Sunday, July 4, 2010

So this week when Mary Beth Mckenzie worked on my underpainting I decided it could be a good idea to take a photo of her corrections. Then I decided it might be helpful to take a photo of my painting day by day and try to figure out where I made good, clear decisions and where I simply pushed paint around on a canvas.
PHASE 1: I took this photo right after Mary Beth worked on my painting. She came by and quickly corrected a very dubious drawing, and essentially did all of what you see here. She doesn't use any turp or oils- just directly "scrubs" the paint onto the canvas. She works very fast and rarely hesitates. But every stroke she puts down serves a clear function. She told me painting is about "going back and forth between line, negative shape, and volume" and that I can't "trust anything" I put down until I'm really sure of it, and that often won't happen until I have all the corresponding parts down as well.
PHASE 2: This is at at the end of day one. I almost didn't put the lights in but I'm glad I did. In a way, I think I like the painting the most at this stage. It reads in a simple way and I like the midtone patterns on her upper back/lower neck.

PHASE 3: End of day 2 and the weakest stage in the painting, I think. I felt very timid and focused on the midtones (the hardest part of the painting) instead of blocking in the chair or her red robe. As a result I lost a lot of the lights i had established the day before and those I did keep (like her left shoulder) I just made lighter and they didn't read at all. At this point I really felt like I was going backwards not forward. Look at how sharp that shoulder blade is! It looks more like the corner of a cube jutting out of her back.

PHASE 4: Still I worked very slowly, but felt like I finally started to regain control of the painting. I tried to visualize the different shapes on her back and how light would travel across them. Her shoulder blades gave me the most trouble and I never really figured them out. Still, it looks vaguely 3-D I think. Also brought back some of the lights I had lost the day before and toned them down a bit so they weren't that far off from the midtones and darks.
PHASE 5: Last day to finish the painting and I finally realize how important the chair/robe/background is. If, for example, I had blocked in the chair earlier, it would have been a LOT easier to show its reflected blue light on the shadowed part of her back. And if I had done that, then it would have been easier to get a nicer/ higher chroma color in for the midtones on the middle section of her back. Of course, this is all stuff I discover 3o minutes before class is over. eh.
Also- I couldn't get her hair. It's way too mat.
But on the positive side, I really had a lot of fun playing with the palette knife instead of using a brush. It's probably hard to see from these photos, but a lot of lights are put on with the knife.
Oh, I also lost the shadow on her cheek/jaw which I had in the day before. I may go back and try to fix that.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Quick poses with toned paper

The following drawings where done on white paper toned with charcoal powder. I saw a fellow student and amazing draftsman, Isaac Pelepko, doing this one day and decided to give it a shot. I found it immensely helpful. Working with toned paper forces you to erase as much as you draw, which really forces you to see the lights on a figure (i.e. the parts of an object that light hits directly, as opposed to the shadows, which the light doesn't reach).

I thought I was being clever by establishing my lights in some sort of a hatching system. Now i just find it distracting.
I remember drawing this one and hating it at the time. In hindsight, I don't dislike it nearly as much. Its very rough which may be the reason I like (and dislike) it.

These don't read very well but whatever.

This is my best one, I think. Which is funny, because I don't really remember drawing it at the time.

I only worked this way for about a week but learned soo much. Last week I went back to trying it and will post my results soon. Now that I know more about modeling factors, I'll hopefully be more aware of the midtones!

I'm linking to Isaac Pelepko's website here. Just a disclaimer; Isaac's stuff might be a bit racy for some but its also very very funny.
This was done sometime in November or December at the Art Student's league? It was a 20 minute pose and I got very lucky with it I think. Mostly because it reads somewhat as being three dimensional and at the time, I didn't really know how to break the figure down in terms of its modeling factors, or rather, its varying parts that make it look like an object existing in space (e.g. the shadows, half tones, lights, reflected light etc). I'm certain that if it was a 40 minute pose I would have ruined it. Hell, I probably would have ruin it even now if I tried to make it a "finished" drawing!
A 1 or 2 minute pose that was very fun to draw.
I'm proud of this one because, unlike most of my stuff, I had a clear idea from the beginning on how to execute the drawing. I very roughly drew in the basic mass of the figure and afterwards went in and made small adjustments that (hopefully) made it look more specific and "real". For example, I first saw the torso and ribcage as a sphere or some kind, and only afterwards went in with harder lines and realized that there was foreshortening under her right arm ( sort of like a triangle of negative space beginning under her arm pit and extending near the side of her breast).
Looking at this drawing and trying to comment on different parts of her body is making me realize that I really need to study anatomy! Frank Porcu's anatomy lectures here I come!

