Nicholas Scalise

Mike Coleman's Testimonial  [Back]

Nick Scalise was a master painter and draftsman, this is a simple and undeniable fact. He made thousands of beautiful and insightful paintings and drawings. It made no difference whether he was using watercolors, ink, oil, pen and pencil, charcoal, conte crayon or gouache, he was at home in any of these mediums. Perhaps most importantly, it was what Nick Scalise saw and felt that impelled his art to such moving dimensions. Here was a man with a deep compassion and heart for humanity and a love of the human spirit. The subject matter of most of his paintings was the humble common folk of all races and nationalities. He loved the hard working attitudes of these people, their pious demeanor, their motherliness and often their childlikeness. These things of the spirit inspired him. Not surprisingly then that he found the subjects of his art an elderly woman sweeping a front sidewalk, a man walking across a plaza, a boy finding adventure in a cardboard box, a man selling fish in a market, a donkey with a decorated saddle, a stain on a wall, someone looking out a window or a braid on the back of a head. To us, his admirers, we often ask, how wonderful for someone to transform these little things of importance for us.


Nick had a greatly developed ability to manipulate the various components of the picture he was making. He knew that even a slight turn of the pencil or a too opaque blue in a certain spot could hinder a detail and therefore the meaning of what he was trying to achieve. Every little thing in a drawing or painting was important to him. He marveled how a certain tone of color done in a particular way could express so much feeling. He loved talking about how a wash of color could express so many ideas, how the view of the back of a head could be so alluring and how a certain fabric could be represented. His technique was always admired even from his student days. He was a master of contrasts blurred and hard lines, wash and detail, the contrasts of opaque and transparent and near and distant. He understood the power of perspective both linear and color effect. Although a realist in his approach he understood what contributions the expressionists and impressionists had made and he admired their works. Sometimes, when he found that he could not finish a painting he would add another piece of paper onto his original, making more space to accomplish something he had in mind. At other times he would cut pieces out or bleach out colors he was not happy with. He worked and reworked things until alterations and studies were pointing him in the right direction. He was like an orchestra conductor, detailed, inspired, expectant and demanding. Of course, he demanded of himself. His pictures tell his story as well as that of mankind and we are the better for having them to see. Being an exceptionally gifted artist from his student days, his talent matured into adulthood resulting in astounding paintings and drawings of feeling and power crafted by his masterful technique.


These recollections were the result of my remembering the many vivid and lively discussions that I had with Nick Scalise in his studio and home in Meriden, CT.

We talked about his art, art history and life in general. He was a friend and example.


Mike Coleman