Michael Stasinos – Urban Landscape and Figurative Painting


Michael painting on the Rue de Turenne, Paris. Photo: Martina Meister

My earlier work was primarily figurative painting (an interest I have never lost); however, my most recent focus has been on a thematic series of Seattle cityscapes, as well as urban landscapes from Tacoma, New York, Paris, and Amsterdam.

In my urban landscapes I pursue the culture and “anthropology” of a place, not only by capturing the buildings, the streets, the highways, but everything right down to the graffiti, the signs, and the garbage on the street. Developing a strong composition while simultaneously pursuing this level of detail is a balancing act and an ongoing challenge.

I don’t pursue detail simply for the sake of detail; rather it serves deeper aesthetic purposes. Detail is a way to help make a painting interesting from any viewing distance. Certain painters — like VermeerCanaletto, and the Dutch Fijnschilder Gerrit Dou of the 17th century, or contemporary such as artists like Antonio López García and Rackstraw Downes —  pursue realism with meticulous detail. What is not observed in the viewer’s initial contemplation of their work comes to life as one gets closer and discovers a new world. I am awestruck by such painters, whose work can give viewers a layered visual experience. Detail can also build narrative and document time and place better than most historians or anthropologists could hope. People often make the observation that my work is photographic. However, this in not the case. It’s true that my work is detailed, but aesthetically, I  strive to instill a level of painterlyess, which is quite obvious in detail views.


Michael sketches at Via Cesare Cesariano in Milan, Italy.

My goal is to capture a moment in time through detailed observation and meditation. I don’t conceive my work so much as a quick Impressionist sketch, like a runner sprinting to the finishing line; rather, I see it as a marathon in which I must push the painting as far as my skill and patience allows, no matter the cost to my comfort. I work on location as much as possible, drawing inspiration and information from life. In this way I become engaged in a wrestling match with my perceptions of changing light, weather, constructions zones, and all my intimate discoveries of the location. When I return to a location day after day, week after week, I begin to discover the personality of a place. Like a fine portrait, the details of the environment can reveal clues to the narrative and culture of the subject. I like to think of myself as a visual archeologist, digging up visual clues in the minutia of detail and debris that I find at my locations.  As a result, my paintings excel in intimate observations.