Hi everybody,

Finding models for a composition is always a challenge. A lot of people prefer to use photographs. One of the issue with photographs is that the light is flatten and equalized and you don’t see the variations of the values or the colours of the skin.

I prefer painting from life. This means that I will ask a “model” to sit in my studio or attend one of the many workshops in the Tampa Bay area where you get the chance to draw/paint from life.

I tend to go to a workshop session at Treasure Island Art Guild which takes place every Friday morning from 9:30 to 12. The model sits for 20 minutes followed by a 10 minute break.

As you only get 2 ½ hours with the model you need to work fast to capture the essence. This method of painting is called Alla-Prima (at first attempt).

In this posting I will take you through a portrait that I did recently which will be displayed in the upcoming Emerging Artists Exhibition.

See you soon.


The workshop takes place in the Treasure Island City Hall. As there are a number of artists painting/drawing you need to allow enough room for everybody to see the model. This means that my easel is about 10 feet from the model.


I paint standing up and hold the palette on my left hand, brushes on the right. I like painting on flat canvas which is placed on a piece of plywood. The canvas is primed with a color as I don’t paint on white canvas.

The model’s name is Cathy. By the end of the first session I try to have the main scaffolding of the face in place.

I am not looking for exact details but for relationships between the features, eyes, mouth etc.

By the end of the second session (1 hour) I aim to have the key values in place.

I have also identified a number of areas which I am going to try to preserve without paint.

Unfortunately I had a prior engagement so I took a picture to finish the painting in my studio.

The values I have in place are good markers of how the bone structure of the model need to be developed.

By the end of third session (2 hours), the features are resolved, the dark and mid-range values are in place.

What is missing to complete the portrait is the highlights. For this I have to wait a couple of days for the oil paint to dry before applying them.

Once I apply the highlights the portrait comes together.



Preparing the Surface

Hi everybody,

In the previous posting we briefly discussed the tools that I use. I had some questions in relation to how I prepare my surfaces so I will discuss the process.

When you buy ready-made canvases they are mostly primed with acrylic gesso.  There are different type of gesso and usually the ones used in ready-made canvases are not very good. One of the issues of using oils over acrylic gesso is that the oils will sink due to the absorbency characteristics of the gesso.

Consequently I always prime the surface with an oil primer in order to minimize the sinking. If you want to completely avoid sinking it is best that you buy oil primed ready-made surfaces (double primed at least).

Note: I don’t have any affiliation with any of the products mentioned below nor do get any sponsorship for mentioning the products.

See you soon



The first thing I do with read-made canvas is to cover the sides with strong masking tape.  This will stop any paint dripping to the sides so when finished the sides will look clean.


I do not paint the sides of my canvases.


The ready-made canvas comes primed with acrylic gesso so I am using an oil based primer to over the surface.

The oil primer is quite thick so I will mix a bit of OMS thinner (single cream consistency) and use a plastic trowel to spread the primer on the surface.


Ensure that there are no puddles on the surface. You need to let the surface dry completely before putting oils on it (usually 3-4 days).

When preparing a raw material such as raw linen the process is slightly different.

Firstly, the material must be sized either by using PVA or rabbit skin glue. This stops the oils from damaging the fibers. I prefer PVA.

There are ready made PVA products for sizing linen/canvas or you can buy PVA glue and dilute it.

The material needs to be stretched or pinned down.

Do not stretch it on the stretch bars prior to sizing the material as it will sag and you will have to re-stretch it.

I staple the material on a piece of ply wood and apply a couple coats of size. Make sure that the whole surface is covered.

Once the size is dry, about a day, I apply a couple coats of oil primer as I do in the ready-made canvases.


Tools of the Trade

Hi everybody,

I am often asked about the tools that use in my practice, so I will summarize the main tools and techniques in this post.



For ala-prima work with a life model and sketches I use flat canvas from a canvas pad. Plywood as a backing board, held with bulldog clips.  Main reason is that I can store them flat in a drawer when I finish.

I prefer linen over cotton that is oiled primed rather than gesso primed. I tend to stretch my own linen. If I use commercial canvas with gesso I prime it with a layer of oil primer. If the material is raw I will firstly prime it with PVA before the oil primer.


Brushes are like candy to a child. For some reason I never seem to have enough!

