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My primary goal in these interviews is to inspire you with stories of people who make a living making art and who consider it a "real job." Your art and your career may be on a different path, but there is always something to learn from the experience of your colleagues.


Nicholas Petrucci Brings Back the Jeweled
Portraiture of the Masters

There is often additional information on the recording that is not in this written interview.  Inspire yourself and listen while you make art.

Nicholas Petrucci in his Studio

© Nicholas Petrucci in his studio above Clam Bay 

Nicholas Petrucci's paintings have been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in museums and galleries throughout the Midwest and Florida.  In addition, his commissioned work is in corporate, public and private collections throughout the United States and abroad. Nicholas lectures and leads workshops on classical art and portraiture.


Nicholas' paintings have been featured in American Art Collector, Southwest Art, Estate Lifestyles, Naples Art & Antiques, Naples Winter Wine Festival, Showcase Southwest Florida Entertainment, Bonita Banner and others. Nicholas lectures at museums and aboard ships on classical art.  His paintings and drawings have won highest honors in competitions throughout the country. He is a member of the International Guild of Realism, American Portrait Society, Oil Painters of America, NANPA and a juried member of the prestigious American Society of Traditional Artists (ASTA).


I first met Nicolas by telephone after meeting his wife Connie Bransilver a few years ago when I was presenting at the NANPA Summit and was delighted to meet him in person there recently. I was struck by his clarity of purpose when he told me that his aim was to bring back the jeweled portraiture of the masters.

Nicholas Petrucci at the easel

© Nicholas Petrucci at Easel 

A.C.T.: What prompted you to start your professional art career?
"Standing in a museum looking down the hall at Gainsborough's 'Blue Boy' it seemed as if the only light was on that painting. It seemed to be surrounded by darkness.  It was the first time I felt a connection between my imaginary world and one of my five senses. Although I was only thirteen I understood that this was an avenue that could enable me to express what I could not do with words. How was it possible to take parts of the earth and mix colors that could create such beautiful images, I wondered.  In the museum I was surrounded with history from mosaics to sculptures and paintings. I marveled at the elegance of these masterful pieces of art. It was more than just an illusion.  It was magic to me."

A.C.T.: What makes an artist professional?
"My view on professionalism is dedication to your craft and intellectual curiosity.  I have always thought it is enough to believe in yourself and your art. 

"To be a professional in other's eyes is a judgment they must make." 

A.C.T.: What is your artistic direction? What is your "life's work" as an artist, and what legacy do you want to leave?
"It was not until I entered the University of Illinois that I was able to take an art course along with my curriculum of philosophy and pre-med courses.  I enjoyed the sciences but I knew there had to be something more that would stimulate my interest.  Because classical art was not offered I pursued my education in modern art.

"Today I have come full circle and returned to mastering the techniques of the Great Masters.  The beauty, the drama and the use of light has become my focus as I apply it to contemporary works. It's the reason I want to get up and paint in the morning. The light has a story to tell, not just to focus the viewer's eye but to lead them almost as if it were a musical score.

"My art is a statement of what I believe about myself and the skills I have acquired to portray that knowledge on canvas. If you believe in something strong enough, sometimes it comes true. In the novel 'A Picture of Dorian Gray' by Oscar Wilde, the artist captures a young man's soul on canvas. As the young man ages and accumulates great wealth, all the sins that he commits appear as scarring and disfigurement on the painting instead of on Dorian. That affected me almost as much as the museums. Is it possible to capture a person's character in depth? It's the result of  a lot of really focused hard work.

"If others can sense the emotion from my brush then I have succeeded.  My legacy is not mine to choose."

A.C.T.: What is your art business direction? Where and when will you have a retrospective?
"My business direction is to find avenues that can showcase my work for those who can appreciate what I have attempted to achieve.  I believe there is a segment of our society that portraiture appeals to and I must continue to improve my skills regardless of current trends.

Nicholas Petrucci Dama Madonna 20

©Nicholas Petrucci - Dama Madonna
20" x 22" Oil on Canvas

The human face is just as beautiful and contemporary today as it was five hundred years ago. In one sense portraiture offers a kind of immortality and it is my responsibility as an artists to give the very best I have to offer.
"Longer term we are working on the Guardians of the Everglades with the Deering Estate at Cutler in Miami. The Guardians project is scheduled to open officially in the Fall of 2012. It is a multimedia-exhibition featuring my portraits of ten living individuals who have worked to conserve the Everglades ecosystem, accompanied by a video interview of each of them.

Nicholas Petrucci Clyde Butcher of the Everglades

©Nicholas Petrucci - Clyde Butcher of the Everglades
72"x48" Oil on Board

"In addition to my work, it will feature the huge black and white landscape photographs of artist Clyde Butcher ( and my wife's images of the ephemeral native orchids of our sub-tropics printed on diaphanous silk banners hung from the ceiling.  (
"Working with the Deering Estate and their trained staff, we will produce an in-depth educational experience for children and adults, as well as the video interviews, and other surprises to bring visitors into the beauty of the swamps and a greater understanding of their value.

