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  • Steven Lloyd

Interview with Gianfranco Speranza

(Editorial Note: This is an interview I retrieved from the old site through I am limited in what I can retrieve by this method. As a case in point, I was not able to retrieve the photos that accompanied this interview. So, until I can figure out how to replace the original photos, I decided to experiment with restoring the printed version of the interview. Having said all that, I have a few photos of Gianfranco's work that will give new readers a feel for his talent as a painter.)

I have enjoyed Gianfranco Speranza’s work ever since I was introduced to it in two articles in the Historical Miniature Magazine. The photos, which never do justice to someone’s work—even the photos of his work looked exceptional.

When I began work on this site, Gianfranco’s work has been on my list to include. The problem was I did not know how to get in touch with him. Jim Horan encouraged me to contact Gianpaolo Bistulfi. Gianpaolo was very helpful. He put me in contact with Gianfranco, and Gianfranco consented to the interview that follows.

How did you get involved in painting flats?

I have been reading Figurines magazine since # 1 (1994) and I saw beautiful pictures of flats on it, but I tried to paint it after reading The Art of the Tin Flat Figures by Mike Taylor.

I started painting round figures quite long time ago but then I stopped for a while. After 2-3 years I started to paint paintings, actually, to copy old paintings, but I have never forgotten figures. Being unable to do both, I have found flats to be halfway between the two.

Can you tell us something about the paints or brushes or techniques you use that would be of interest to those who would like to learn or to improve their ability to paint?

Definitely I recommend to use a very good pointed brush, even for people who paint their first flat. To be honest I didn’t try many different brands, but I did try some and my favourite is always Winsor & Newton series 7, long hair. I use most of the time, if not always, a triple zero.

As for paints, is not that easy. I use exclusively oils but I think every technique with this medium is too “personal” to fit well to someone else. Apart from one’s own personality, the consistency of oils make it a very flexible medium you can use in many different ways. Good techniques comes after practice. A very good way to develop good technique sooner, if you are self-taught, is simply copying from a well painted flat or painting. I did it many time and to me is like having a painting lesson directly from a Master! The pictures show copies of Raffaello Madonna of the chair, Andrea Appiani portrait of Napoleon and Paolo Uccello Saint George and the dragon (detail).

Do you have favorite engravers you enjoy painting?

Franz Karl Mohr is my favorite. It’s not a matter of accurate details and precision, his figures transmit feelings and emotions. He also had a very personal style, sometimes grotesque. I remember last Kulmbach (2011), I bought a little scene of Mephisto; I know it was made by Mohr (I have a book-catalogue of his work) but when I got it on my hands I had a strange feeling, it wasn’t Mohr’s style. So I asked to the vendor and he replied to me (a bit annoyed) “it is Mohr!”. When I came home I checked it on the book and the answer was very simple: Mohr designed the piece but someone else engraved it.

As for contemporary engravers I really love Vladimir Nuzhdin; he combines originality and “surgical” precision.

(Sculpted by Vladimir Nuzhdin and painted by Gianfranco Speranza)

Is there anything you would like to say that I have not thought to ask?

Well, talking about flats, my mind automatically goes to Kulmbach; for the serious and not-so-serious flats painter I highly recommend a visit to that wonderful fair. By doing so you discover what and who is behind this little word, the incredible quantity and variety of subject! For sure you will be inspired, I know people who only paint round figures that started painting flats after a visit to “the Mecca”.

(After our interview, Gianfranco sent me a photograph of a piece that includes a background painted by Serge Franzoia a few years ago. The figures were painted by Gianfranco.)

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