A Little End of the Year Update

Another very busy term is behind me – thus my absence from the blogosphere, for which I apologise. This term though, had some very interesting new projects up its sleeve, which I would like to share here.

In particular, this academic year, in addition to the standard model room figure paintings, finally brought about projects that are of my primary interest and are the reason why I decided to study at the FAA in the first place: still life and portraiture.

Consequently, during the past term, I painted three still lives and one portrait. All were painted from life, all life size and all sight size – as we do at the Academy. Each project was started with a study of the chosen subject-matter, smaller than life size, in order to better understand values and determine the composition. After these one session studies were completed, I blocked in the drawing on the canvas and launched into painting (whereas some students prefer to start with a transfer drawing, I find that starting more broadly with paint works better in my case, as I otherwise tend to stick to closely to preliminary drawing choices – sometimes at the expense of more opportune design).

In the process of painting these four pieces, I’ve learned a great deal about color relationships, texture, paint application, compression of values, composition, atmosphere, design and all sorts of other useful things. On another occasion, when time allows, I’ll compile and share all the pearls of wisdom that I’ve been able to collect during this journey. This time around, though, I would just like to share with you the paintings themselves – hoping that through them you can witness some of the fruits of the amazing education I’ve been lucky to receive in the past few months. Hope you enjoy them!

Happy holidays you all and all the best wishes for the New Year 2018!


Italian Breakfast, Oil on Canvas.


Persimmons and Nuts, Oil on Canvas.


Winter Roses, Oil on Canvas.


Gianluca, Oil on Canvas.

The Last Trimester at the FAA and Upcoming Projects

With another academic year about to begin, and our major summer trips behind us, I’m thinking more and more about the new projects that I’m about to tackle at the FAA. This next and final year will be dominated by painting still lifes, portraits and the figure. In other words, it will be filled with very fun and very challenging work.

The preceding years of training at the Academy are essentially designed for preparing the students for the third year, during which they tackle projects that are usually more close to their hearts and artistic outlooks. This not only because students get to choose their own still life and portrait projects, but also because projects taken up in their final year often direct their future artistic choices.

Before I immerse myself in all the exciting work in my final year, I want to share with you how I’ve been preparing for it during my last trimester at the Academy.

The big change in the last trimester is that I almost entirely switched from drawing to painting – first in grisaille (ivory black, led white and raw umber) and subsequently in limited palette (all of the mentioned above, plus English red and Roman ochre).

In other ways, the type of work I did in my last trimester did not dramatically change – I continued to work with casts in the studio and nude models in the model room. The only new type of project I had as a part of the curriculum was my first portrait drawing in charcoal.

As far as the lessons learned in the last trimester, the emphasis was put by the teachers on the accurate description of the flow of light, the turning of form, variety of edges and plane changes, as well as the correct paint application. While the first four fall in the range of lessons previously taught, lessons in paint application were new and inevitably tied to the change of medium I was going through.

I was taught that, ideally, one should start by applying paint thinly at the beginning stages while working out the drawing, and moving towards thicker paint application as the project progresses. One should also try to apply the brush strokes so as to convey the changing rhythms and planes on the subject. At the Academy, students are required to premix their paints before the start of each session, in generous amounts. This was definitely a novelty for me, as I am used to mixing paint as I go, sometimes not only on the palette, but also the canvas itself.

Another big difference from the way I usually work was the fact that blending and smoothening paint, scraping off, glazing and scumbling are discouraged at the FAA. Instead, a student is supposed to always premix (on the palette, not the canvas) the right value and color, so it meets the one next to it. In doing so, one should keep building one layer on top of the other until a successful result is reached. This is, we are taught to avoid shortcuts and learn how to accurately respond to changes of planes and the underlying structure on the subject.

Makes sense, but ‘old’ habits die hard 🙂 And while there are admittedly different schools of though on this, my biggest struggle in the past trimester was trying to get rid of my pervious habits tied to paint application. As you can see below, my paintings still very much show signs of blending paint, scraping off, glazing and scumbling.

