Tag Archives: mahlstick

Thursday, 4/21/11: Joanne Licardo

Thanks to guest writer Cameron Hawkey for today’s post.

While I set up to talk to Joanne Licardo, she tsk-tsks as she paints. “I’m trying to keep this still life simple,” she comments. “Last year, I brought in a leopard print backdrop. Why would I do that?” she chuckles, and I take a few moments to consider her still life. It consists of a short stack of books, a ripe red pear, a vase with a blooming Protea and some leafy greens, and a rock slyly placed in the corner. The rock piques my curiosity, and I ask her about it. “I’ve never painted a rock before!” exclaims Joanne. “All these years of painting, and I haven’t painted a rock. So I brought a rock to paint.” It’s hard to argue her sensibility and sense of humor, and proves a point, too: there is always something new to paint.

Joanne is painting on a sturdy cradled wooden panel, which she has gessoed and sanded down to make smooth. The objects of her still life have already been blocked in with a Burnt Sienna base, which gives warmth to the thinner layer of color she has painted over it. Painted with M.Graham oils, the layers are thinned with Gamsol to speed the drying time that the walnut oil in M.Graham normally extends.

She remembers that when she was 12 years old, Joanne tells me, she wanted to paint like the Old Masters. She started her formal training when she was 21, and apprenticed under a Norwegian master.

Now she’s the teacher, which fuels the passion. Her students teach her, she says, as much as she teaches them. They always come in with discoveries that are just as new to her as they are to her students. “One of my students brought in a ‘wisp’ brush a while ago, which is like a fan brush, but cut carefully, which produces a more varied effect.” Apparently, it makes for lovely grass and hair.

She moved to Portland from LA, and loves it here. “I love the rainy weather here. Who wants to paint on a sunny day? I’ve been here three and a half years and I haven’t gotten sick of it yet.” Suddenly she stops, and says, “I need a Mahl stick. Where’s a Mahl stick? Where?” She disappears and comes back with a mophandle, which she braces against the easel, propping it up with her leg. In this position, she was able to rest her hand against the stick and paint in detail, without having the strain of holding her arm out in front of her in a long pose. As she adds delicate yellow strokes for the petals of the Protea, she thinks out loud. “I think when I take this home, I’ll add some things from my garden in the vase.”

There’s a break in the rain, and it’s time for me to go. It’s unfortunate, because she has just started to paint in a new layer, a lovely shadow tone of Alizarin Crimson and Payne’s Gray with a little bit of Ultramarine and Rose. It gives a nice penumbra to the pear and the books, and brings in a lot of depth. I wasn’t able to see the finished state of the painting due to the slow, careful nature of the classical style, but if she has the patience to paint it, then I have the patience to wait.

The last picture show’s Joannes’ oil painting at the end of the day Thursday.  We’ll post an update with a picture of her finished piece.

Click on thumbnails to see larger pictures.

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