Friday, May 22, 2015

Day 3- What is a Salon anyways, and can I get my hair done there?

The motivator to come to Italy, to this very unusual town of Lecce in the heel of the boot, was to attend an event I've heard about for many years but never attended: The Salon. Basically, the Salon is a yearly traveling conference of painters who specialize in the traditional decorative skills of trompe l'oeil, wood graining, faux marble, gilding, ornamental design, and murals of many different kinds. It is an information and technique sharing get together of some of the best painters in the field, some of whom have studied it formally at schools like the Van der Kelen school in Brussels, which has been open since 1882, and others like me who are essentially self taught.

Entry to the Accademia where the event is being held

The Salon itself has been in existence for over twenty years now, beginning in Belgium in 1992, and has met in Paris, Tokyo, Seattle, Sweden, and elsewhere. Basically, each of the invitees (you must be invited by a member) brings a sample panel of their work, and many also create another panel while there so that others may watch their technique. It's also open to non- participants to come and observe, and there is a lot of socializing and of greeting those that one already  knows (sometimes pretty well in fact) via Facebook or other social media. This year it looks like the field is quite large, maybe around 100 plus people, augmented by various spouses, children, assistants and students.

An assortment of panels from all over the world surround the courtyard area.

As you enter the ornament encrusted Accademia di Belli Arti you come into the courtyard, where each participant's work is displayed on a board. The subjects and techniques are varied, but all of it is professional and several of the artists are pushing on the boundaries of the field. After passing through the registration hallway you can branch off into three hallways where painters are working on more panels, and watch fascinating demos that include all of the above mentioned techniques. The hardest part for me is not to be wandering around constantly watching, when I'm supposed to be working on the border for my panel. Actually, I got corralled early into helping out with the large collaborative mural at the end of the hall, and I have the feeling that is probably all I will do until we are done, and I'll do my border work at home.

Pierre Finkelstein demonstrating his incredible wood graining technique for the crowd while Stefano Luca translates into Italian for him. Stefano is one of the organizers of the event with his wife Caterina Manisco, and they are both incredible ornamental painters in their own right.

The are also more formal demos each day given in the cloister courtyard, where seasoned pros like Pierre Finkelstein, Jean Sablé, and Pascal Amblard show methods for wood graining, skies, and trees, quickly and definitively. Many of the students from the Accademia come to watch these too, and they fill the halls with questions and wonder. Really cool to see all of them get some exposure to the work we are all pursuing.

Pretty good crowd of artists, students, and curious onlookers for Jean Sablé's lecture on creating clouds with an oil based paint technique.

There are also a small selection of manufacturers present, with specialized brushes, pigments, and a few books available, and Golden paints freely provides any and all materials needed for the demo work, which meant people didn't have to lug all their paints through customs and TSA. Nice!

Brush lust runs high at this event!

Well, I'd better wrap this up now- I've been skimping on sleep because of all the great things to see, and meeting all these faces I've only ever seen on Facebook until now. It is very much a whirlwind, all of it pleasurable! A domani!


  1. Another great post Steve. It is so nice to see so many attendees. I know it is a special year and gathering for Salon.

  2. 20th convocation this time. I'm really sorry you couldnt' make it this time Theresa! As a newbie, it's all quite exciting, and naturally just being here in Lecce is pretty fab in itself. Sounds like next year Tatiana is going to make it happen in St Petersburg- so we'll have to go there!