So, while it remains to be seen how successfully I will tackle the new challenges ahead of me, here is the work produced in the previous term, in chronological order. I hope you enjoy it! 😉


Second Cast Painting (Grisaille). Oil on Canvas, 50 x 70 cm.


First Figure Painting (Grisaille). Oil on Canvas, 50 x 100 cm.


Second Figure Painting (Grisaille). Oil on Canvas, 50 x 80 cm.


First Portrait Drawing. Charcoal on Toned Roma Paper, 48 x 66 cm.


Final Cast Painting (Limited Palette). Oil on Canvas, 65 x 105 cm.


Third Figure Painting (Limited Palette). Oil on Canvas, 50 x 75 cm.

New Watercolor and Oil Painting Plein Air Setup

Since the end of the academic year at the FAA, I’ve been travelling around the US and, for the most part, landscape painting. Thus far, I’ve been very lucky to be able to work outdoors pretty much every day, surrounded by beautiful sceneries, good weather and amazing people.

Partly what makes my landscape painting experiences on this trip so nice is my new setup – custom built by my dear husband, Marc Dalessio. He has been experimenting with carbon fiber, trying to design an ultralight oil painting setup for himself. So he kindly offered to build something similar for me too. In my case though, the challenge was to design a setup that works both for watercolors and oil paints, since I work with both media.

Together, we’ve come up with a solution that, thus far made my painting while travelling really satisfactory. Since I’ve received many questions from fellow painters as to the setup I am using, I wanted to share the current one with you here.

So, let’s start with a visual. This is what the setup looks like when used with watercolors:

And this is what it looks like when used for oil painting:

All the crucial parts, when unpacked are reduced to this:

They consists of: 1) a custom made carbon fiber board that attaches on to the easel and to which I tape my paper or panel; 2) the carbon fiber tripod easel (Sirui t-025x, bought on Amazon), with a custom made bar holding my palettes in place; and 3) and 4) depending on the paints I’m using, a custom made carbon fiber pochade box, or a metal watercolor palette.

Now, the part of this setup that I find most practical is the bar, which you can see attached by a hinge to a small tube warping around the easel. This bar folds out and contains heavy-duty magnets holding in place either of my palettes (which both have metal parts). It also has a small hook at the end that can hold a water container, for when I’m using watercolors.

This little but very practical addition to my equipment makes my setting up process super fast and efficient, allowing me to start working fast on sight. I literally unfold it, place either of my palettes on top of it, and I’m ready to go.

Here are a couple of close up images of this mechanism:

And for scale, here is a photo of me using the whole setup on sight:

I’m very happy with it. It weighs little, packs down to almost nothing and makes for a very sturdy little setup for painting outdoors. For extra stability, especially when there is a bit of wind, I hang my backpack on the easel and that does the job of holding it in place.

All in all, I’m very grateful for this new piece of equipment. And I hope this helps those of you looking for a new setup to come up with some new ideas.

Our journey continues, as we make our way from Carmel Valley to Lake Tahoe. I’ll make sure to update you soon on the output of our recent adventures 😉

Meanwhile, be well and have a great rest of the summer!

Extracurricular Work

Time has come for a long overdue update on the work I’ve been producing outside of school. In the past months, alongside my academic paintings and drawings, I’ve been trying to continuously work on my personal projects. Those are the ones that truly fill my heart, as well as show me how I am evolving as an artist.

They are comprised of watercolours, as well as some oil paintings and pastels. For the most part, these works done in my free time are inspired by our beautiful Tuscan home. In a sense, they represent a visual journal that has been spontaneously evolving through a painterly documentation of my new surroundings.

They thus provide the best insight into my life outside of the Florence Academy of Art and my growth as a painter. So, here they are – I hope you’ll enjoy them.


Florence From Our Window. Watercolor.


