba and Pauline Buchanan - in front of Monet's Japanese bridge.

If you have a dream- go for it- life is short!
 Like Wayne Gretzky ( the champion hockey player) says  ...
                                          "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take"

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Oil Painting- Hydrangeas

Friday was the last day of a wonderful workshop with Hedi Moran, painting floral still lives in oil.
I worked on a painting of hydrangeas inspired by this set up:

It was the last day for the workshop and I had only 1 small canvas( 9x 12) left, so I had to simplify a bit from the set up.
Again I started with an initial loose block in done in transparent paints just to establish placement of the big shape positive shape- go for the darkest version of the colors you see and we'll build lights on top.

Then added an underpainting for the background. At this point, everything is still transparent and not defined.


Once the entire canvas is covered in a loose block in of color and shape, then thicker opaque paint is applied to develop the painting further .

The approach Hedi shared this week is different than any other training I've had, but after 5 days in a row, I feel more comfortable with it. It offers a way to start very loose and free and then build to the desired level of looseness or detail.

Trying out new approaches and learning from new instructors is always good. Even if you don't continue on with their approaches, you will pick up something to incorporate in how you choose to paint and make it your own.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sculpture from a live model

There are 5 other workshops going on here at the Scottsdale Artists School in addition to the one I'm in this week.

 One is a sculpture class. I've never done any sculpture so don't know anything about it, but one thing I was surprised at is that the students were sculpting from a live model- a horse! Tuesday morning a trailer pulled up and off walked a horse for the class. I asked one of the students about it and she says they can refer to them model for proportions. so even though the horse doesn't strike a pose like a human model does in sketch class, it is there to glance at for proportions, muscle structure and other information to lend authenticity and accuracy to the artwork.

It was fun to watch the artists at work.
Here's one of the students in action.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Painting Roses

Day 4 of Hedi's workshop- the subject I chose today was roses.
This was the set up:

Believe it or not, these are silk flowers. Hedi's prefers to use fresh flowers, but recommends if you have to use silk flowers then get the best quality you can get and buy flowers from different manufacturers so they don't all look alike.

This was  my initial block in of the big shape of the bouquet in only transparent colors.

Then adding in the background, still with transparents.

Here's the work in progress.  ( sorry for the glare in the photo) . Almost done, but a little too wet to finish today. will come back tomorrow to finish up leaves, add some darks and see what other finishing touches might be needed.

 Lots of fun! See you tomorrow.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Painting a Floral Still Life

Here's the still life set up I worked on yesterday.
 I find yellow flowers to be the most challenging since it's hard to get the darks dark enough when working in the yellow family. 

Using the approach our instructor Hedi Moran is sharing with us (which is quite different from the other methods I've been exposed to before), I blocked in the overall shape of the bouquet starting with the transparent paints.

Next we add in the background, again in with transparent paint only. At this point everything starts to merge together.  Hedi says it should look like we are looking at the set up with glasses with  Vaseline on them- everything should be soft & fuzzy. From this transparent underpainting, we next begin to add more opaque paints, adding thicker paints, and pulling the painting out.

Here's where I got to by the end of the day.

More fun tomorrow...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Celebration of Fine Art

I'm still in Scottsdale at the Artists' School. After class today I attended an art event that I thought might be of interest- the 21st annual Celebration of Fine Art. Each year for about 10 weeks between Jan. & March,  over 100 artists, who have been juried in, set up temporary studios/showrooms in some major tents in Scottsdale- about a half hour north of the Old Town Gallery district. It is a destination for art collectors who can see a wide variety of art, meet the artists and watch them at work. It's always inspiring to see artists at work and also to appreciate the diversity of skills and talents people need for their particular artistic expression and medium- whether it's painting, sculpture, jewelry etc..  Here are some photo's I took while there today. For more info you can check out The event runs till March 27.

Here are a couple of artists at work:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day 2 at the Scottsdale Artists' School

Today is day 2 of a 5 day workshop I'm taking at the Scottsdale Artists' School. I'm studying with Hedi Moran who is known for her loose, impressionistic floral oil paintings. She's a great instructor and a lot of fun. It's a small group- maybe 10 or so, so it's a nice intimate environment for learning.

Yesterday I shared the start of a painting of roses. I worked on it a  bit more today. After looking at it last night, I decided to make the background darker to have the roses appear brighter.

Here was where I left off yesterday:

And then here's how I finished off the painting today:

It's still a very loose interpretation of the subject, but I do like the contrast of the darker background and did learn a few things on how I would do things differently the next time. I tell my students, painting is cumulative learning process. Everything you do, all your "brush mileage" contributes to your next painting. It's also a non-linear learning process- there is no formula, every painting is a new challenge and that's a fun part of the creative process.

Here's another painting I started today. First a photo of the still life set up.

And here's the painting so far - still on the easel. You can see I had to simplify a bit and added some things that weren't there for the sake of the painting. The set up is the inspiration. The painting is the creation.  And as artists we choose what to include, delete, change and emphasize.
Still some more work to do but the point of the learning exercise is to (1)learn and (2) catch the feeling of the flowers and not make a precise copy

Check back tomorrow for day 3!

