Art is Peter

by Mirabai Howard-Geoghan

    "It's time for a drawing lesson," says artist Peter Spinelli. The morning sun has already heated his studio so my forehead and upper lip are moist. I identify with the piece of Archie's watercolor paper he has just run under the faucet. Peter Spinelli's studio is also his apartment. This is a real artist's loft. Peter lives with his art, "It is not a routine, it is a part of life". He lays down the paper on his work bench. "You can watch, but don't say anything", he reaches for a purple pastel. The powdery pastel clumps and runs on the sopping paper in random lines. "See how I keep my hand moving?" He changes colors, also seemingly random. "Everything naturally comes together, but when you start to think about it, it falls apart." A form takes shape. It is an abstract portrait of an Asian girl he met.

     Now it is my turn to draw. Peter suggests drawing part of my bed and the wall behind it. I lay down some color. As I hesitate he says, "Too slow! Keep moving". He tells me to loosen up. "Those are a books, right? Well put a circle there too, you don't have to make it regular. If you do it becomes an architecture drawing." As I am holding a red pastel, he grabs my hand and moves it around, scribbling on the paper. "It is not about the color of your bedspread, you are drawing the feeling of the room."

    Peter paints constantly. He has to. When he was telling me the story of his youth, he exclaimed, "I don't know what I would have done without my art!". His paintings are very personal. He paints from his life: landscapes, stories, feelings, New York cityscapes, portraits, nudes, and animals. He is generally an abstract artist himself, but his favorite painters are Vermeer and Monet. He likes the classics. Sometimes his painting take on a surreal feeling, but they are truly just parts of his life, stories, expressions.


    Spinelli went to the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. He majored in Fine Art with an emphasis on painting and drawing. In art school Peter learned classical methods of painting, but when he apprenticed for some great painters he learned what it really is to be an artist. He apprenticed with Frank Roth, Alan Dˇ¦Arcangelo, Chuck Heinemann, Malcolm Morley, and Sal Scarpita. While School of Visual Arts taught Peter skills, his apprenticeships allowed him to discover his style and passion. He used to work all day, go to school, or his apprenticeships, in the evening, and then paint until three in the morning. He still lives in the same loft he had during college. He still paints everyday.

    Now Peter Spinelli wakes up early, every day, even Saturday. Every week he brings out his sawhorses and tools to stretch another canvas. Every week a newly finished painting goes on the wall and an older one is put away into the large rack that he built for them. The rack is 10 by 15 feet, floor to lofty ceiling. It takes up as much space as some New York City apartments, and it is overflowing. Peter and I like to watch the new paintings dry over the week. Oils are neat because they change color as they dry. Peter pointed out, "My paintings are totally different when they dry, they have minds of their own". He has been doing this for more than 30 years. He will continue to do this for another 30 years.

    The work of Peter Spinelli will continue to evolve and expand. He has several multimedia projects on the horizon, as well as some collaborations with fellow artists. Peter Spinelli's artwork is a wonderful investment, fiscally and visually.