The Magic Flute

I have always enjoyed lyric opera, especially works composed in the baroque and classical periods. I don’t know why this is, I was never really introduced to the genre, but spontaneously began following the stories by reading the libretti. This helped me later when I went to Europe and had to learn different languages- it wasn’t as difficult to understand people.

Magic Flute

When I started the street painting festival in Fresno, California, I created an original composition based on Mozart’s The Magic Flute.  It was such a success that a couple of the city counsel members decided to commission the piece as an oil painting for the new city hall. Although they raised private funds for the work, there were some community members who protested the acquisition because it was not considered a work of art that followed the conventions of modernism. Once the mural was presented, the protesting stopped and the art was widely accepted. In the years that followed, I worked on numerous large-scale commissions of permanent works almost exclusively for private patrons in order to avoid these situations. Without street painting, the general public would have had little chance to see my work.


Papageno drawing

Queen of the Night 2

The original tonal drawings for Papageno and the Queen of the Night are available as print editions. They can be found in the print edition section of my store. Click here for more information.



Entablature Design

Entablature DesignThis drawing is an architectural detail of a very elaborate residence called the Villa Tramontana. For the interiors and exteriors of this project I created hundreds of individual designs which were then composited into larger images. I created the unique architectural details as full size measured plans for the villa, ready to be sculpted and cast. Interior ceiling decorations were also designed to scale for the residence and therefore were ready for production.

Villa Tramontana’s floor plan is symmetrical and centralized, with a total living space of approximately 10,000 square feet. The main level consists of a grand foyer, living room, dining room and library all in an open floor plan. A central corridor leads to a kitchen and family room in one wing of the residence, and the master bedroom, bath and dressing room in are in a separate wing. The lower level consists of guest bedrooms, service and utility rooms, garages, and a convenient covered entrance.

The villa’s design and all the details are completely original, though inspired by 16th century Roman Late Renaissance architecture. The villa was never executed for the original client so the designs are available for anyone who wants a grand residence! For more images, click here, or on the picture below:

Villa Tramontana 600

The entablature design is also available as a limited edition print on my online store. Click here for more information. I also offer workshops on architectural design and proportioning. Click here for a description.


TerpsicoreOne of the nicest experiences I have had was during the Kennedy Center Imagination Celebration. I was invited to create a work for this large open-air family celebration. My involvement also included working with different schools in the Washington D.C.- Baltimore- Virginia area to train children for the event, which included pavement art that year. I had developed a 2-day school residency art program working in conjunction with the Music Center’s Education Department. The program was available to schools throughout the United States. In the end, I taught drawing with pastels to more than 100,000 students from elementary school through university level over the course of a decade and for this I was Awarded The Kennedy Center Medallion in recognition for outstanding contribution to arts education.


The event also included a one-man show of drawings, including many that I did for the festival composition. The theme was Apollo and the muses. I was not a 3D work, but used an attenuated wide-angle perspective I was experimenting with at the time. The figure of Terpsichore is in the center- back of the composition. The painted version actually ended up being smaller than the drawing. The drawing is available as a limited edition print from my online store. Click here for more information.


Madonna and Child

Madonna and ChildI created this work for a kind of project one never hears about. In Italy there are many, many paintings from different centuries in need of restoration. There are also many “falsi”, (meaning counterfeit paintings). What I never knew before I lived in Italy was that old paintings are in all different states of decay. Some paintings merely need cleaning or a couple of cracks filled. Others are missing important details, (such as heads), entirely. There is no actual rule as to how much of the painting can be repainted before it is considered an actual antique as opposed to a fake. Some of the shops that do this kind of restoration are so good that it takes a real connoisseur to tell what has been painted in and what is original. The canvas is of course real, as is much of the paint. Sometimes at antique shows some of the gallery owners give themselves away by using the same “restorer” on a number of different works from different times. If they are hung together there is a suspiciously similar quality to the works.

Serious restorers use a technique of painting in the missing parts with tiny vertical lines so that with a magnifying glass one can plainly see the original from the restoration. For this work I was asked to recreate an image from a canvas where only the feet were plainly visible. The top area of the canvas was a mere shadow and nobody knew what it looked like. I only did the drawing for the project and have never seen the “restoration”. The drawing is gridded lightly as we did in the day in order to transfer the information from what remained of the original to the paper, and then back again to the canvas.

I am offering a limited edition of this image as fine arts prints. Click here for the link to my online store.

Arabian Battle

IFI did this drawing for a series of murals that were to be executed in fired ceramic tile. They were to be placed at the entrance of an elegant stable that housed award winning Arabian horses. The client changed residences, so the works were never completed, although I eventually did a ceramic mural on another subject for the new residence.

Villa Te

Villa TeThe Villa Te was designed for clients who lived where there were strict restrictions regarding height, bulk and scale of a project. The villa was designed to remain relatively inconspicuous to the surrounding residents, yet take advantage of the panoramic views of the city and coastline.

I conceived the residence as a cluster of intertwined “temples.” The result has the appearance of a small idyllic village. The villa is a split-level residence with the living room ceiling soaring the full height of the two-storey structure. Vaulted rooms on the ground floor push up through roof gardens above to give added volume and height to the interior spaces.

The decorative language of the villa is completely original, inspired by Italian Byzantine architecture for its structure, and the Italian Early Renaissance for the details. In addition to the main house, a pool house and numerous separate guest quarters were designed for the huge property.

