Michele Del Campo is an artist in love with oil paint. His paintings explore the sentimental themes of everyday life; the idleness and melancholy of youth, the degradation of environment and the failures yet resilience of human nature.
Born in a small town in South Italy, Michele has studied Fine Art in Milan, Falmouth, Dundee and Madrid and now lives and works in London. His oil paintings are made using a wet on wet technique with Winsor & Newton Artists' Oil Paint, and to celebrate our oil season, we wanted to find out exactly what it is that he loves about the process and paint.
Hi Michele! So, when did you learn to paint with oils? And what is it that you like more about oil painting than other forms of painting?
I was 14 years old and I had a go with oils during the weekly art class that we had in the “liceo scientifico”. It came out quite well. I was good at art but I was still far away from thinking about going astray from “having a proper job and life”, as my family wanted.
I prefer oil painting over other techniques because it allows for a more creative approach, and because it can be a forgiving technique, up to a certain point, so one can be “more daring” with it. It is also a pleasure to work with; it is a very sensual technique on the canvas and, once prepared the colours are available on the palette for a long time and one can concentrate more on the painting, instead of tackling mixes on the palette all the time. I have methods to keep my colour mixes available for several days, which comes handy for final retouches on long lasting paintings too. Finally, the effects that can be achieved wet on wet are far more varied, vivid and captivating than those obtained with other techniques.
Can you describe your wet on wet technique?
In general I start with a white canvas, for brighter results. I draw the main forms quite loose, directly with a brush and a very thinned earth colour. I am not too concerned about exactitude, as I think that a more loose approach can have more personality and strength if supported by anatomical and perspective knowledge. I then lay on the canvas a thinned tone that is quite average, then I lay in the shadows, with pure, unthinned colour, and finally the lights. With a certain experience it is even possible to do glazings on wet colours, helped with the right brushes.
What is it you love so much about Winsor & Newton Artist's oil paints?
Their purity, being mostly single pigmented colours, their big covering power, their creamy consistency at the right point, and the wide range of tones available. Plus with all their great properties, they are still affordable!
What would your top 3 tips for oil painting be?
1 - Don't rely on your eyes only.Reality is constantly changing and subjective, so also use your knowledge, intuition and imagination when painting.
2 – Separate all colour mixes on your palette, and use different brushes for every colour, and for light and shadow of the same colour. Only that way you can have the cleanest and most vibrant results.
3 – Say something with your painting, aim for content to complement the form. Too often we only think about making beautiful painterly objects and forget that they could be the vehicle of our thoughts, feelings and statements.
You often paint on large formats, from life and from photos – but do you have a favourite way of working?
Certainly I enjoy more the freedom of movement, gesture and the compositional possibilities of large formats although they imply a bigger responsibility, stronger ideas and a lot of preliminary studies.
About working from life or from photos, there are advantages and disadvantages in both methods, but I think that building knowledge to tackle both processes can make one richer in resources. In general, although I enjoy living the experience of painting models and places from life, i find that the transient reality is limiting the possibilities of my imagination and expression. Thus I find that if I want to say something that goes beyond the obvious and is more meaningful to me, I need to work with ideas, and use combined elements from various photos and from life to construct the image that I want.
Can you tell us about your upcoming exhibition?
From 26th October to 6th November I will show a peculiar project, called “The Fall”, at the Westminster Arts Reference Library. It will be a series of portraits of random people from different walks of life, who after a fall of no major consequences find themselves suspended in time, having broken the apparent inexorability of their blind routine. They all remain pensive, absorbed in a deep reflection and self-analisys, and clearly there is something unfulfilled or tormenting in each of them. As models I used real people doing their real jobs or their usual acivities, and some of the falls came to my mind after listening to their experiences.
Visit Michele de Campo's website here to explore more of his paintings.