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Oyler: Pointillist provides peek into work

| Tuesday, April 12, 2016, 11:18 a.m.

The March Bridgeville Area Historical Society program meeting was a change of pace.

Jack Puglisi, who has provided us with three excellent historical presentations in the past, this time discussed another of his many interests — graphic art exploiting the techniques of pointillism.

Mr. Puglisi is a product of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and Point Park University. His first effort at pointillism was a monochromatic self-portrait, which he showed the audience and compared with two others, each produced a decade apart. His style soon evolved into vibrant color.

Pointillism, a technique of painting in which small, distinct dots of color are applied in patterns to form an image, was perfected in the late 19th century by Georges Seurat, and is best illustrated by his well-known masterpiece, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.”

A major difference between conventional painting and pointillism is the way specific colors and shades of color are produced.

Conventional painters mix different colors of paint on their palette to achieve the desired color. Pointillists achieve the same result by intermixing tiny dots of different primary colors, relying on the viewer's eyes to blend them correctly.

Whereas Seurat used sharp pointed brushes and oil paints, Mr. Puglisi uses refillable pens and acrylic ink. These pens can produce dots or line widths as small as five one-thousandths of an inch, in whatever color the graphic artist chooses to use. The artist can vary the intensity (darkness or lightness) by changing the size of each dot (point) or their spacing.

Sixty years ago, the Army trained me to become a cartographic draftsman at the Engineer School at Fort Belvoir, Va. We used ruling pens, a small pair of calipers whose gap could be adjusted by turning a screw just enough to provide the line width we needed.

My recollection is that the finest lines on our maps were seven-thousandths of an inch thick and that it was extremely difficult to get ink to flow out of such a narrow opening. These modern refillable pens are indeed a remarkable improvement.

The speaker illustrated his talk with 18 examples of his work. A few were conventional portraits — I especially liked the one of Robert E. Lee and wished he had brought along the one he did of Ulysses S. Grant as a companion piece.

I remembered Mr. Puglisi from when he worked at Borders. Several of his portraits were of fellow workers, including one of a man he called “Ed.” I immediately recognized Ed, a remarkably knowledgeable bookseller. It would be difficult not to be impressed with an artist who can produce such a recognizable portrait of someone you know.

From a distance his paintings appear to be conventional; it is only by very close inspection that the remarkable cumulative effect of thousands of tiny dots of different colors can be appreciated. This was particularly evident in one of the paintings he showed, a copy of Johannes Vermeer's famous “The Girl with the Pearl Earring.” At a distance it is a remarkable replica; close up, it is a forest of tiny dots.

The next Historical Society program meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. April 26 in the Chartiers Room of the Bridgeville VFD on Commercial Street. Author Melanie Linn Gutowski will discuss “Pittsburgh Mansions,” based on a book she has written with the same title.

John Oyler is a columnist for the Tribune-Review. He can be reached at 412-343-1652 or joylerpa@icloud.com.

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