We arrive at the 'spot' while it is still surrounded by the semi-darkness of pre-dawn. We imagine, more than see, the Firehole River lazily winding through the valley.
The air is crisp, even cold, at this hour. I add another layer of clothing before slipping into my waders. This is the time when I envy my husband Adriano. He is fully awake, anxious to start this early morning hike with his cameras, sketchpad and pencils in place. Even the cold does not seem to be a problem for him.
While I finish tying my boots with shivering fingers, Adriano has already reached the river's edge. As I turn my head, a shadow briefly appears in the clearing. It looks like a scrawny dog, but it does not take me long to recognize that it's a coyote. I don't linger to discover if he's a friendly one,
It is not easy to catch up to Adriano. We have a while to hike before reaching his favorite spot on the river and the horizon is already beginning to light up. I can feel his excitement building up along with the inevitable anxiety. Will it be a glorious sunrise? Will he reach the perfect spot on time? Did he bring enough film?
A herd of elk crosses our path, and we wait until they are safely away. Adriano glances nervously at the horizon and minutes seem like hours. The silvery ribbon of the Firehole is now clearly visible and the first tinge of warm colors is playing with its riffles. Adriano crosses the river at its lowest point, careful not to step into one of its pools so deep and numerous in this stretch. The sky turns an unbelievable shade of pink. Before reaching for his camera, Adriano takes a moment to absorb and be absorbed by his surroundings. His emotions, his innermost response to the moment and the experience, are what will ultimately surface in his paintings. The photos will just serve as a trigger to reawaken these impressions.
He works furiously, moving rapidly from one spot to the next, racing against time. A buffalo crosses the river as an added bonus. This morning the muses are definitely smiling at him! By eight o'clock it is all gone. The light is already too harsh, the colors too vibrant. Time to head back. Adriano has a satisfied smile on his face. These magical moments have become for him mystical experiences from which he reemerges recharged and with a sense of well-being.
Back at his studio, Adriano is a few brush strokes away to completing the sunrise painting on the Firehole. He steps back, not really looking at the painting anymore, but searching for emotions. Unless he can feel them himself, he will never be satisfied with his work. I cringe every time I see him put aside an almost-completed painting because 'there is something missing'. At times I agree with him. Others, I feel he is being over-critical, though nothing I can say will change his mind. I know that by now.
This painting has that magical quality to it. 'So what do you think?' he asks me. This is a mere formality, of course. 'I think you really captured the moment. I love it!' He stares critically at the painting while I stare incredulously at him. He has got to be kidding… Finally, he smiles. 'I guess it's O.K….' 'O.K.? O.K.? It's more than O.K! It's beautiful. It's… it's a keeper!' The 'keepers' are paintings we wish we could leave in our collection, but inevitably, sooner or later, end up in someone else's. 'Yeah… I guess I wouldn't mind keeping this one…' I know then, without a doubt, that the emotions he felt that early morning on the Firehole are trapped in this painting.
It seems fitting that the feelings he wants to evoke in his collectors are at the center of his art, since his decision of turning to this field were dictated by his inner response to a Cowboys Artists Of America's exhibition, many years ago in Arizona. Maybe it happened at a moment in his life when the weight of his travels and of his hectic schedule as a photojournalist were taking their toll on him. Or maybe it provided the necessary spark he needed to vent an innate creativity. Once Adriano reached this decision, however, his perfectionism took over. His first painting of a bald eagle in flight was a gift to our son Adriano, who has never relinquished his rights to it. Even today, there is no amount of coaxing or bribing that would convince him to give his gift up. Not that I can blame him! It happens to be a very fine painting, even if somewhat different from his father's latest works. Through the years, his collection has grown, but I still feel that that soaring Eagle is still our son's favorite painting.
Even though Adriano loved painting animals, he soon found that another subject was even more fascinating to him. Fly-fishing burst into the scene, first as a sport, then as an artistic inspiration. Water, with its sounds, its colors, its movement, had always awaken a deep response in him. Coupled now with a deep passion for the sport, it brought as a logical result the creation of fine paintings in which the fisherman was not necessarily viewed as the main subject, but as part of a natural surrounding. It was the study of water, always different, challenging, elusive, that inspired his creations. The fisherman was also a vital part of the scene. A fisherman however, who would never intrude on nature.
One of the predominant responses to his paintings is that sense of peacefulness collectors feel while viewing them. It is that same feeling they get while wading in the rivers, or enjoying their natural surroundings. The serious angler recognizes the accuracy of the scene, while reliving familiar moments. The art collector appreciates the boldness of each abstract brush stroke which, when joined by others, can capture the realism of the scene. Response from women collectors is the most surprising and, because of it, most welcome. They are simply moved by the paintings and it does not at all matter if it is a landscape or a fly-fishing scene or wildlife oil. Sunsets and sunrises have the more immediate impact for their dramatic effects, but peaceful scenes find their way in the hearts and minds of the viewers.
It is nostalgia, instead, which permeates Adriano's angling still life paintings. An old creel, a bamboo rod, a creased photo, are all elements of a story which each collector can interpret and shape in his or her own way. It is a trip down memory lane where highly detailed and vibrant objects become intrinsic elements of those recollections, only to fade away along the edges in the dark background, just like fuzzy details of an old memory.
If you would like to get a more intimate look at Adriano's work please visit theT.S.M. and Co.web site. You will be able to discover in his paintings his deepest emotions surfacing with every brushstroke and get lost in a peaceful world of softly rippling water.
Adriano Manocchia can be reached at:
T.S.M. & Company
98 Rose Hill Avenue
New Rochelle, NY 10804 - USA
His work is also represented at the following art galleries:
J.N. Bartfield Galleries, NY, NY - Trailside Galleries, Jackson, WY/Scottsdale AZ - The Sporting Life Gallery, Beaver Creek, CO - Zantman Galleries, Sun Valley, Ketchum, ID/ Carmel, CA. For further information on these or other galleries' locations please contact the artist's studio at the above address.
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