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Sunday, December 6, 2015

Marco Mazzoni

Layers of pencil color delicately enhanced by the texture of the paper.
Florals and female faces--
the work of Marco Mazzoni.
Unlike a lot of painters (especially those my age), I have a great deal of respect for artists able to work masterfully with colored pencils. Although artist-quality colored pencils have been around for close to a hundred years, it has only been during the past forty years or so that they've been embraced by painters as a viable alternative to wet media. Although the finished work, especially when photographed, is virtually indistinguishable from oils or acrylics, in reality the technical skills employed in using them are much more akin to watercolors. I know, inasmuch as I've rendered portraits in colored pencil now since the early 1980s. First of all, they're almost always used on paper, the surface qualities of which have a tremendous effect on the final look of the work. Most colored pencil artists prefer a relative fine "tooth" to their paper. Second, colors are layered in over an easily erasable pencil drawing like watercolors, light colors first, then built up in the darker areas allowing a transparency that is one of the key elements of beauty, insofar as watercolors are concerned, to also prevail in he use of colored pencils. And finally, they must be framed under glass like watercolors. Unfortunately, this vital protective isolation makes them difficult to distinguish from prints. Few collectors want to spend dearly for an original colored pencil work only to have it mistaken by his or her friends as an inexpensive print. Add to that the fact that many colored pencil drawings are, in fact, sold as prints by their artists. Now, having dwelt to some extent on their background, let me introduce to you the work of an Italian colored pencil artist named Marco Mazzoni.

Marco Mazzoni--one of the most camera-shy artists I've ever pursued.
This is the only photo I could find of the man.
Marco Mazzoni was born in 1982 in Tortona, Italy. He currently lives and works in Milan. His portraits, as seen in the faces of his father (and I'm guessing) his mother (below) are isolated images floating within empty white space or simple, solid-color backgrounds. He takes a realist approach to skillfully render the facial focal point of his subjects, while employing rich, subtly layered color to mitigate what is often a somewhat harsh reality. Mazzoni jokes that after seeing his portrait, his father hates him.

The significance of the stars on the cheeks is never explained.
The female figure could also be a grandmother.
Castor and Pollux, Marco Mazzoni
Although obviously a very competent portrait artist, the vast majority of Mazzoni's work involves somewhat surreal female faces blended (literally) with various floral elements frequently obscuring the eyes or simply omitting them. Mazzoni considers the eyes to be unfair competition with the other parts of his drawn images. The effect is to represents man’s (or, more accurately, woman's) interaction with nature. The artist holds a strong interest in medicinal properties of plants and the female herbalists during 16th through the 18th Centuries of Sardinia, who conserved their culture through oral traditions. Castor and Pollux (right) as well as Mazzoni's three-part Self Esteem (below) are two of his more exemplary explorations of this theme. (Titles, and especially dates, are quite difficult to come by in pursuing Mazzoni's work.)

Self Esteem, Marco Mazzoni
Funeral for a Friend,
(colored pencil on moleskin) Marco Mazzoni
Besides his lovely "flower ladies," Marco Mazzoni is something of an animal lover as seen in his moleskin sketch books, which are often dis-played on shelves jutting out from the walls of galleries where he exhibits his draw-ings (below). Mazzoni's lily-padded frog, and especially his birds as seen in his Funeral for a Friend (left), are almost infinitely detailed, while the sketchbook suggests their having been drawn in the wild, though probably not. Mazzoni can best be summed up as a flora and fauna artist, seam-lessly blending the two in creating amazingly complex emotional and compositional dual relationships. A fairly comprehensive sampling of his other wildlife friends can be found in the montage at the bottom.

Colored pencil works are best rendered and appreciated when their size is kept to relatively modest limits. Mazzoni's moleskin sketchbooks follow that dictum, yet can, with a little judicious carpentry, also be displayed on gallery walls.
Massoni's Menagerie

Suggestion: Turn off the sound, it's annoying.


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