Anthony Brunelli is a world renowned photorealist painter, represented by Louis K. Meisel Gallery in New York City. He shares, through his art, his passion for cityscapes going from his beloved hometown of Binghamton, NY to the exotic Hanoi in his most recent work.
Anthony is an artist who likes to give back: he supports other artists in the Gallery Anthony Brunelli Fine Arts that he founded with his brother John and therefore participate to the artistic life of his community.
I’ve been lucky to benefit from his kind invitation at Context New York. At this occasion, during our chat, he gave me a sneak peek at his painting in progress: Hanoi Market 2 (see below). I was thrilled to see the work finished a few weeks ago and believe me, no smartphone can do justice to such a beautiful panoramic painting.
Beyond his amazing sense of detail, I love is his ability to capture the light whether it’s strong, at dusk or at night, and to catch a snapshot of our world.
Thank you Anthony for your being generous with your time and can’t wait to see more about your new project!
Below Hanoi Market 2: work in progress / finished and detail
How did you become a hyperrealist painter? What was your artistic path?
I began drawing when I was three years old. I loved the Peanuts comic strip and would copy Snoopy and other cartoon characters every waking moment. I became very proficient at hand eye coordination and could draw whatever I had in front of me. During lunchtimes, I would draw for my fellow classmates and they would give me their cupcakes and cookies.
My mother was an artist. She was always creating something and always had a dedicated “art” room, where I would spend hours with her. Both of my parents always encouraged anything my two brothers or I did. Whether it was attending my games or scraping up money to send me to Saturday art classes at Roberson, there was always a feeling of support. I never heard, “You can’t make a living at art.”
Since my early days copying the comics, representational art has always been my passion. Early on, I wanted to be a cartoonist. It changed to advertising, illustration and then fine arts. When I was in tenth grade, my high school art teacher, Dave Menichiello took our class on a trip to NYC. We went to some galleries and when I walked into Pace Gallery, in SoHo at the time, I was overwhelmed by nine-foot portrait paintings by the artist Chuck Close.
They looked like large black and white photographs. When I got up close to them, I saw that he did them all with his thumbprint and stamp pad ink. It blew me away. He happened to be there that day and I met him and asked if he would pose in front of one of his paintings for a picture. He gladly did and that photo still hangs in my studio here in Binghamton. As soon as I got home I went to the bookstore and bought every book on him that I could, which then led me to the Photorealism movement. In college, I did what was required, but I knew that I wanted to be a photorealist painter. Nothing compared and I imagine that I was a professor’s nightmare, because it was pretty apparent that this is all I wanted to do.
The level of detail of your paintings is amazing. Could you describe your process? I love the panorama. I have always been drawn to this view. Before the advent of the iPhone, the panorama was unique. I use digital photos and usually take between 50-100 shots of a scene and stitch them together on Photoshop. Before digital, I used to manually cut and paste the photographs.
I draw the final image onto the canvas using a combination of the grid technique as well as a digital projector and start with a very detailed underpainting and then go over it as many times as needed. It can take anywhere from 4- 12 months to complete a painting depending on the size. Paintings are usually 5-7 ft. in length.
I have never been into sketching. With Photorealism, you pretty much know what you are going to get when you have the photograph complete. For me, the “sketching” is when I am there at the location doing the photography. I look at a scene from many angles and in different kinds of light. I take massive amounts of photos so that I can have many options. In this way, when someone says, “Why not just take a photograph?”, this illustrates the reason. A photograph captures a moment in time; my paintings catch moments of a particular scene the way I want to see them.
I am not a camera − that is a machine that has limitations. My hope is that my essence comes through in my paintings. I usually know right away, at the moment of photographing it, if a particular scene is worthy of a possible ten-month time commitment. When the hairs on my arms begin to stand up at a particular location, I know.
How do you get inspired for your new creations?
The thing that strikes me the most when I look back at my travels is that wherever I go, I usually find a piece of my hometown, Binghamton there. I do not have to stray too far from the scenes I originally started with when I first began painting Binghamton. The things I look for, intersections, aerial views, centers of commerce where people mill about, and now market scenes, are similar, but have a different cultural look to them.
The main thing that changes is the light. I particularly like Vietnam, especially Hanoi. It was explained to me that virtually the whole country of Vietnam hugs the coast and the cloud formations that form over the Gulf of Tonkin make the light bounce off the sea into the clouds and then back to the land. There is always a “glow” even when it is cloudy.
Binghamton, especially in the summer is much more chromatic, as you have blue skies and the green hills. But in winter it is completely different and usually washed out and depressing. Manhattan takes on grayish mid-tones and is not that chromatic with all the smog and pollution. Light is a very important part of painting for me, hence why I like Hopper so much.
Your brother John and you own and manage the Anthony Brunelli Fine Art gallery. How did it start and how do you share your time between the gallery and your painting? Nine months after opening, the whole Marla Olmstead phenomenon happened, and my gallery was on the international radar. Newspapers from all over the world, and shows like 60 Minutes, Today and Inside edition were doing stories. A young filmmaker made a documentary that went to Sundance Film Festival and was bought by SONY pictures and then released to the movie theaters.
Thankfully, John did not particularly love life in NYC and what he was doing and decided to come back to Binghamton and help me.
John and I are now partners in the gallery. John runs the day-to-day operations. He is the managing partner. I handle some of the finances and the bills. We bounce a lot of ideas off each other and we started participating in international art fairs. These fairs are very time consuming and expensive, but in today’s art-buying climate, a “must” to attract new clients.
How do you choose the artists that you represent?
At this point my brother John is the curator of the gallery. He has a great eye and is always scouting out skillful artists that we would love to show in our program. If an artist contacts me or catches my eye I will make him aware
I read that you do not keep any of your art for your personal collection and that you sold all your work. Don’t you ever feel like keeping your art? Do you collect work of other artists?
I have never kept any of my work. I am very grateful that everything has sold over the last 25 years. The way I feel is, I own the process and that the finished product is for someone else. I feel no ownership towards my work and probably if I was not selling it, I would give it away….don’t tell my art dealer. LOL I do collect other artists” work. I try to collect a lot of the artists in our gallery program but I am always on the lookout for something that grabs my attention. It is good karma to buy other artists’ work or even trade for that matter.
I read that you said, “to be a great artist you did not have to break new ground or do something novel”. How did you manage to find your own signature with that in mind?
I have an assumption that everything in art has been done before. For me, I think, ” how can I make it own”? Why was I put on this earth at this time and what can I share with my audience. I love being influenced by other artists. It is one of the biggest turns on when I see somebody’s art that makes me wish I did that. I often look at it and wonder what I could do differently with it.
What is the question you’re asked you the most?
How long does it take to do that?……followed by, How much is that? That is a hard question to answer.
What is the question you’d like to be asked?
I like helping other artists with confidence or technique so maybe a question in that realm
What are your projects for the coming months / year?
I am apart of a Photorealist group show that is touring Europe and it is in Germany at the present moment and at the last stop before coming back to the US. I am preparing small works for a group show in April at Bernarducci Meisel Gallery. I am also getting ready to explore a new subject matter that deals more with nature. Stay tuned. Thank You!
To contact and follow Anthony Brunelli
Gallery Anthony Brunelli Fine Arts