Art Imitates the Fabric of Life
Each morning after breakfast, artist Paul Bozzo heads downstairs in his Mansfield home to work in his cellar studio. Within these walls are tables covered in projects, bottles of paints and glue, frames and tools, doilies, brushes, and tubs of plaster. At first glance, it seems like artisan chaos. But this studio is where Paul creates his unique and widely coveted textured paintings. These are the same textured paintings that line the walls of Mansfield’s Night and Day Coffee Café and Sylvania’s Settlement House.
“I like to make stuff,” Paul says. “I’ve just always been busy with my hands.” He began his work with textured paintings just after graduating from Mansfield University with a bachelor’s of science in art education in 1971. He did a lot of ceramics work during college, but after graduation did not have access to a kiln to dry and harden his creations. When he and his wife, Marianne, purchased a new home around that time, he was tasked with plastering the wall around their new stove. He realized he could create different textures and designs within the plaster. This project inspired a new avenue of creativity, and he began obtaining paneling samples from Arnot Building Supply, using the backs of these samples to create his earliest textured paintings.
Shortly after college graduation, Paul also began his career as an art teacher for Warren L. Miller Elementary School in Mansfield, where he taught for thirty-one years. For several years he also supervised student art teachers from MU. So, throughout his educational career, he had the opportunity to work with students from kindergarten to graduate level. As a student supervisor he was also able to learn from and network with others, making meaningful connections with fellow artists and teachers in the surrounding area.
“I was a weekend painter while I was teaching,” Paul recalls. As his textured paintings became more popular, he received a lot of requests for newborn baby projects. These are paintings specially made for newborns with their names, sometimes using baby blocks, Legos, and similar objects and textures.
“It’s an exercise in color and design,” he explains. “Most of the paintings have three layers of color, which is how I get some of the more unusual colors.” He describes how he uses such items as children’s toys, stamps, rulers, puzzle pieces, doilies, plants, and assorted other objects to produce unique textures in his paintings. He also makes all of his own frames to keep supply costs down, which makes his work even more unique.
To make textured paintings, Paul begins by cutting boards of Masonite to the desired size, then sanding and rounding the edges. He uses latex primer on the boards, and then spreads plaster onto it, about one-sixteenth to one-eighth of an inch thick. Next, he uses texture “markers” to imprint on the plaster, using plenty of water on each design before pressing it. He uses many items for these designs, and seems to get more and more creative with these objects. One of his favorites is a doily, “but I try to make them not look like doilies,” he continues, pointing out several examples that produced distinctly unique results each time.
The next step is to allow the plaster to dry for about forty-eight hours. Then he lightly sands the surface before sealing and painting. The painting process includes layering rich hues that complement his carefully selected textures, followed by the backing, glossing, and framing process. These textured paintings have become his most popular works.
In 2007, Paul joined the Grand Canyon Photography Club in Wellsboro, where he fostered his love for the art of photography. He considers the club’s monthly meeting a sort of “digital dark room,” where he has learned many editing techniques and possibilities. His primary focus has been nature photography, and he has developed a love of hiking, where he finds many of his subjects—streams, trails, and forest landscapes. One of his goals is to photograph all of the streams in the surrounding area.
“Stony Fork Creek is a favorite subject of mine,” he notes. “I learned how to capture moving water down Stony Fork.” Paul’s photography has been displayed in Wellsboro at the Native Bagel and at the Gmeiner Art and Culture Center. He has also offered textured painting workshops at the Gmeiner, and his work will be highlighted there again in 2021 in the atrium gallery.
Today, Paul is able to work as a full time artist in his cellar studio, as well as finding inspiration and subject matter on local trails. He expresses his gratitude for the immense support of his wife, Marianne, saying, “She really helps make that possible.”
Paul’s work is available for sale at Night and Day on Main Street in Mansfield, through Facebook, and at Settlement House on Route 6 in Sylvania. His recent efforts have been focused on preparing for the grand re-opening of Settlement House in mid-February. (It had been closed for remodeling.) He will also have an exhibit at The Butternut Gallery and Second Story Bookstore in Montrose this summer.
Although his work is frequently highlighted in art shows and galleries in the surrounding area, Paul also enjoys creating individualized projects for community members, friends, former students, and out-of-towners. He has even fulfilled artwork requests for folks as far away as California. You can see his complete portfolio at bozzoart.blogspot.com. He also provides tutorials at youtube.com/user/bozzo16933.