"Prior to that grand opening, we will be showing some of the works at the Museum of Florida December 2011 and January 2012, and then in February 2012 the same limited number of works will be on display at the Museum of the Everglades during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas festival. We will be keynote speakers at both of the latter events, bringing art and conservation together to create understanding, awe and action.

Franklin Adams and Nicholas Petrucci

Franklin Adams and Nicholas Petrucci ©Connie Bransilver

"I met a man named Franklin Adams who by all accounts is a true gladesman.  He tells wonderful stories about south Florida in the 1940s and '50s.  He spins magical tales, guiding us through the swamplands, some long gone, others still thriving, thanks in part to Frank's efforts. He takes a moment, his eyes drift, then return to the listener as he describes a part of nature he respects, protects and has called home for most of his life. In his words, 'There is a sense of freedom.  You have to experience it. Being part of nature is a rare thing.' Frank still goes 'out there' alone to experience the freedom, and I chose to picture him alone with his morning coffee and the quiet. He once said to me that he had asked his family not to worry if one day he did not return home after spending time in the Everglades.  It would be ok because that is where he would want his story to end.

"Recently my wife and I spent a morning in Everglades National Park that took our breath away. There was not another human soul as far as the eye could see or the ear could hear. It was truly beautiful and peaceful with only the sound of the breeze, the rustling of trees and sawgrass, dragonflies busy with their daily chores and a lone Ibis jabbing in the shallow water. It was then I fully understood Frank's moment.

Nicholas Petrucci Clyde Butcher of the Everglades

Clyde Butcher ©2010 Nicholas Petrucci from  

"I painted Clyde Butcher emerging from the darkness of the Everglades swamps, bringing light on what was previously feared and reviled.  His enormous, highly detailed black and white photographic images bring the beauty and complexity of these sub-tropical wetlands to the attention of the public. He is revered throughout Florida and throughout the world conservation community, so I wanted to show him as the powerful but warm individual he is.  I only suggested the swamp surrounding him to focus on Clyde himself.

"Teaching tools will be downloadable. School groups will be encouraged to visit. Our idea is to take a photograph of each painting; send it to the schools and have the children write a story about the painting. Then we'll pick winners and the child will stand next to the painting on opening night and tell adults what the painting is about.

"The message is inescapable: the Everglades ecosystem is unique, necessary for our health and should be preserved. We aim to bring its beauty and importance to people all over the world through the lives of these Living Legends.

Chairman Buffalo Tiger Image - Nicholas Petrucci

©Nicholas Petrucci - Chairman Buffalo Tiger of the Miccosukee

72"x42" Oil on Board

"Ninety year old Miccosukee Chairman Buffalo Tiger has always lived in the Everglades. He was the Indian leader who convinced the US Government to recognize the Miccosukee as a separate tribe from the Seminoles. He is now and has always been a man of peace.  It will be a six foot painting of a man who to this day still extends his peace pipe to us all regardless of what he has had to sacrifice. We are working with the Miccosukee Tribe to use the painting of Chairman Buffalo Tiger to help re-energize the tribe and to help reinstate the beauty of their culture.  A member of the Miccosukee Tribe has asked if it would be possible to use the painting of Chairman Buffalo Tiger to help reinstate the beauty of their culture to their children.  I, of course, said yes.

"We will develop political and funding goals for Everglades restoration in conjunction with NGOs. We envision the exhibition entertaining, educating and inspiring people to know, love and protect the Everglades."

A.C.T.: Please describe a typical day, and a typical month so readers can understand how you manage your time, money and energy.
"A typical day begins with my wife, enjoying a cup of coffee, looking out over Clam Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, watching the sunrise and the birds fishing.

"I then clear my desk of business and turn towards my easel in preparation for the day's work. When I am painting it is pure concentration and focus.  Although we have a great view I am usually facing my work and my back faces the water and the northern light; however, the exception is when I take a coffee break -- and I take many coffee breaks.  I need them because that focus I talked about takes a lot of energy to maintain. When I am working I don't always hear people talking to me. It's that canvas and me - one on one.

"There are, of course, days I have scheduled for errands or varnishing a painting.  I am fortunate to be able to use my friend's exotic car shop that has a spray booth where I can attain a dust free finish.  Some days I will paint late into the evening but I try to wrap it up by 7pm. I try to get in a minimum of 5 hours a day, 5 or 6 days a week.

"On Sunday my wife and I have a business meeting, catching each other up on what has happened during the week, and meshing our calendars, including how it might affect our five year strategy." 

A.C.T.: What peak moments have you had as an artist?
"To see a child's face light up after watching me do something and copying it and learning mind and hand can become one.  I have always enjoyed teaching.

"I am very comfortable having the reputation of being a painter in the style of the Old Masters."

A.C.T.: How do you define success and how do you celebrate it?
"My finest compliment comes when a client is in awe of his or her portrait.

"I also celebrate within myself each time I discover something new about my craft, or solve a problem creating a portrait. It is like having an 'aha' moment.

