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.