Last Persimmon. Watercolor.


Winter Daisies. Oil on canvas.


In Front of the Frescoes. Oil on Canvas.


Grace. Oil on Canvas.


Nutcracker. Oil on Panel.


Coat rack. Watercolor.


Playing with Pastels. Pastels on Toned Paper.


Rain over Florence. Watercolor.


Emma Sleeping in the Sun. Watercolor.


San Barnaba Canal, Venice. Watercolor.


Santa Maria della Salute, Venice. Watercolor.


Early Morning over the Grand Canal. Watercolor.


Almond Blossom. Watercolor.


Olive Trees and Wild Daffodils. Watercolor.


Peach Blossom. Watercolor.


Sunset over Florence. Watercolor.


Aloe Vera. Watercolor.


Abandoned Farmhouse. Watercolor and Gouache on Toned Paper.


Icelandic Poppies. Watercolor.


The Old Wheelbarrow. Watercolor.


Apple Blossom. Oil on Canvas.


Hellebores. Watercolor.


Lady Banks’ Rose. Watercolor.


After the Rain. Watercolor.


Irises and Terracotta Pots. Watercolor.


Garden Detail. Watercolor.


Stefano’s Irises. Watercolor.


Garden Detail. Watercolor.

Garden Detail. Watercolor.


Irises and Wisteria. Watercolor.


Floral Collage. Watercolor.


Gratitude. Oil on Paper.


Rosy Garlic, Sage and Roses. Oil on Canvas.


Before Sunset. Watercolor.


On the Banks of the Arno. Watercolor.


In the Footsteps of the Macchiaioli. Watercolor.


Poppies. Watercolor on Toned Paper.

A Few Words on my Motivation and Inspiration


Lately, I have been asked by several people to explain what it is that drives me as an artist. Specifically, I’ve been asked what is it that so strongly motivates and inspires my painterly pursuits, and why.

I have given it thought and wanted to share a few words articulating, as concisely as possible, my current stance on this.

In my opinion, art, perhaps more than any other social phenomenon, best reflects the shifting tides of human consciousness. So, being involved in arts, and more particularly, being a part of the artistic movement that at its core entails a careful observation, admiration and respect of the natural world around us, gives me a strong sense of purpose and hope. This reemerging naturalistic movement that I consider myself a part of, rests on humility and acknowledgement of how precious, beautiful and fragile our world is.

As an artist who considers it her mission to inhale the beauty that surrounds her, and exhale it as art, I hope to gently remind others of that same truth regarding the miracle and delicacy of human condition. And in doing that, I hope to become a small drop in the river of thought pointing to the more general shift of human consciousness towards a deep respect for our Mother Nature. For we all are, in every aspect of our existence, intrinsically tied to it.

On this note, I leave you with the painting I just completed. If my words weren’t clear enough, I hope at least this last piece of work of mine can shed some light on where my artistic enthusiasm and my sense of purpose comes from.


Olive Trees and Wild Daffodils. 22 x 25 cm, Watercolor.

A Painter’s Model

Today, I have taken a day off of painting and instead posed for a painting. So, I thought a few words on that aspect of my existence would be in order, as it is closely tied to my decision to become a painter.

Namely, the curious thing about painting and myself is that this relationship first started by me being painted, to only later evolve to me being the painter. And while I clearly love the later bit, I feel somewhat divided about the former. Here’s why:

Most of the times when I model, I pose for my husband. Occasionally other painters paint alongside him, but the project is his and mine primarily. This means that when he paints me, Marc and I jointly chose the location, the pose and the clothes. Subjectively speaking, this is the fun part: creating a beautiful work of art together and sharing a unique artistic experience, each on our own side of the canvas. In fact, being able to witness the magic of the process on the other side of the canvas was largely an eye opener into how amazing the life of an artist is and how much I want to live it myself. So, from that point of view, I feel happy and grateful to pose.