Work from the last few months

So I have a few photos I've taken of my work over the last few months. Most of these are very quick poses, done usually in 1 to 5 minute periods. I'll take more photos of my paintings and post them soon. All comments and critics welcome.

These are two quick poses I did a while ago, probably back in August or September of last year at Spring Street Studio in Manhattan. They're two of my favorite, not because they are "correct" (Something goofy is going on with the rib cage of the figure on the right, for example). Far from it. But I like them because they are some of the first drawings where I attempted to see the figure completely in terms of abstract, geometrical shapes. It's a great training exercise and can really help at getting the "gesture" of a pose.

Pizza to art

Okay so I've decided to transform this blog from one about pizza to one about making art. I'm going to post the sketches and paintings I've been making at the Art Student's League in the hopes of somehow keeping a visual record of my progress. I'm going to try to post everything I do, whether I like it or not. Hopefully, I'll still do the occasional pizza review or talk about different ideas have for pizzas. If anyone has any pizza suggests or comments, please keep posting them! Also, anything to do with art is good, too.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

apple, guanciale, and ricotta pie

Today, I made a pizza with apples, guanciale, parm, ricotta, chevre, and a little sausage. I cut the apple horizontally and sliced it thinly using the mandolin. I first put down large chunks of parm on the dough, hoping they would crispy up in a nice hard way. They didn't. I put the apple on top of the parm, followed by the ricotta and goat cheese. I hoped that the apple, between the three cheeses would be well insulated against the open flame of the oven and luckily I was right. It didn't burn and instead baked nicely. Its juices mixed with the cheeses and baked into the dough, giving the entire pie a very subtle, slightly sweet flavor. The guanciale crisped up very nicely and added an important element that the pie desperately needed: salt. I enjoyed the sausage but am not sure it added anything to the pie.

Next time, I want to cut the parm is long thin slices and hope they crisp up like the burnt edges on a grilled cheese.

Everyone seemed to like it, even the guys in the back kitchen. I've still been thinking about a pinto bean, chorizo and feta cheese pizza. let you know what I come up with.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pizza Creation Tuesdays

Working during the day on tuesdays at Roberta's is a bit slow. There's a lot of prep work and not as much pizza making. But one of my favorite parts of the day is having the time to experiment with different pies. Gabe, a chef from the back kitchen usually comes up front with an idea for a new creation.

Last week he made pizza with chickpeas, paprika, ricotta and thin slices of blood red oranges. It was amazingly zestful and light. It took pizza in a direction I had never even thought of. I absolutely loved it.

This week he made a pie with Coppa (an italian salumi), tomato sauce, mozzarella, swiss chard, and cured green olives. The Coppa developed a nice bacon crispiness in the oven which almost cut the surprisingly strong, somewhat bitter flavor or the swiss chard. The green olives had a spicy punch that lingered on your tongue the entire way. The sauce and mozzarella seemed to bring all the toppings together.

I'm going into work tomorrow morning and showing Angelo, my boss, how to make the neapolitan dough I learned how to make in Naples. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I made pizza for Tony Bennett

So I made pizza for Tony Bennett last night. Well, actually, Paige, my co-worker, made it while I looked on.

He ordered a margherita and a Beastmaster which has tomato sauce, capers, jalapenos, mozz, gorgonzola, red onion and sausage. Mr. Bennett likes his pizzas round and with the cheese on top.

And I can say now, from personal eye witness account, that all that tabloid slander surrounding the supposed "Tony Bennett pizza eating crisis" is completely not true. Mr. Bennett eats his pies in a very proficient manner He eats pizza like your average joe (pointed end first leading towards the crust).

Take that National Enquirer.

Also, last week, a few co-workers told me that Kirsten Dunst came into Roberta's. But I still think it was just a blonde girl with an expensive coat.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

idea for pizza making

Last night my friend and his parents came to Roberta's while I was working. My friend is a vegan and his parents are vegetarians. So I tried my hand at a non-meat, non-dairy pie for them and came up with one with tomato sauce, garlic, red onions, Brussels sprouts, red pepper flakes and oregano.

