Rocco Pisto Gallery


Rocco Pisto Gallery

Rocco Pisto

Ann Arbor-based artist Rocco Pisto graduated with a BFA from Eastern Michigan in 1974 and has volunteered as the Michigan Water Color President since 2017. Rocco has been a painter for over five decades.  

The CultureVerse team scanned his gallery and studio in Ann Arbor, where he will be hosting a workshop for the Michigan Water Color Society's 75th anniversary.

Explore Rocco's space and work below:

You can find more of Rocco's work at his website,

"As a painter for over fifty years, I never tire of the experimental process of starting a piece and solving the design problems along the way to make it a finished work.  Spontaneity, discovery, individuality, analysis, visual balance, contrast, and contradiction all summarize my thought process.  I find that no two paintings are the same, and I cannot paint the same thing twice.  My technique of painting abstractly by dripping, pouring, splashing, and brushing paint allows the work to evolve until it meets my criteria of what constitutes a successful piece of art. The adrenaline of marking pristine, white Arches Watercolor paper with paint is a euphoric process that never loses its newness or interest.”

Below is Rocco's full artist statement from his 2018 UM Dearborn Solo Exhibition:

Artist Statement

Water Color – Expression- Application

Many words come to mind when expressing my thoughts about watercolor painting and this current exhibition.  As medium preferences change from generation to generation, water color remains a special   medium for my work.  

Key words in painting process include; spontaneous, discovery, analysis, visual balance, contrast and contradiction. As different as individuals can be, painters all paint differently as well, which provides the diversity in the work. It's about individuality. I find that no two paintings are the same and I cannot paint the same thing twice even if I tried. Painting in the abstract vain by dripping, pouring, splashing and brush stroking of paint allow the work to evolve until it meets the criteria of what constitutes a piece of art.  The adrenaline of the application of paint on Arches Watercolor paper become a euphoric process that never loses is newness as one attacks the virgin white paper.

Water Color

Influences by Eastern Michigan University, Department Head, Kingsley Calkins, Professor Igor Beginin, UMD Professor and Electra Stamelos in my college years in the early 1970s shaped a lifelong passion for watercolor.  They were all a part of my reintroduction to watercolor.   Igor Begin in taught watercolor for 30 years at EMU, he taught the basic techniques and tools used with watercolor.   His teaching methods introduced the freedom to paint loose and not be afraid of making mistakes.  The experimentation was key to making the painting fresh and alive.  The excitement of this class with Beginin lead to a dedication to the medium under the tutelage of Kingsley Calkins.  

Kingsley Calkins was EMU head of the department from 1960 to 1979. King was one of the first painters to work with acrylics and established a reputation as a fine watercolorist.  His Friday afternoon critiques cemented my desire to make painting a life long profession.   Electra Stamelos, a peer in school, but so much more mature in her understanding and methodologies of the medium.  Articulate and driven, Electra had a strong conviction of what a painting should be and always pushed to get the best you could produce. Electra became Lecturer: Fine and Applied Arts - University ofMichigan and Director: Art Acquisitions and Exhibitions University of Michigan- Dearborn Campus.


Since the 1970’s, my love for the abstract elements of nature has found expression in water-based media. Working with watercolor’s unexpected results allows one to produce unique, spontaneous works. Building layer upon layer – balancing color, tone, depth, and motion –is like creating a symphony. The paintbrush becomes a performer, dancing across the paper, juicy and full of life.

Though working quite deliberately, using both traditional and non-traditional techniques, the unconscious is the undisputed “project manager”. My work frees my imagination and provides many opportunities for magical accidents.

The passion for water media, also includes the combination of Caran D'Ache aquarelle crayons, Winsor Newton watercolor, India ink and liquid acrylic, to enhance the surface and reveal multi layers of depth and perspective.

This exhibition represents work in both representation and non-representation modes which allows one to examine the painting process of abstract images created from the buildup of layers and tonal concepts along with the absorption and drying process of paint on watercolor paper.  To highlight imagery found in nature forces a hand of discipline to observe and study the subject and understand the color values and dramatic statement that makes the image interesting enough to create.   Building layer after layer of transparent watercolor to produce depth and variance is fascinating and rewarding and deeply satisfying. Experimenting with modern color palettes help create new and unique patterns, textures and design imagery.

I was taught along time ago that you paint what you find satisfying, you don’t paint for others.  From these early revelation, the thought process was to find subject matter or simply pursue the pure joy of pouring paint and watching the magic happen.  At times it did not matter what the color or concept was, but just enjoying the manipulation of paint on paper and visualizing the stains, shapes and blending qualities the work takes on upon the completion of the drying process.   It doesn’t always lead to a consistent body of work, unless deliberately painting in a series frame of mind.

Recent abstract work focusses on the contrast between organic splashing layers of water color in contrast to straight edge lines or rectangle solid shapes of black or white as in the works titled “The Aftermath”, “Irma’s coming” “Violet Transitions” “Blue Horizon” “Behind the Blue Fence” “Hines Park Rework” “Wreck a Tango #2”” Aquatic Turmoil”.  This contrast between organic vails of color and sharp defined edges never gets old. In the representation pieces of “View of the hills of Gioppo and Passo del Lupo, we have included two paintings from interesting views of my parents’ home town of Cirella del Plati, in Italy.


The beauty of technology today is that there is, so many ways to represent a piece of work.  I have experimented with photo editing tools like Photoshop and Picasa along the way to visualize existing work in progress in different color palettes, colorf ilters and cropping sections. To highlight this process, included in the exhibition is the painting “Irma’s coming” and a reverse giclee titled “Irma’s coming reversed”.  

All finished work is digitized or color matched photograph.   From these high-resolution jpeg images, one can create giclee for printing or printing on other materials.  My work has become a vehicle to support commercial applications is the form of Imagio Glass kitchen backsplashes and murals.  Imagio GlassDesigns, will take the jpeg image and print on the back of glass with ultraviolet ink to create artistically designed kitchen back splashes.  Examples of this technology will be illustrated with the “Purple Rain Dance” painting and glass designed sample pieces.

Back to Projects
Rocco Pisto
February 21, 2023
3D Scan

Stay in the loop.