Hudson County has a thriving arts scene, with acclaimed and active artistic communities in Hoboken and Jersey City, and upcoming movements in North Bergen, Guttenberg, and Union City. Recently Secaucus has been leapfrogging ahead in its support of the arts, with programs such as the mural project beautifying the town and the ongoing art shows at the library.
Now the town has its own art school and gallery to bolster the local arts community even more. Founder Rich Moglia has done as much as anybody to put Secaucus on the artistic map, with his hyper-realistic, richly detailed paintings appearing in everything from high end galleries to kids’ collectible fantasy cards. He has painted wildlife scenes for international conservation causes and worked for Marvel and DC comics. His western and Native American artwork is highly sought after and he has been commissioned to paint portraits of everyone from Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli to the Kardashian clan.
Mog Creations School of Art is located in a storefront Moglia gutted at 175 Front St., installing super-bright fixtures mimicking daylight. Here he will be teaching three classes a day to budding and burgeoning artists. “I’m going to be 56 years old,” he told The Secaucus Reporter last week. “It’s time for me to help pass along the knowledge I’ve spent my whole life acquiring.”
Moglia has studied with a who’s who of renowned popular artists, including three-time Hugo Award-winner Donato Giancola, who has worked for everyone from LucasFilm and Playboy to the United Nations and National Geographic; and renowned commercial illustrator Kevin Murphy, founder of The Art Academy.
“The atmosphere’s going to be nothing but fun.” – Rich Moglia
Blending old and new
The inside of Mog Creations School of Art is a hothouse of inspiration: fiction mixed with history, realism with fantasy. In one corner is a dragon head sculpted by Moglia so he could study how light hits it as he painted some of his fantasy scenes. In the front window is a painting he did of Jack Black in the movie “School of Rock,” the inspiration for his own school’s name.
“When I saw the movie I thought to myself, ‘He’s awesome, and if I ever had a school, I would do it just like him,’” said Moglia. “The kids came in and went from just being goofy to doing a concert. So I painted a picture of him and I put in a palette, because that’s what this is going to be like. The atmosphere’s going to be nothing but fun. They’ll come here and then they will go on to a gallery.”
“We will be using oil paint,” he continued. “I will be explaining not to fear it. Everyone at some time in their life has gotten an oil paint set and it was a disaster. But the truth is they’re the most forgiving of all paints. People just don’t know how to control them.”
That’s just one of the things Moglia will be teaching his students, along with lessons in basic drawing, and even photography, since he tends to work from photos. But in order to do that, one has to create photos that lend themselves to painting, and that’s an art in itself, quite different from taking snapshots for their own sake. It’s all in the eye and the interpretation.
And the computer. Much of Moglia’s artwork is pre-visualized in the computer, sometimes combining photos or images to create a composite, long before brush touches canvas. This, too, is among the techniques he’ll be teaching.
“It’s a blend,” he said. “It’s using technology, but the technique of getting it actually painted is 150 percent traditional, the same way da Vinci did it. The only difference between this place and where Michelangelo and da Vinci went is electricity. They had to cut a huge hole in the ceiling so they could get light. Me, I just got the town electrician to do it.”
Students can sign up for eight two-hour classes. Classes will include up to half a dozen students, with each focusing on their own interests and progressing at their own level.
“You sit down together but you’re all going to get individual attention,” said Moglia. Students will work on their own projects while surrounded by other styles, approaches, and interpretations from their classmates. “When someone is doing one thing and I’m next to them demonstrating a different technique for another student, people leave their seats and stand behind to watch. You are open to take in absolutely everything.”
And that includes all modes of art, not just naturalism. “But before you can do abstract, impressionism or any one of those things, you have to understand how realism works,” said Moglia. “I also will be helping students prepare college portfolios. Any student who plans to be a professional in advertising, commercial art of any kind, graphic designer, when they leave here they’re going to have a portfolio of paintings.”
The grand ribbon cutting is scheduled for April 9 with Mayor Gonnelli, a strong advocate of Moglia and his work. “The mayor loves this. He feels it betters the town,” said Moglia, who plans to give back to his community with artistic initiatives like contests and apprenticeships.
Moglia expressed particular appreciation to those in town who have supported him, like Lois and Jack Appell, who contributed financially to help open the school. “They’re very close friends of mine,” he said. In fact, Moglia recently painted a portrait of Connie Lombardi, the 101-year-old matriarch of the family.
The Secaucus Public Library has already hosted one exhibition of Moglia’s paintings and plans to hold another over the summer. Expect even more variety this time, as his interests continue to expand.
Art Schwartz may be reached at email@example.com.