Words of Wisdom from Frank Arcuri

"The best teacher is painting itself."

--Frank Arcuri

"Italian Plums" 9x12"

Two years ago, in July 2014, I had my first painting lesson with Frank Arcuri.  I didn't know what to expect when I first walked into his peaceful studio in Bucks County, PA, which is located on a quiet wooded property beside a little pond.  However, when I entered the studio and saw the paintings-in-progress, and smelled the aroma of oil paint, I felt a deep sense of contentment.  I was also relieved to find that Frank wasn't at all intimidating, but rather a very kind, humble man, the same age as my dad, and very down-to-earth.

I took this picture of Frank one day, in the middle of my lesson.  

Over the two years that followed, I studied (and continue to study) painting with Frank, coming for one or two lessons a month, and working diligently in between lessons.  I have learned so much from him about his method of painting, the chiaroscuro method, used by the Old Masters.  He is an excellent teacher, with just the right combination of guidance, critique, and encouragement, while also allowing me the space to flounder about on my own and learn things my own way.

Here's a portrait Frank did of me, not long after I started taking lessons.

During the lessons, Frank often says things that strike me as very beautiful and wise, and I write them down in my notebook.  Here, I have compiled these bits of wisdom together, along with some of my favorite paintings of his. 


"Garland of Plums and Peaches" 12x14"

Don't paint the pear, paint the light on the pear.

Get it so it sings.

How you feel about what you're painting is more important than what you see.

The melody is in the light.  The dark things are the chords behind the melody.

"After Hours" 16x18"

Anyone who paints, paints amidst the distractions of everyday life.

You are painting God's light on God's fruit.  It's a miracle, a form of worship.

"Apricots and Tulips" 18x16"

Carve out the idea of the painting.

If you're afraid, what you paint will look like fear.

"Opulessence" 9x12"

If you have to lose information about color, it's ok.  Sacrifice color for your light.

Sacrifice detail to the Light.

Bright light is only an illusion and you have to create it.

The painting should have something mysterious in it.  The viewer should have to think.  In the shadow, the more mysterious you make it, the better.

Composition is when you arrange darks in a beautiful way.  It's more about value, designing values.

It [chiaroscuro] has to be darker than you're comfortable with most of the time.  People like the drama, the light and dark contrast.

Bring your full attention to what you are painting at that time.

Be nice to yourself and it.  Paint with love.

"Marjarie" 16x14"  Frank's lovely wife, who is also an artist!

Don't paint for your time, paint for eternity.

"Amaryllis in a Dutch Vase" 18x16"