Friday, October 31, 2014

Volterra Italy at Night

Dear Art-loving friend,
In my previous post  I showed you a few small dragons in the charming town of Volterra, Italy.  On this eve of my favorite holiday, Halloween, I give you a few images of the night.  Unlike the vampire I often pretend to be, I am not trying to charm you into the darker side of life, but to enchant and share something of my world with you.  

Volterra is an ancient Etruscan town dating back to at least the 8th century BC.  One can see Roman and Florentine architecture here.  Volterra is now listed in the region of Pisa.  My friends Art and Virginia Wells and I had driven to Volterra by way of Pisa so that they could take in a few of those famous white marble Pisan sights [one is, after all, INCLINED to do so… can vampires make puns?].

I am including shots of the Roman amphitheater.  While I did not have time to go down into it during the day (not because I was asleep in my coffin, thank you very much), it looks as if there was a mighty view of the valleys surrounding the hilltop town.  What an amazing backdrop for any performance!  The giant human forms that are lit in strong white MAY be sculptures by the Polish sculptor Igor Mitoraj.  Sadly, he joined the other realm recently in Paris.

Like many towns and cities in Tuscany, Volterra has a Medici fortress (this family really got around!).  Also, when most writers speak of the towns in Italy (Firenze too), most of the time we are actually referring to the OLD TOWN center… the part within the medieval wall, or her remains.  Outside of this border, homes are often NOT made out of stone and they look more like modern spaces. 

Allora, Happy Halloween… I am off to a bar to start off the evening, to meet a couple who invited me out.  The other day I was in Zecchi’s famous art supply store near the Duomo in Firenze and was talking to the owners Sandro and his son Leo, long-time friends of mine.  I was mistaken for an employee and for that, I am happy that my Italian speaking and knowledge of the shop can fool some people!  Still, it is a fun way to meet people. But now, I need to grab my cape and fly… I advice you to be careful of strangers… they may be more strange than you dare imagine.

If you are enjoying this blog, the writing and/or the images, it would help me continue if you could send a donation my way.  Just go to the blog online and there are PayPal links for making a donation.  Choose any amount you desire, even five bucks helps! 

Or further down the site on the right hand column, you will see a more indirect way to help:  Go shopping online via the search window under “Support This Blog Via Amazon”  Your author is an affiliate and clicking here first sends a donation with each purchase you make on a click-through. 

A third way you may help is to forward this blog to someone you think may appreciate it.  The more readers, the more comments online, and wallah… lovers of art and Italy unite.

Thank you for your interest and enthusiasm,


~ Kelly Borsheim, sculptor, painter, writer, teacher

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Volterra Italy and Dragons

Dear Art-loving friend,

One of my artists friends (and a collector, God love him!) and his wife moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico years ago… a famous town for gobs of art galleries.  When they came to visit me in Florence, Italy, they told me that they thought it would be a great place for an artist to live (Santa Fe), but they discovered that they soon became the most visited household ever, a hotel for all of their friends to see a cherished town.  So, we enjoyed a one-evening visit, but they decided that I probably did not want visitors for long in another famous art town that receives lots of artists.

However, there is a balance and I have a tendency to stay in my studio a LOT!  It is actually nice to have an excuse to get out and see/show something of Florence and sometimes other places in Italia.  For this, I am very grateful that stone carver Art Wells and his wife Virginia wrote to me and I not only got to show them something of my beloved Firenze, but I also tagged along with them to see Volterra, Italy.  I had no idea that this town is famous for alabaster and carving!  It is full of artists, including a wonderful glassartist Corinna Butler who made a necklace that Virginia now wears.

I am breaking up the Volterra images into three posts.  This one contains a few of my daytime images.  This first shot was taken as I walked around the area of the hostel in which I slept, Chiostro delle Monache.  The second image is the dining area for the hostel’s breakfast (included in your bed price).  While this place is located outside of the city walls and my friends and I got lost as they drove me out there around 11 p.m., as Art said the next morning when he came to pick me up, “Once you know where it is, it is very easy to find.”  Truly, there are not  so many roads in this area.  However, if you take the wrong fork in one, it may be a while before you can find a way back.  The people here were SO NICE!  Even the woman who played phone tag with me during my various postponements on arrival told me that she had upgraded me to a better room.  She even complimented me on my art.  She said that she saw my Web site in my e-mail signature and checked it out! 

I like how many dragons there are and easily spotted here in Volterra.  [Of course, Firenze has them too and I was delighted showing Art and Virginia around in the Renaissance City because I saw another one I had not noticed before.]

Not far from the Hotel San Lino where Virginia and Art stayed (with the lovely Denise at the reception desk!) is a church.  It has an open door, and that means an invitation to come in, right?  It is very simple inside, but I thought it was charming how the artwork behind the altar was a combination of sculpture with only a little bit of fresco (usually it seems the other way around). 