Click on the image or here for a portfolio of the villa with its floor plans as well as the surrounding residences.


Seneca 600PPII drew this portrait from an extremely impressive bronze bust in the Naples Archeological Museum. At the time it was simply labeled Seneca, but I later learned that the attribution was disputed. The online presentation of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples describes the state of discussion in the following way:

Nowadays the prevailing interpretation is that the head is a portrait of a dramatist due to the presence, on a copy now at the Museo delle Terme at Rome, of an ivy wreath, the prize for theatrical contexts: some scholars specifically identify him as Aristophanes, because the type in question is associated, in a double herm of Villa Albani, with the portrait of Menander; according to other experts, it could be a portrait of Aesop, Hesiod, Callimachus or Apollonius of Rhodes. We can therefore be quite certain that the person depicted must have been extremely famous, as is proven by the large number of copies to survive, which number a total of forty. From the qualitative point of view, the head displays excellent workmanship; rather than a copy, it might well even be the original from which all the others are reproduced, and should be regarded as a portrait of reconstruction in which the accentuated wrinkles and folds of the face and forehead of the man, the intentionally unruly locks and the wrinkly neck contrast openly with the unwavering, penetrating gaze. The original should be ascribed to the trend of realistic virtuosity, dateable to between the third and second century BC.

It is nice to have a portrait drawing that you can label as any of a number of fabulous classical writers, depending on your needs. I have made this drawing into a limited edition print, click here for more information.

Acis and Galatea

Acis and Galatea 600I have always loved Händel operas and one of my favorite is Acis and Galatea. I did this drawing as a traditional classical composition, but used the gigantic character of Polyphemus to stretch the perspective. It is one of my most complicated traditional compositions. The character of Polyphemus sings in Georg Friedrich Händel’s popular 1718 setting of Acis and Galatea, an English language pastoral opera or masque with the libretto set by John Gay to Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Here, the jealous monster scares the lovers in the aria “I rage, I melt, I burn” and then monstrously courts Galatea with his “O ruddier than the cherry”. Polyphemus is a gigantic cyclops that personifies the Sicilian volcano Mount Etna, and “stabbing to the heart” refers to the mythical battle of the gods and giants. Both the single eye and the stabbing wound refer to the gaping caldara of the volcano.

Below is the amusing libretto for the two songs:


I rage, I rage, I melt, I burn! The feeble god has stabbed me to the heart. Thou trusty pine, prop of my god-like steps, I lay thee by! Bring me a hundred reeds of decent growth, to make a pipe for my capacious mouth; in soft enchanting accents let me breathe sweet Galatea’s beauty, and my love.

I Rage, I Melt, I Burn

O ruddier than the cherry,
O sweeter than the berry,
O nymph more bright than moonshine night,
Like kidlings blithe and merry!

Ripe as the melting cluster,
No lily has such lustre;
Yet hard to tame as raging flame,
And fierce as storms that bluster!

Polyphemus realizes how he frightens the lady he would love, and when Acis sings “Love sounds the alarm” he furiously interrupts their sweet duet, now a trio, and murders his opponent in a rage.

The segment is from a recording on the Archive label by John Elliot Gardiner.

Classical Drawing

Pediment 600Classical Drawing

 The formal structure of classicism is rooted in the ancient principles of sacred geometry and the physical nature of human perception. No other artistic language has surpassed classicism in the ability to communicate form and space to a viewer, or to recount a narrative. Wenner will demonstrate how a classical drawing is both “abstract” in its formal structure and “pure” in design. He will show that the classical tradition is not a style, but a language of form based on a profound knowledge and appreciation of the physical universe and man’s participation in it.

The Flower Girl

Flower Lady blogIn my first years as a pavement artist in Rome, I came to know many of the street people, such as the old crone selling roses. She was a common sight and looked to be about 110 years old, with a wizened troll-like face and a wooden leg.  She wore many layers of old skirts, which bloomed out from her waist like a large, tattered flower. According to Roman legend, she had squandered her fortune in her youth and was now doing penance. “The Flower Girl”, as she was called sarcastically, would walk many miles each day with a limping gait that caused the huge bundles of roses she carried to sway from side to side. She fervently peddled the nearly dead blooms, (said to be stolen from graves), for exorbitant sums. If a man handed her a 1,000-lira note (about 75 cents) he might receive only one petal!

DepositionWhen my painting site was especially crowded, the Flower Lady would appear out of nowhere and push her way through the spectators. Pretending to berate me, she would work the crowd, waving her hands in the air crying,

What’s this? Not again! I keep telling you not to paint these large, complicated works. What do we know about art? Give us some little Madonna or a saint and we’re happy. Forget these large masterpieces! You work for days, and does anyone understand it?  No, they don’t. Just look at these baskets — empty! You make nothing. Just paint some simple little Madonna and then people will give you something!”

Naturally, her harangue would cause the crowd to drop lots of money into the baskets. After they had dispersed, she would quietly circle the painting and pluck a couple of bills from each of the baskets as compensation. Before departing, she would leave behind an offering of some particularly sad roses.

She seemed as eternal as the city itself and it is difficult to imagine that she must be gone now. A city like Rome imparts the feeling of the eternal to experiences which can only be transitory.

In this photo I was practicing a composition of an original work on the theme of the “Deposition”. I did several works on this theme and prepared drawings as well. The second drawing shows another composition that I did for the competition at Grazie. This one got trampled at the event, and I later reworked the center part, but never completed it.