Timothy Joseph Allen is an American artist and painting teacher, whose work is classically and figuratively driven with a marked influence from the Old Masters of the 17th century. He studied a BFA in Studio Art and a MFA in Painting in Indiana, USA.
He has been living and working in Rome since 1998 and has designed an indulgent week-long Renaissance Retreat to be an immersive experience which allows one to fully focus on painting from life while enjoying the pleasures of the Italian countryside. Set within the Castello di Potentino, a Medieval Castle in the heart of Tuscany, it promises 7 days of painting, cooking and wine tasting with the goal of creating an oil portrait in a landscape as exemplified in many Renaissance portraits.
What inspired you to choose this location for the Renaissance Retreat?
I spent the past several years investigating various places–Umbria, Puglia and Rome were the prime candidates–but nothing I found best served the kind of singular experience I envisioned: a unique location that would combine culinary and cultural activities with the space and scenery to accommodate an ambitious painting program. Castello di Potentino gave me just that. Located in the heart of Tuscany, the Medieval castle is owned and run by two Brits, Charlotte Horton and Alexander Greene, and when I first presented them with the idea, they were very supportive and gracious right from the start. After spending some time there–getting to know them, roaming the castle, enjoying the food and wine and exploring the surrounding countryside–I knew I had found the perfect place. Of course, those who already know the Tuscan landscape will readily appreciate its aesthetic value; those who haven’t yet experienced it should certainly someday make the journey.
Have you run similar retreats before?
In addition to the weekly courses I teach at my school in Rome (The Painting and Drawing Art Studio of Rome), I have run a couple of weekend retreats in the summer at a place called Rocca Calascio (a spectacular mountain-top fortress in Abruzzo), but nothing that matches the scale and ambition of the Renaissance Retreat. That said, I have attended some retreats that are similar in duration and quality, so I am well aware of what the expectations are from the point of view of a participant. I have the utmost confidence in the experienced hospitality of the team at Castello di Potentino, so really my main job will be what I’ve been doing for the past seven years: teaching people to paint.
How long have you been in Italy? Was moving to Rome an artistic decision, or did you move there for other reasons?
I’ve lived in Italy for 19 years. I moved to Rome in 1998 just after I finished my M.F.A. in Painting at Indiana University in Bloomington. At the time I thought I would stay a couple of years, learn the language, then move on. But, as Twain says, it is the unexpected that happens. What kept me here? Well, I could argue that the Mediterranean sun has therapeutic powers or that Roman chaos treats me kindly, but, like many the expat story, I met a girl (now my wife) and we have a daughter who is about to turn seven. We are happy here, so I’m sure we will stay until we no longer are.
You mention that the participants on your Renaissance Retreat will work on “an oil portrait in a landscape as exemplified in many Renaissance portraits.” Are there any artists or artworks in particular that inspired you to revisit the possibilities of Renaissance open-air portraiture?
There are the obvious picks like da Vinci and Raphael, but there are others like Giorgione, Titian and Memling that I find especially intriguing. I suspect that many of the landscapes that populate their images were invented, meaning, the model was not in the landscape while the portrait was being made; yet, I also suspect that the artists took their clues from nature, meaning, they would have made quick drawing or paintings from life to take in the studio to help inform their inventions. So I like the idea of bringing those two things together into one workshop. In fact, I am already doing something similar with a portrait painting class I’m presently teaching in Rome: some days we are with the model in the studio; other days we are with the model in places like Villa Borghese or the Janiculum Hill (see the attached photos). It is very exciting to see the results and how each student manages the process differently.
How do the other activities offered fit in around the painting? Do you always plan downtime into your itineraries?
Downtime is always good, as long sessions of painting can be exhausting. There are painting sessions almost every day, in the morning and afternoon, but on a couple of days the entire afternoon is dedicated to something like learning to make pasta with a Michelin-star chef, or, learning how to make ricotta cheese. I like having this marriage with the culinary activities, as some might argue that there are direct similarities between painting and cooking. I’m sure it will also be a great way to clear our minds and come back to the painting with clear eyes. Or maybe that is what the wine-tasting is for.
What you need to know about the retreat
It is open to anyone from beginners to advanced painters who are enthusiastic about landscape, portraiture, adventure and community.
Most of the time with the model will be in the castle’s chapel which will be transformed into a painting studio for the occasion. Additionally, you will spend some time outside sketching the model in the countryside.
Tim’s workshop focuses on showing how to use a live model fruitfully, outlining the primary considerations of:
- Composition – setting the placement and scale of the subject within the landscape.
- Likeness – what does it mean to achieve a likeness in a portrait and what are the best strategies to do so?
- Light – management of light in connection to the specific subjects vs. management of light of the whole (the light pattern).
- Glazes and Scumbles – how to use them and how each affects volume, space and atmosphere.
Other non-painting activities available to both painters and accompanying family members or companions:
- Learning to make pasta with Michelin-Starred Chef, Roberto Rossi, of the restaurant Il Silene
- Learning to make pecorino and ricotta cheese with Lorenzo and Francesca of Caseificio Murceti
- Tasting nationally and internationally-awarded wines produced and presented by the owners of the castle, Charlotte Horton and Alexander Greene
- Swimming in the glorious outdoor pool
- Exploring the mysteries of the castle
- Strolling through the vineyards and gardens and discovering the secrets of the surrounding valley, including the nearby river, the Torrente Vivo
The first Renaissance Retreat 2018 runs between Sunday 20th May to Sunday 27th May, 2018 and the second is between Sunday 16th September to Sunday 23rd September 2018.
The maximum number of Painting Participants is 7 per retreat.
The maximum number total Painting Participants and Non-Painting Companions is 16 per retreat.
For more details, and to book, visit the Art Studio Rome Website.