James Florentine, Fox on The Run, 22 x 30 inches, wateroclor on paper

James Florentine, Fox on The Run, 22 x 30 inches, wateroclor on paper

Realist of the Real

Thursday, December 1, 2016

“James watercolor paintings speak more eloquently than photographs.” This is just one of the many ways that James Florentine’s artwork is described. He creates work that allows us to imagine we are with the object.

Fiorentino who is most noted for his watercolors of professional athletes was born in Somerst, New Jersey on March 1, 1977. By the time he was three years old his mother noticed that he was surpassing the other children when it came to drawing. He was able to sketch fully developed figures whereas his peers were developing rough images. Fiorentino became recognized as a prodigy at an early age. By the time he was 15 years old he become the youngest artist featured in the Baseball Hall of Fame for his painting of Reggie Jackson which hung beside fellow artists, Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol. He began painting athletes as a way to obtain their autographs, later he would be the one producing his autograph to the athletes. While attending Drew College Fiorentino played all fours years on the baseball team and began to establish himself as an artist by landing iconic baseball project and joining New York Illustrators.

Fiorentino’s watercolor portraits entails so much detail and emotion within the figures that at times the viewer is not positive if it is a  photograph or a painting. He likes to stress the fluidity of his work, the brushes he uses are practically dry because it allows him to focus in on the detail of the subject matter. His work has been compared to a Renaissance tempera painting. He was quoted about his work by saying; “I don't concentrate too much on painting a flawless image. I let my eyes and hands do the work. Just as a poet expresses himself through words, I express myself through paint. I feel fortunate to be able to use my art as a means of communication.” He does not take his talents for granted. He enjoys sharing his love of art with others, especially the organizations he has worked with.

At the start of his career he mainly painted portraits of athletes, celebrities and even politicians. However, with his latest work he is noted for painting nature scenes,  animals and landscapes. The scenes are lifelike to the point where they bring you right into the painting. If there is snow you can almost feel the chill, with the animal portraits you can almost reach out and touch the fur.

Most of Fiorentino's work is in museum collections; Cycling Hall of Fame in New Jersey, Roberto Clemente Museum in Puerto Rico, The National Museum of Art and Sport in Indiana. He has also exhibited many shows for the San Diego Natural History Museum; Art and Animal Show and his Black Vulture show was displayed in Bennington, Vermont. He has been commissioned for projects by well-known companies and people, Upper Deck sports cards allowed him to do projects throughout the 1990s. Fiorentino is currently working on more nature watercolors along with neoexpressionism paintings.

—Michelle Maroney


Michelle Maroney is currently a Master’s student at SUNY Buffalo State in the Museum Studies program. She received her Bachelors in History and her first Master’s in Education from D’Youville College.  In her free time, she enjoys running and completed her first marathon and Spartan race.