A life portrait (part 1) by Michele Del Campo

I do many sketches and drawings of people from life, but I usually do them in sketchbooks for the sheer pleasure or take them as exercises. In fact, the direction where my painting is heading towards lately, requires the use of photography as a reference, to enable me to structure an imaginary scene with the solidity of a plausible reality. If I painted portraits in the past, they were almost all based on reference pictures and I did not always care about the faithfulness of my painting to the sitters, I was not presenting that particular person but my idea of that person. Still, my training as a painter comes from a rigorous research from direct observation. I learned so much from my still-life paintings when I was younger, the perspective, the light, the textures, the reflection of the surfaces, the changeability of things with the passing of time, etc... All those discoveries are still with me and will always be. People, however, were another world, a too precarious one, material for sketchbooks, not canvases.

Now, while I still explore the possibilities of the imagination supported by the photography, I have taken the chance to confront the changeable and three-dimensional reality of a portrait on a big canvas. Jacqueline is posing for me, but I will talk about this portrait later on, when it is finished...



Hago muchos bocetos y dibujos de personas del natural, pero lo hago simplemente por el placer de dibujar, dentro de mis cuadernos de dibujo, o por ejercicio. De hecho, la dirección que está tomando mi pintura últimamente requiere el uso de la fotografía como referencia, la cual me permite estructurar una escena imaginada con la solidez de la realidad plausible. Si en el pasado he pintado retratos, éstos eran casi siempre basados en referencias fotográficas, además no siempre me importaba la fealdad de mi pintura a la imagen del modelo, no intentaba hablar de esa persona en concreto, sino de mi idea de esa persona. Sin embargo, mi formación de pintor viene de un rigurosa investigación por observación directa. He aprendido muchísimo de mi pintura del natural de cuando era más joven, la perspectiva, la luz, la textura, el reflejo de las distintas superficies, el cambio de las cosas por el tiempo, etc... Todos esos descubrimientos todavía están bien grabados en mi y siempre lo estarán. Pero las personas eran otro mundo, demasiado precario, material de estudio para páginas de cuadernos, no lienzos.

Ahora, mientras sigo explorando las posibilidades de la imaginación unida a la fotografía, he aprovechado la ocasión para enfrentarme a la realidad para un retrato de gran formato. Jacqueline posa para este retrato, pero hablaré de ello cuando lo termine...

New photos in Valencia by Michele Del Campo

I am an individual artist, I don't have a team work and a big budget so I have to rely on friends, improvisation and creativity to find what I need as a visual reference.

Only one month after my previous journey, I went back to Valencia in the middle of February, as I still had in mind some good ideas and locations for a photo shooting with Carles and friends.

I went well prepared with a precise idea of what I needed, after my previous visit to Valencia and many sketches studying the scenes. The chosen location was a bridge on the peculiar Turia old river bed, which now is a park that stretches along the old city walls (the water has been diverted from the city after the Big Flood of 1957). The dried bed of the river has left large, imposing bridges under which pedestrians can go by. If I give these bridges the right atmosphere in my paintings, it can be ideal to host scenes of dark, gritty and desolated urban environment, which will be a common feature in my next solo exhibition "Journey of no Return".

I needed several male and female characters with a fairly rough look idling about under the bridge, a couple of nice looking girls with an upper class appearance and a scooter, possibly an old Italian Vespa. Sometimes the air had to be tense and the anger tangible among some of the characters, creating a sharp contrast with the two upper class girls passing by. Carles and friends had to play the role of the rougher young people, while the beautiful sisters Carla and Alejandra had to be the more elegant girls.

The difficult bit was to find an old Vespa, in fact, looking around in Valencia, I realised that this is a very rare scooter nowadays. However often I have inexplicable strokes of luck and just the day before the shooting, in front of my flat's door, while I was entering after my unsuccessful search, a guy with a beautiful and curvy red Vespa from the Sixties came to stop just beside the door. Javi is his name and he is the owner of "La Oveja Negra", a quality restaurant and tapas bar near Plaza Xúquer. He at first liked the idea, so very kindly accepted to take the Vespa to the shooting and even to pose with the others.

Trip to Valencia by Michele Del Campo

For my new project "Journey of no Return" I had a particular scene in my mind, inspired by a dunes beach near Valencia and I flew all the way to there to gather reference material. In the beginning of January the sun was quite bright and the temperature higher than 20º! What a treat for someone coming from freezing  London! However pleasurable, what I needed was actually a grey, wintery setting, but luckily, towards the end of the day, colourful dark clouds would float about in the sky, giving it a little of that dramatic appearance that I was after.

In the following days I took several walks in the city to find interesting locations for some shoots. I saw a bridge and I halted to fantasise about a group of young people under it, half visible in the shadow and some of them disappearing under the beams. I soon phoned Carles, a very nice friend of mine who has loads of friends in Valencia. He was very pleased to help me and assumed all the weight of the organisation for me, phoning friends to check immediate availability and telling them what was needed for the shooting. I wanted at least four people to pose but at the end seven people turned up and were very happy to pose. It was not that easy and nice for some of them, who had to climb up to the beams by a ladder which was not long enough to make the task easy. Big thanks to all of them, particularly to Carles, for giving me their time.

I start my project "Journey of no Return" by Michele Del Campo

Finally I have begun to convert my sketches and ideas into photos that will be my main reference for my next painting project which, with many probabilities, is going to be named "Journey of no Return". After several months of thinking, doubting, processing raw ideas on paper, reading, looking at new references, experiencing real-life situations, I have come up with this new solo exhibition project which will show a darker side of the reality, in comparison with my previous paintings.

For a couple of paintings I had to look for a disused rail tunnel to use as background and, after a long research, I found just what I was looking for. It was a challenge to overcome the bourocratic obstacles that I found on my way everywhere I asked for information, help or permissions. I understood that I had to do it all by myself and try my luck. I researched, traveled, spotted the railway tunnels and found the prohibited way in: it was impressive, a tunnel filtered by the light through a series of magnificent arches.

It requiered a dose of courage and daring to organise the shooting there. I arranged everything the same day (and night...) that I found the tunnels, also thanks to the help and availability of four good friends who would be my models the next day. It was a greatly enjoyable experience for all of us and I was amazed at how they all took the shooting so seriously, also challenging the weather in one of the coldest days of the year. Three of them had no previous experience before a camera but I could not have found better "actors" to stage what my sketches only vaguely suggested.

Life drawing in my new studio by Michele Del Campo

Since I came to London, in the beginning of 2008, I have been trying to go to places where I could draw the nude. Sometimes they were far from my house, sometimes the models were always the same and I would get bored, sometimes the classes were too full of people, sometimes too empty and they disappeared after a few weeks. But as soon as I decided to look for a bigger studio I started to cultivate the idea of using my space to host weekly life drawing sessions that I would organise myself.

That way I could not only be comfortable in my studio and have models coming over every week, but I also could create a social environment inviting friends artists and make the practice of drawing an enjoyable experience to share with them.

The idea worked out very well, also thanks to the help of my friends who continue bringing new artists. We gather every Wednesday night in my studio to draw all together, normally we are from 6 to 10 people. When we finish we go out to have a drink and talk, after all we are in Soho, there can be no better place to create a social meeting point.