Food is a major driving force in my life and when I’m not sitting down enjoying a meal, cooking, or shopping for Rome's market produce then I’m thinking about what food I will eat at the next meal or the next day, and sometimes I just sit down to enjoy reading recipes or look at pictures of food. When I came across Andrea Smith‘s Instagram profile full of still-life paintings of Rome's market produce it was heaven because she paints all of the most beautiful fruits and vegetables you can find in Italy, and especially Rome.
I’ve been to one of Andrea‘s painting studios and seen how she sets up her paintings, and her workflow, so I was thrilled to chat with her about her still-life paintings of Rome's market produce, her outlook on painting, what brought her to Rome, the courses she teaches and what she is working on now.
Andrea is Australian and divides her time between Australia and Italy. She tries to enjoy spring and summer in both places throughout the year. Andrea graduated from the University of Melbourne and then later on the Florence Academy of Art. It was in Florence that Andrea came into her own as a painter because of the rigorous and structured teaching style at the Academy that worked perfectly for her.
In addition to painting she also teaches online courses, and in person courses in Rome. In the past she taught at the Florence Academy of Art, the New York Academy of Art and the Harlem Studio of Art in New York.
You can fine Andrea’s works at the Forum Gallery in New York, Australian galleries in both Melbourne and Sydney Australia and the Atelier Canova in Rome.
Why two painting studios in Rome?
Andrea has two painting studios in Rome. The Atelier Canova on Via Margutta is where she teaches. Her second studio, just a stone's throw from Piazza Navona, is where Andrea lives and does most of her work.
What Andrea paints
Andrea only paints in oil.
Most of what Andrea paints are fruits and vegetables: Rome's market produce. She also sometimes paints portraits, landscapes, and scenes of Rome like the Turtle Fountain in Piazza Mattei.
None of Andrea’s paintings of Rome are on Instagram but you can always contact her directly to see a photograph of these paintings.
When Andrea paints food it’s usually the fruit or vegetable rather than a completed dish, or a work in progress dish. There have been a few exceptions like this one, La Torta.
How Andrea sets up a painting
There are fabulous markets in Rome and Andrea gets most of her vegetables and fruits, or subjects, from the Campo de Fiori market in Rome. She has a few vendors she uses all the time and she considers them as partners in her artwork.
Once Andrea has purchased the vegetable or fruit she’s chosen to paint she’s on a narrow timeline because of course the leaves quickly dry up and the fruit or vegetable begins to wither and spoil. Each night she says she puts her painting subjects to bed, which is to say they spend the night in the refrigerator. She often has substitutes just in case her actual subjects go bad but she prefers to paint the one she has chosen as the primary subject.
This is the moment for the magnificent spring dish, Vignarola, made with Rome's market produce that's now in season: artichokes, Romaine lettuce, spring peas and fava beans like the subject of her fava bean painting above.
Another similar and delicious recipe made with fava beans is Spring Ravioli: Stinging Nettle and Ricotta Filling with Spring Peas, Fava Beans and Asparagus.
Andrea's Instagram profile is @artandartichokes and she does indeed love to paint artichokes.
There are many delicious dishes you can make with Roman artichokes like Deep-Fried Artichokes (Carciofi all Giudea),
How long does it take Andrea to do a painting?
It takes Andrea about 10 days to complete a painting and she sticks to a rigid schedule that's dictated by the lifespan of the vegetable or fruit. She starts by mixing paints and colors in the morning and then setting up and positioning the subject.
Andrea has lots of props she uses in her paintings: plates, jugs and dishes that complement the fruit or vegetable she is painting.
Andrea places a strip of tape on the floor that marks where she’ll stand as she paints so that she always has the same perspective.
The lighting in Andrea's studio & the importance of light in her paintings
“In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary” – Aaron Rose
“The substance of painting is light” – Andre Derain
North light is ideal for painting and Andrea's studio location is perfect: plenty of light unobstructed by lots of buildings. North light is perfect because you can paint from morning till evening and the light and shadow remains stable. In the winter the daylight hours are fewer; Andrea loves painting in the summer as the days are long.
Andrea and I chatted about the importance of light in her paintings and she feels this is a self-evident part of any painting, like saying flavor is part of food. What she tries to convey above all is color and texture.
Andrea's painting classes: on-line and in person
Now during the pandemic when people aren’t traveling Andrea teaches on-line courses and she’s found that these classes work beautifully. The teaching platform uses a combination of Google classroom and Skype and Andrea is able to look at her student's work and correct them on-line.
In the past Andrea taught in-person classes regularly but she found this approach made it difficult for her to get her own painting done. Now she has courses set up so they occur in a block; when she’s teaching she can focus wholly on teaching and then when she’s in painting mode her attention is dedicated to her work painting Rome's market produce. The classes she teaches aren’t for aspiring painting professionals but rather painters who enjoy and are passionate about painting. Andrea teaches six students at a time and combines painting with Italian travel experiences for her students.
What is Andrea working on now?
Andrea is currently working on a painting retrospective for a gallery in Australia. Although she’s painting many new items for the show since it’s also a retrospective it will include many paintings she’s done in the past that have been sold to private individuals. She’s especially excited for this retrospective as she’ll be able to see all her paintings that have been sold and are now in private collections.
Andrea's plans for the future
Andrea quite likes the lifestyle she has that affords her the ability to spend the best seasons in both Italy and Australia, and to teach and work on her own paintings. She’s looking forward to a return to this lifestyle post-pandemic.
Where can you find Andrea’s still-life paintings of Rome's market produce?
Andrea posts photos of many of her still-life paintings of Rome's market produce on Instagram. If you see a painting you’d like to buy you can send her a direct message through Instagram or find her on Facebook as Atelier Canova.
You can also find Andrea and her artwork on her teaching website, or contact her directly via email. Or reach her on her personal website, also via email.