Behind the palette; artist shares history

While strolling down Houston Street on a Friday night, one is likely to see Rome Milan in the window front of his family’s gallery, intently applying paint to a canvas with a palette knife, wearing hats from various parts of the world. Much like the gallery itself, Milan has become a familiar fixture in Sundance Square. However, to the average passers-by, the story behind this window-front painter is a mystery.

Milan had a modest artistic beginning, sparked by a T-shirt at age 13.

“One night, my father brought home a gymnastics T-shirt and the artwork on the front was terrible,” Milan said. “So, I told him ‘I could’ve done a better job.'”

His father then challenged Milan to come up with a better T-shirt design. He did just that, and with that T-Shirt, his career as a commercial artist began.

But Milan did not start working with paint until the age of 28, when his mother suggested that he do so.

“She told me to go to her studio and paint a landscape, and she would be back in two hours to see what I’ve done,” Milan recalled. “My mother painted with a (palette) knife, so I had to paint with that.”

Thus, a young Milan had inadvertently adopted a part of his mother’s painting technique.

The artist still uses a palette knife to apply paint to the canvas, offering sharply raised accents to the piece. This painting style lends a vibrant texture to his works, which adds a flowing intensity to the otherwise placid seascapes and coastal scenery he paints.

“If I had it my way, I would paint seascapes 99 percent of the time,” Milan said.

The Mediterranean and Adriatic seascapes make up most of Milan’s portfolio. His family’s involvement in the Olympics has allowed him to travel to more than 45 countries over the years.

Milan now teaches a class every Monday from 10 a.m to noon. Lacking formal training in painting, he is reluctant to call it a painting class. Rather, he refers to it as a “this is what I do” or “follow me” class. For the first few weeks of classes, the students, who range from nine to 85 years old, learn the style and techniques that Milan himself uses.

For the fourth week of classes, students choose their own subjects to paint.