For Oils I prefer natural Hogs. Filberts I mostly use with flats from time to time. For Acrylic I use man made brushes.  All my brushes are long, size 3+

When I need a large brush I use 2” cheap Home-Depot brushes.

Cleaning is important at the end of each day. I use OMS to clean the oil paint, dishwasher liquid to clean completely the OMS from the brush. I wrap the brush bristles with paper towel to keep the shape of the bristles and suspend it with ferulle facing down so that any remaining water will fall out


For my figurative work I use a limited palette. The colours are White, Yellow Ochre, Venetian Red and Ultramarine Blue. Sometimes I also use Raw Umber which I mix with the Blue to give me a chromatic black.  By limiting the palette I can control my colours and concentrate on developing the values of the compositions.

I don’t paint on a white surface so I mix a background colour from all the tubes that I have collected over the years.

The picture below is the range of shades that I can achieve with my limited palette.

See you soon.

Highlights from the Studio Museum in Harlem

Hi everybody,

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Gibbes museum of art in Charleston, SC. The museum is curating an exhibition named “Black refractions: Highlights from the studio museum in Harlem”.

The museum in Harlem opened in 1968 a year that saw the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr and Robert F Kennedy and demonstrations against the Vietnam War. The studio museum in Harlem celebrates artists of African descent from across the globe. Originally conceived as a non-collecting institution the Museum houses more than 2500 artworks from 700 artist.

Even though the exhibition is a sample from the museum in Harlem I found the exhibition to be quite powerful. Some of the items on display are below. Hope you have a chance to visit this exhibition.

See you soon


(All images are copyrighted by respected owners.)





Lawdy Mama 1969

By Barkley L Hendricks (b 1945, Philadelphia, PA; d. 2017, New London, CT)

Oil and Gold Leaf on Canvas




Ivan 2013

By Jennifer Packer (b 1984, Philadelphia, PA; lives and works in NY City)

Oil on Canvas

Untitled (Face #155 Lyle) 2000

Untitled (Back #155 Lyle) 2000

By Lyle Ashton Harris ( b. 1965 NY City, lives and works in NY City)



Ceci n’est pas une pipe

Hi everybody,

“Ceci n’est pas une pipe” or otherwise known as “The Treachery of Images” is a painting by the Belgian surrealist artist Rene Magritte.

The title of “this is not a pipe” at face value seems to try to convince the viewer that the image which looks like a pipe is not a pipe. In response to criticism Magritte wrote ,

“The famous pipe. How people reproached me for it! And yet, could you stuff my pipe? No, it’s just a representation, is it not? So if I had written on my picture ‘This is a pipe’, I’d have been lying!”
Another master of his art , Pablo Picasso said,

“We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.”

These two quotes are the bedrock of my practice. I am not interested in the true representation of the composition, the likeness of the person or the exact dimensions of a figure. The portrait of a person can never be the person.

What interest me is to capture the essence, the way the person makes me feel, the emotions, memories that are triggered, convincing the viewer that my lie is the truth.

See you soon




Once upon a time..

Jim Gigurtsis Hi everybody,

Firstly I would like to thank Creative Pinellas for awarding me one of the emerging artist grants for 2019 and secondly I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself.

My name is Jim Gigurtsis, and I am a multi-discipline visual artist.  I was born in Crete, Greece. Upon completion of high school I moved to London, England to attend university. I remained in London and had a successful career in financial services whilst painting on a part time basis.  In 2016 I decided to pursue a full time career in visual arts. I am currently based in Seminole, Florida.

One of my interests that influences my work is the ambiguous concept of the “Human Condition”. Wikipedia defines the “Human Condition” as “the characteristics, key events, and situations which compose the essentials of human existence, such as birth, growth, emotionality, aspiration, conflict, and mortality”. I am sure you can find other definitions that are as vague as this!

In my work I create art that express my thoughts, emotions and dreams to evoke an emotional  bond with the viewer. I capture what I feel not necessarily what I see. I purposely avoid been prescriptive as the viewer must transpose and interpret not spoon-fed.

I am planning to use this blog to take you through a journey of my studio life. Different elements of my practice will come together to create art for at least two subjects that I have just started working on Communication and Feelings.  If everything goes according to plan these will be included in the Emerging Artist exhibition at Creative Pinellas.

See you soon.

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