Tag Archives: Surrealism

Inside The Artist’s Studio with Mandi Antonucci

I like to think of myself as a crafter of visual stories.  I attempt to create drawings that provide more questions than answers, more ambiguity than certainty.  My intention is to leave the viewer with an open ended narrative that allows one to fill in the blanks from their own personal experiences.  



I grew up in Syracuse, New York with an unconventional family that instilled in me an appreciation for bird watching, collecting antique typewriters, and art.  My relationship with art was formed inside the walls of the Everson Museum where my grandfather served on the Board of Directors, and by watching my grandmother create ornate pieces with needlepoint.  These two factors served to inspire my great love for art history and attention to detail.  

"Family Tree"

“Family Tree”

I received my Bachelor’s degree in Studio in Art and Art History from Nazareth College, and my Masters in Art Education from Rochester Institute of Technology.  For the past 13 years, I have been an Art Teacher at Batavia High School.  I love my job.  It’s a unique opportunity that enables me to be constantly in the company of other artists.  I love the give and take of ideas, and the constant progression of concepts and materials that come with being an educator.  My students keep me on my toes, pushing me with their talent and insight to become a better artist while I help them to find their own artistic voice.  Nearly everyday, they give me hope for the next generation of creative thinkers.

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I like to invite my students into my creative process.  Aside from talking through my concepts and symbolism, many of them have become my subjects for my portraits.  They never seem to mind when I ask them to make weird faces or pose in a certain way.

"Queen of Crows"

“Queen of Crows”

My work as a whole is best described as Pop Surrealism, though I try my best not to label myself too strictly as I don’t want the identification to become a limitation.  While I will use a variety of materials, I generally use mostly colored pencil and graphite.  I love the control and versatility of my colored pencils; I love the feel of a sharp pencil and the look of a sharp edge. However, I also love the way in which colored pencil allows me to build subtle layers, like a recipe for the perfect color.

I generally don’t have a finished concept in my mind when I start a piece.  Rather, I like to start with a story in mind, or a picture I have taken, and let the creative process dictate my direction.  My best ideas come from the act of making, so it’s not uncommon for me to have five or six drawings in various states of completion as I work.

In progress

In progress

My work explores the themes of mental illness, loss, and the fragility of life.  I like to think of my drawings as a visual memoir of the struggles and achievements of myself and the others I share my life with.   My drawings often include the human form in some way, whether it’s with portraits or hands.  I am drawn to the automatic sense of emotion that comes with portraying the human form.  I want my work to tell a symbolic story of the strength of the individual while still leaving the details to the interpretation of the observer. My drawings attempt to show the vulnerability of my subject, their precarious and fantastical reality, and the effects their mental state has made in their lives.  

"The Future is Female"

“The Future is Female”

I tend to use a lot of pattern in my work as a design and symbolic element.  I am particularly drawn to the honeycomb pattern because it stands as a reminder that beauty can be born from chaos.  I feel like I’m just scratching the surface as to where I am headed in terms of my use of pattern; I’m excited to see where the process will take me.


"Daydream Believer"

“Daydream Believer”

When I’m not at school or in my studio, I can be found at home in Geneseo with my husband and two children, surrounded by cornfields and distant horizon lines.  

"Boy Wonder"

“Boy Wonder”

My work can be found at www.mandiantonucci.com or on Instagram @skywardagain

Stop by Main Street Arts to see Mandi’s work in our current exhibition “Utopia/Dystopia” (juried by John Massier, curator at Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center in Buffalo, NY). The exhibition runs through June 30, 2017. Mandi’s piece, “Boy Wonder”, is also available for purchase in our online gallery shop: store.mainstreetartsgallery.com

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Kathryn E. Noska

Kathryn’s artwork is on view in our juried exhibition “Small Works 2016”. Her work is available for purchase in our Online Gallery Shop:

I hold an Associates in Fine Art and reside in Pennsylvania.  I’ve been accepted in numerous juried exhibitions and have won several local and national awards.  My motto, “Take Time to Find the Unseen” is realized through Symbolism, the language of my art.  I paint mystic still life in mythic landscapes using curious compositions, representational symbolism, and philosophic whimsy.

As an artist with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, (sensitization to extremely low levels of many seemingly unrelated chemicals, pollutants and toxins), I’ve traveled a winding road to find safe, nontoxic materials that won’t trigger any symptoms.  My goal is to express my personal sense of creativity – healthfully.