"Connie and I celebrate together by giving ourselves a trip to Holland, another to Paris or a smaller one, a weekend SCUBA diving in the Florida Keys.  We go to movies, and we spend time together on the beach or simply being together in this wonderful place."

© Nicholas Petrucci La Femme en Bleu 2 36

© Nicholas Petrucci - La Femme en Bleu 2
36" x 30" Oil on Canvas

A.C.T.: What obstacles have you encountered in your art business and how have you handled them?
"I believe if you can't go over an obstacle, go around it.  I have always told other artists to ignore non-constructive criticism particularly from unqualified or uninformed critics.  If you believe in yourself, others will as well."

 A.C.T.: What opportunities has a professional approach to your career brought you that you might otherwise not have had?
"I've been fortunate to work alongside many excellent artists. My professional approach to art has earned the respect of my peers and others who know and appreciate art.  Not only has it opened doors, but it instills confidence to those who believe in you.  People want to be excited with you and want to participate in your success." 

A.C.T.: Who are your role models and mentors? What was the best advice they gave you?
"It was Edward Betts, author of 'Splash', who taught me to first paint what I see, then paint what I know. It was the 'know' part that inspired me to further my education, and it continues today.

"I was also fortunate to meet an instructor by the name of Frank Covino whose family has retained many of the formulas and techniques of the Old Masters, and he has shared many of them with me.  This information was the missing link to all that I had previously learned and gave all my previous research cohesiveness and usefulness.

"I sometimes wonder if the ghosts of Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, and David, might be lounging in my studio from time to time, sometimes disgruntled because they are unable to communicate with me and show me how to solve a problem."

A.C.T.: What is your art marketing strategy? What promotional materials and actions do you use most often? How do you use your art to support causes you believe in?
"The basic strategy is to identify my market then to communicate specifically to them and also to a broader, educated mix of influential people to create the 'buzz.'  Not everyone can afford my originals, but they can appreciate it -perhaps buy a print-  and inform others.

© Nicholas Petrucci The Patriot c.1942 31

© Nicholas Petrucci - The Patriot c.1942
31" x 27" Oil on Canvas

"My wife, Connie Bransilver, manages our mailing list and has name recognition in our community that has opened doors by way of her contacts.

"I strongly believe in supporting other artists and giving to our community at large. To mention a few instances, I have donated many pieces, such as a giclee print of 'Her Honor,' a Nigerian woman, to a Tanzanian children's charity, portraits or instruction to the Conservancy of SW Florida, to the Naples International Wine Festival supporting children's charities in Collier County, and to the NAACP. 

Her Honor - NIcholas Petrucci

© Nicholas Petrucci - Her Honor

24"x20" Oil on Canvas

I am donating half of the price of the portrait of the great primatologist, Dr. Jane Goodall, to support her institute and environmental education throughout the world. I have painted and will donate 'Father Michael,' a 6' x 4' oil on board to Trinity-by-the-Cove, and my entire endeavor in 'Guardians of the Everglades' is to support the fragile Everglades ecosystem.

Father Michael - NIcholas Petrucci

© Nicholas Petrucci - Father Michael of Trinity

70" x 39" Oil on Board

A.C.T.: What changes have you experienced in the art market and how have you navigated them? What lessons have you learned?
"I am witnessing a classical revival in the art world and quite possibly the re-emergence of classical art leading the market.
"Because of the downturn in the economy we decided to engage the art market when others believed it was not economically sound to do so.  It was the right decision. As the economy strengthens -- and it is -- we are already positioned to sell into it."

A.C.T.: What legal measures do you take to protect your work? How do you plan to handle copyright if the Orphan Works Law passes?
"As a trained lawyer my wife is more than capable of handling our business affairs.
"As I understand it, the Orphan Works Law does not seem to apply to me as all my works are copyrighted, and I will set up trusts to be sure they remain 'unorphaned.'
"I also have obtained official trademarks on two of my marks, the palette on my business cards and my 'Continuing the Legacy . . .' tag line."

A.C.T.: What advice would you pass on to artists who want to succeed in any economy?

  • "Learn your craft and strive to be the best you can be and others will take notice.
  • Try to draw everyday and read books outside your own field.
  • Establish as many contacts as you can and remain humble about your talent.
  • Follow the leaders in your field and then tweak it so that it apples to your work and goals. 
  • Never burn any bridges. Sometimes that person will be the one to help you.
  • Listen to the advice of those who are willing to share their success with you and then use your creative ability on yourself to enhance your own style.
  • Most of all, be the kind of person who can extend a helping hand." 

A.C.T.: How has your involvement in one-to-one coaching with A.C.T. furthered your career?

  • "A.C.T. offered us access to ideas and procedures we were not familiar with.
  • A.C.T. established the importance of following a five year plan.
  • A.C.T.  offered new insights on how to market our ideas in new ways.
  • Aletta and Robin are tireless cheerleaders and are always there for us!"  
If you don't have someone in your studio behind the scenes, don't let that hold you back. If you need an accountability partner for your art business or someone to roll up sleeves to produce art marketing materials or work on your web site, just let us know. We have a whole team to help you. Start with a complimentary 15-minute conversation. Sign up here or email