Objectively speaking, however, being a model for artists is considered an extremely boring business. In fact, it is considered to be not only boring, but also quite painful, depending on the pose a model has to hold. Undeniably, there is some truth to that too, especially when you get out of the la-la land of posing for your spouse and into the world of posing for other painters. Yet, there are ways to make it, if not entertaining, than at least bearable. Here’s how:

  • Make sure you’re as comfortable as one can be – once the painting has started, there is no changing of the pose. So, you what to make sure you will not commit to a pose you can’t sustain for prolonger periods.
  • If the pose allows, find a way for to amuse yourself or be productive while modeling – In most of the paintings I posed for, I would either read, write or take online language courses.

For instance, while this painting was painted, I was listening to Italian language lessons on my computer.



Here, I was reading a very entertaining book by my brother in law.



And here, another great book, which I am embarrassed to admit I haven’t finished yet.



In this painting, I was writing a chapter of my own book.



And here, I would have been really bored, if I wasn’t tormented by the idea of a hornet bite from above or a shake bite from below. Stomping on the ground helps to avoid the later, or so I told myself.


In any event, let’s keep going…

  • If you’re being painted outside, make sure you’re protected. – More precisely, I would strongly recommend you ware lots of sunscreen, a bug repellant and a hat (if the painting allows). I realize that the photos above look quite idyllic, but the reality is that it was insanely hot in most of these instances (Marc actually got a heat stroke after finishing one of these paintings), and everybody involved was getting massacred by bugs (mosquitos mainly). The message being: posing is already hard enough on its own, so if you’re being painted outside, make sure you’re exposed to the elements as little as one can be.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for a break. – It’s easy to get into your head that a masterpiece depends on your endurance. Be that as it may, your ability to function properly after the painting session is over, and go on with your life, depends on taking frequent breaks. When I first started posing, I would literally wait to ask for a break until something started hurting. As I’ve learned later, posing alongside a professional model in a fine art studio, models are not only taking constant breaks (every 20 min, and using a timer to make sure they do), but they are actually the ones dictating the work v. rest balance. Now, it is true that painters get a lot shorter window of opportunity to achieve what they want when painting an outdoor, rather than a studio, figure painting. If that’s the case, you as a model might want to give them a bit more leeway. But still, don’t repeat my mistake and wait for a break until you get so stuck in your pose that you can barely get out of it.

To conclude, as a model, treat yourself kindly. And as a painter, take note of the fact that while posing may not be intellectually challenging, it can be very physically strenuous. So, do unto your models as you would have them do unto you. After all, you never know, one day your model may be painting you 😉


A Few Words of Introduction

Dear all,

This blog is about my journey to become a professional painter.

My name is Tina Oršolić Dalessio. I am a legal scholar, but after working in academia for quite some time I realized that my true passion lies in art. Recently, after lots of contemplation and organization, I decided to quit my job (which I did this very week!) and get a fresh start in art.

The past year I used every spare moment to draw and paint, in order to get ready for the next necessary step – a professional artistic training. In that regard, special kudos goes to my loving husband Marc Dalessio, an extremely talented and well-recognized painter. I am thankful to him for providing me with the love, encouragement and invaluable advice needed to take this huge leap.

As a result of my efforts, I can now proudly say that starting this autumn, I will be studying at the Florence Academy of Art – one of the best schools providing education in traditional fine art techniques. So, the next big step for my husband, our small dog and myself is moving back to Florence, where we originally met five years ago.

And after that, we’ll see. The idea is to keep an open heart and to keep breathing deeply – by inhaling the beauty that surrounds me and exhaling it in the form of art. In the meantime, I’ll be sharing my journey on this blog.

To end this introduction on slightly less abstract terms and give you an idea of what my work looks like at the moment, here is the most recent example of my artistic efforts. It’s a painting of Peruvian lilies, which are considered to be a symbol of friendship and devotion.

Peruvian Lilies

Yours, Tina