Come with me as I relate this journey…

Me in my studio

Me in my studio

I was trained as an oil painter from the age of 12, but by college I had to give it up due to reactions to the solvents.  I then worked with acrylics for many years, but my symptoms gradually increased because the formaldehyde and ammonia in acrylics was too much for my body to handle.

Knowing that I could not work with any solvents or chemicals, I stopped painting altogether and for the last 5 years worked on a series of drawings.  However, being an oil painter at heart with a strong passion, purpose and persistence, I went back to research in 2015 and learned about the solvent-free oil painting method used by many Old Master Painters.

Studio with still life setup

Studio with still life setup

My journey continued as I searched for a chemical and alkyd free oil paint.  After trying the paints from several very good companies, to which my body still reacted, I discovered Art Treehouse, which makes paint with cold-pressed walnut oil that are completely free of chemicals at all stages of the processing.  Huzzah!

The Art Treehouse colors and oils I use

The Art Treehouse colors and oils I use

Now that I am working completely solvent-free with slower drying walnut oil paints, I have to make some adjustments to my familiar painting process.

Stages of my painting process:

First, I develop a detailed drawing on grid paper using a harmonic grid to aid the placement of my composition.

The drawing composition on grid paper.

The drawing composition on grid paper.

Harmonic Grid I use to create a pleasing composition.

Harmonic Grid I use to create a pleasing composition.

Next, I trace it on a panel using a burnt umber oil transfer technique, then thinly paint a brunaille underpainting.

Oil transfer onto panel and brunaille underpainting.

Oil transfer onto panel and brunaille underpainting.

Once the underpainting is dry, I apply many mechanically thin layers of color often adding a small amount of umber and/or rubbing the paint down with paper towel to help them dry a little faster.  Because walnut oil is less viscous than linseed oil, I have no need for any additional medium.  I work with straight tube paint, only adding a little water-washed walnut oil to the upper layers as needed.

First layer of color applied thinly.

First layer of color applied thinly.

Beginning to add volume and details.

Beginning to add volume and details.

Both heat and light help speed the oxidation process of oils.  I place the painting inside an insulated box using the small amount of heat from either a low 25 watt incandescent or high wattage LED lightbulb to help speed the drying time – free of solvent and sensitivity!  (Of course it still requires patience.)  :-)

Paintings inside the heat box.  I use an old insulated cooler with LED lamp.  The box is kept closed :-)

Paintings in the heat box (old insulated cooler).  If using an incandescent, keep the lid open slightly to allow air flow.  If using an LED keep the lid closed – they don’t produce much heat.

Clean up is easy.  Walnut oil is expensive, so rather than use it for clean up I use a less expensive oil like grapeseed or sunflower.  I rinse the brushes in the oil and wipe them on a paper towel repeating this several times to remove most of the oil paint.  I then repeatedly wash the brushes using an oil soap (I use Dr. Bronner’s Unscented bar soap) until the soapsuds remain white.  The palette I use is a butcher’s tray which is cleaned up just as easily by wiping with oil, then with soap and water.

Symbolism of Finished Painting:  This painting depicts going within to sweep away negativity.

Grapefruit: One’s state of mind – sour or sweet.  Broom: Change; Material and spiritual cleansing; Clean sweep.  Book: Knowledge; Wisdom; Chronicle of existence.

Mind Sweep - Sour or Sweet.  8 x 10  Oil on Panel  © 2016 Kathryn E. Noska

Mind Sweep – Sour or Sweet    8″ x 10″    Oil on Panel    © 2016 Kathryn E. Noska

“Metaphor is the path I travel to perceive, consider and understand the world.  I faithfully represent the seen, exterior of objects while revealing an internal, unseen spirit, thus transcending reality.  My paintings become a means for uncovering the veiled layers of reality cultivating conscious awareness of my life path”.

Gratefully, my journey continues!  Thanks for coming along with me. To keep in touch with what I’m doing or to see more of my art check out my website KathrynENoska.com and Like my Facebook Page – Kathryn E. Noska.  I love sharing my process on Instagram, too.  Please follow me @kathrynenoska.

Stop by Main Street Arts to see Kathryn’s work in our current exhibition “Small Works 2016” (juried by Bleu Cease, Executive Director/Curator of RoCo; exhibition runs through January 6th). Kathryn’s work is available in our Online Gallery Shop: store.mainstreetartsgallery.com

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by artist Megan Armstrong.