Monday, March 21, 2011

"I am still learning"

"I am still learning" is a quote I share with my students all the time. It was reportedly said by Michelangelo when he was 87. Even though I have been painting for over 15 years and teach others how to paint, I am and will always be a student.  I've heard that if you want to become a master at something you need, as they say in Eastern philosophy,  "a beginners mind". That is, you have to approach things as if you are just beginning to learn, that same openness, curiosity, willingness to try and fail  as you did when you first approached something even if you've been at it for years and are possibly quite skilled. That openness allows you to continue to grow and reach new levels of mastery. Once you think you already know, the learning shuts down.

 In that spirit, I'm here in Arizona this week,  at the Scottsdale Artists' School taking a painting workshop  with Hedi Moran. We are studying approaches to paintings flowers in oils. My weekend experience with the floral design class (see Sat. 3/19 post) was  a perfect warm up for this workshop focused on  painting flowers.
Here was the still life arrangement I worked on today, trying out Hedi's approach which is loose and somewhat impressionistic.

We started with dark transparent colors and then built on opaque lights.

So here was the start to block in the entire shape of the flowers, vase etc.. as a mass.

Then I added in a background- at this stage you can hardly make out the subject form the background- but wait, we'll pull it out with the lights

Here's how it looked after adding some of the lighter colors  with more opaque paints. Still not finished yet, will work on  some adjustments and finishing touches tomorrow and will post the  painting once it's complete.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Living a Passionate Life

                                                                        12 x 16

"Don't ask what the world needs.  Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive"
           - Howard Thurman

 I don't know who Howard Thurman is- but I love this quote.

There is nothing more enlivening than living your life aligned with your purpose and doing so in a way that contributes to others. About 10 years ago I was at a cross roads. I had had a successful career in business, by all conventional measures, for nearly 20 years, yet felt unfulfilled.  I made the decision to change directions and pursue my passion for painting full time. It wasn't an easy decision and was not one I made hastily, but has really proved to be the path towards living a life I truly love and am energized by.

 I share this because I know there are lots of people who are doing things they think they "should " be doing or that are familiar  because that's what they've always done, yet know in their hearts that there's something more that would provide a deeper sense of  fulfillment  and more satisfying life.

 If this is you, know you are not alone and know that you have the power to create the life you've dreamed of. It may not be easy or immediate, but make a plan, take actions each day in the direction  of your viison for your life and surround yourself with positive people( and try to avoid  engaging with the naysayers who squelch your dreams).

 I have another quote  that has been a good reminder of what's important "Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life".  It's never too late to follow your dreams.

 In the right hand column I have a link to a pdf poster  that you can download for free with my favorite inspiring  quotes for  following your dreams.
 Hope you enjoy it and it gives you a little bit of extra motivation to live the life you've imagined!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Artistic Cross Training

I love to paint flowers. Especially now that  the feel of spring is in the air after what's been a tougher than usual winter for many of us. Lately I've been taking a break from landscapes and been working on setting up still lives to paint from. Today I took a floral design workshop on romantic centerpieces called L'Fleur d'Amour at Halls Design School in Atlanta.  It was a lot of fun and I consider it a kind of cross training as an artist. It relies on many of the same considerations we use for painting- variety of shapes, colors, textures, direction, movement etc..

Here's the first piece I did in class, It includes a  votive candle in the center.

We did several others including one designed around a  3 foot silver candelabra which was a challenge.

It was a really fun day and a good exercise to think about design in a new medium( flowers).
Unfortunately I won't be here to paint these designs from life in the next few days while they are alive, but have the photo's to work from .  I'm excited to try out some more elaborate arrangements for future painting subjects.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Painting Italy- A Work in Progress

Recently I did an oil painting demonstration at the Burton Gallery in Georgia.
I thought that experience might offer a way to share my process for translating a photo into a painting.

 First I started with a photo of a Villa in a small town in Tuscany where I teach painting workshops each year. This was in the small town of Vagliagli, which is so tiny it’s barely on a map- but you might have seen it since they filmed segments of the movie "Letters to Juliet" there. (If you haven't seen the movie, rent it- there are some spectacular views of Tuscany and Verona where most of the film was shot)

Then I used that inspiration to create a small value sketch showing light, medium and dark values. I made some design changes, like shortening the long building and adding some cypress trees. One of the challenges of landscape painting is the need to simplify all the detail that you see into the big masses of similar value.

Here is the  finished painting .

Villa at Vagliagli
12 x 16 
Oil on Panel

To see more paintings of Italy ( I have a whole collection of Images of Europe) or find out more about my upcoming  painting workshop to Tuscany check out my website

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Art- An Opportunity for Lifelong Learning!

I just completed the winter semester of the painting class I teach in Atlanta. Adult students sometimes get frustrated because in most areas in life we want the quick answer or solution. But learning to paint is a lifelong journey. I have a plaque in my studio with the quote ” I am still learning” which reportedly came from Michelangelo when he was 87. I share that with my students- if he was still learning at 87- no wonder we are still learning. If you take the attitude that there’s an endless amount of new learning and discovery available to you in art, it becomes and an enlivening, exciting experience. There’s no greater sense of aliveness than learning and creating. You are in the moment and experience the joy of growing.
Happy Creating- whatever you choose to do!