Portrait artist blends realism and beauty

By Ryan Ward | October 4, 2023


Philip Salamone is a classical portrait artist, learning the craft at both UW-Madison and Grand Central Atelier in New York City. In 2010 he returned to Madison, and in an effort to cultivate a community, to teach classes and workshops, and to learn from others, he founded the Atwood Atelier—an institution devoted to teaching traditional drawing and painting from life.

“It’s hard to say when I realized that I was going to do art for the rest of my life,” says Salamone. “I sort of feel like it chose me, you know. I tried choosing other paths, but I couldn’t tear myself away from it.”

It took years for Salamone to master his craft, as painting realistic-looking oil paintings requires perfection and patience. Salamone learned, however, that realism is only part of the battle for a good painting.

“I think when you’re younger, just making something look real is just such a lofty goal and it still is,” says Salamone. “But making something look interesting and beautiful is like, just seems elusive and fun.”

Salamone’s goal for both him and his students is to create a story with each painting. To be able to showcase who a person is by just looking at their portrait.

“When you’re looking at someone’s face, you can almost tell what type of life they lived,” says Salamone. “Why is that? I don’t know, but I feel like it’s my job to capture that.”

Salamone has not only found a connection between himself and the people he paints but also with his students. It’s something he didn’t anticipate when he first started teaching.

“There’s a connection with people who have this kind of same really unique interest. And I think just, just being able to kind of have that connection with people it’s possible to like surprise what you thought you were,” says Salamone. “I think just making something that’s beautiful and meaningful and skillful is just such an amazing thing to do.”

Ryan Ward

Ryan Ward

Ryan Ward is a producer for the “Wisconsin Life” project and can rest easy after he finally found the perfect jar of homemade dill pickles at the farmer’s market in Madison. … just like his Grandma Shirley use to make!
2023-10-26T15:35:39-05:00Tags: , , |

Sign Up Form

Sign Up for Our Bi-Weekly Newsletter

Get your favorite Wisconsin Life stories, meet the crew, and go behind the scenes.

Our Favorite Collections

Storyteller Rodney Lambright II's comic series about the rich relationship between a single father, his young daughter and his retirement-age parents.
For the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, we discover how Wisconsinites experienced the war both at home and on the battlefield.
Ice, cold and winter are an integral part of what it means to live in Wisconsin. "Ice Week" explores the many ways that ice defines us.
Food plays a central part in many holiday traditions. This series honors the foods and meals that make the day.
Escape winter with a look at some of Wisconsin's favorite sports and games.
"Living the Wisconsin Life" is an online series exploring the little things that make living in Wisconsin fun, interesting and meaningful.