At about 11 I had my dinner break and and made the same pie minus the onions . Then something pretty cool happened. I started to add gorgonzola to each slice I had. The strong flavor of the gorgonzola mixed incredible well with the bitter, slightly burnt flavor of the brussel sprouts. Then to top it off, the pepper flakes curbed both the gorg and the sprouts before they became overwhelmingly dominant- ending each bite with a spicy kick. Despite putting two ladles of sauce on the pie, I couldn't taste the tomato at all!

That gave me an idea for a new approach towards making pies. I'm very meat and cheese centric when it comes to developing new types of pizza. I'll think of a spicy soppressata or a creamy burrata and use that as the jumping off point for the rest of the pie. Maybe I'll add some olives to the salami or some onions to the burrata and then try to think of another ingredient that compliments the first two flavors well- building the pie outward from there. I start with the cheese or meat because they are generally the most distinguished ingredients.

But what if you started with a vegetable as the center of your pie first and only added other ingredients (including cheese and meat) that were complimentary to it? This is what I did last night when I made the pie for my friend and his parents. I thought of brussels sprouts first, and only afterwards, did I think of the gorgonzola. I think this approach will yield some interesting new vegetarian (and non vegetarian) pies. I'm excited to try it.

I'm also very excited about the brussels sprouts, gorg, and pepper flake combo. I think it has a lot of potential to create an intensely delicious pie.

I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Monday, January 25, 2010

I worked at Roberta's all weekend, including doing my first double shift on saturday. It was stressful to say the least ( i barely looked up from my station all night). So if anyone came in to say hi, thanks for stopping by. Sorry I didn't see you.
I'll write more about work soon. For now, I'm pretty exhausted (my back and neck the most). But to say the least, I think I will really like working at Roberta's. Within the last few days I've already learned sooo much about how temperamental the dough can be . I'm looking forward to learning more.

Below are some pictures of me and my brother making pizza over christmas break. We made the pies in my godfather's brick oven which he just finished building himself. We got a really nice rise out of our dough.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Depitting Olives

Today was my first day at Roberta's Pizzeria in Brooklyn. It was a bit of slow day. The lack of costumers lead me to other things, such as depitting olives. I depitted 293 olives today- give or take. It's hard to tell the exact number because every dozen or so I'd forget that I was counting and just guess at the correct number.

I depitted the olives by smashing them against a baking pan. I quickly discovered that to successfully smash each olive, I couldn't smash more than two at a time. It went very slowly at first.

Then something miraculous happened. The olives began to warm up and they became easier to smash. I could smash THREE olives at a time! Eureka!


I quickly tried to smash 4 olives at once and discovered that it was an impossibility. It was just one olive too much. I had gotten too prideful. I humbly moved back down to three.

Not all olives are created equal. Some are soft and some are hard. Some have small pits that easily detach themselves from their olive meatiness and others possess large, stubborn pits that fight the entire way- making my fingers work harder.

What kind of olive would I be? An easy going olive that gleefully jumps from its outer shell or a tough little fucker that's sole purpose is to make the guy who depits them angry and spiteful?

These are a few of the questions I asked myself while depitting 293 olives- give or take.


A party of six comes into Roberta and places a large order.

"Hey Zach, you need an extra hand making those pies?"
"No, Gus. Just keep depitting those olives. You're doing a great job."


There's a one pizza one shift role at Roberta's which means each day I get to make and eat my own pizza. The pie I made today was a mishmash of all the toppings I've wanted to try but havent gotten a chance to yet: It had tomato sauce, mozzarella, taleggio, speck, red onions, and brussel sprouts. It was an overcrowded pizza that wasn't particularly good.

The taleggio and sprouts were easily my favorite ingredients.
The taleggio is very well balanced- creamy and strongly tart towards the end. I can't imagine that it will stand out too well with a tomato based pizza though. I mostly see it working well on white pies- acting as an anchoring flavor-pulling together your mozzarella, ricotta and even parmigiano.
I was surprised at how flavorful the brussel sprouts are. They have a clean, slightly bitter taste that reminded me of a good egg roll. Can't wait to start experimenting with it as a topping.

I was least impressed by the speck. I don't have anything against Roberta's speck specifically, just speck in general. It tasted way to salty too me. And though it adds a nice textual crunch, I don't find it to have the same body of flavor you get with a soppressata.

That's it for now. More on my olive depitting adventures next post.

New Job and great pizza

It's been a few months since my last post. a quick update: I just got a job at Roberta's !

It's in Bushwick off of the L train. Anyone in Brooklyn or greater NY should come out and visit me. I'm working today.

I'll post more soon about Roberta's friendly environment and great selection of pies. Until then, hopefully this will tide you over.