This next image may not belong to the interior I just showed you.  I actually took this one first, as we arrived into town, so, I think this is a location more central.  Still there are so many BUSY art-filled spaces in Italia that I find myself drawn to the beauty of the more simple arrangements so that the running hamster in my brain can take a break a bit.

Now, for today, I leave you with images of two more dragon sculptures.  The last image I found a bit funny.  I have been looking for a place to live in Italy.  I need to find a place in the semi-country for my mental state and love of trees AND my very strong desire to carve stone on a regular basis.  But I also enjoy my car-less life.  So, I need good Internet in my home, and access to public transportation, as well as a grocery store.   

Volterra not only has good tourist traffic (for selling my art) and has an active and professional art community, but it also has bus transport that takes you into the center of town (the old part).  The drawbacks for me are that it is located on the top of a low mountain with wide vistas.  This makes me think it gets VERY cold because it is so exposed to the air and winters could be tough. But also, as we walked around the town, pigeon poo could be seen all along the pathways.  It seemed more concentrated in this little town than in many others I visit.  I was a bit amused to see pigeon on a menu in Volterra.  Someone, at least, is trying to solve the problem! Ha.  

I would feel honored if you took a look at some of my stone carvings.  Each is one-of-a-kind:
Thank you for your interest and enthusiasm,
~ Kelly Borsheim, sculptor, painter, writer, teacher

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Clay Sculpture

Dear Art-loving friend,
Thank goodness I teach private painting lessons on Saturday morning because I think my new Sunday morning ritual is to listen to The Sculptor’s Funeral, a new podcast series about sculpture.

If you think that painters have a lot of work to do, listen to this new podcast by my friend Jason Arkles about preparing water-based clay for sculpture. It is not exactly like buying it out of a store and immediately starting to create! Enjoy!

I started my sculpture education with water-based clay.  I love its squishy appeal and speed of work (especially compared to stone carving, another love).  One of my very first sculptures is also still one of my most affordable.  I had gotten so many inquiries that I made my first press mold and then an edition.  Here is “Leaning Torso” made in clay using a slab method. That means that I built the sculpture hollow (vs. modeling solid clay and afterwards hollowing out the piece before drying and firing).

Once I was fortunate enough to find a married couple who were artist models.  Steve and Sue posed for several compositions for me, some more sketches than finished-looking pieces.  I was in a phase in which I wanted to loosen up a little and learn a few things. 

Another time I was extremely lucky to have two female models.  I loved the non-sexual poses of these two women of diverse ages and physiques.

And then finally, “Comfort” is a terra-cotta sculpture that can out of my head.  No models.  But this has been one of my favorite “sketches.”

Each of these sculptures is a one-of-a-kind work of art.  Even “Leaning Torso” (the one of which I made an edition) is considered an original, in the same way that bronze sculpture is.  This is because each one has a majority of handwork involved in the creation of the work.

Please inquire if any of these works moves you.

Thank you for your interest and enthusiasm,


~ Kelly Borsheim, sculptor, painter, writer, teacher

"Comfort" an original clay sculpture by Kelly Borsheim

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Turkish Light Still Life Painting

Dear Art-loving friend,

Shortly after carving stone in Bulgaria this past summer, I then went to Istanbul for a few days.  I did not buy as much as I wanted, however, I am a sucker for burning things… so I bought a couple of the tea light candle holders that glow with glorious hues from the colored glass mosaics.  One of those became a model in my next project, “Turkish Light.”

I have always moved slowly; ask my parents if you believe this not.  But while I have come to accept this part of myself, I still work to improve my productivity in creating art.  And when it also helps me to improve the quality, well, … you know that accepting the idea is a given.

I have also come to accept about myself that I have a self-sabotage mechanism in my brain. To that end, I refer to the idea that no matter how many times I do “shape exercises,”  my first attempts at drawing anything are way off.  It is difficult for me to do demos when I teach in part because of this problem.  [Another problem is talking while drawing… they rarely mix in my brain.]  Anyway, despite the encouragement by some to simply start my compositions in paint, I prefer to use charcoal.  

Pentimento is the Italian word that describes the concept of “the sins of the past will continue to haunt you.”  I know that oil paint goes transparent after many years and I know that red is a tricky color. I do not want my bad drawing to show through.  And I know that on this composition of red, white, and black… I increase the odds a bit of having problems.  So, you see me figuring out my design in charcoal on a mid-toned primed wooden panel.  

 I was not sure that I wanted the vase thingy as close to center, but later decided to leave it as is.  I liked the shapes between the objects, too.  Once my drawing was close enough, I used egg tempera to paint in the light shapes.  This is opaque and dries very quickly… like acrylic, but I think that I like egg tempera better, and hopefully it leaves more of a tooth for the oil paints.

I then layered in some of the cadmium orange and the serious reds.  The black came later.  These colors take forever to dry (an exaggeration, I hope you understand) and I had to be careful not to smear a thing, yet keep the edges I wanted soft … soft.  This painting then went up on a shelf to dry for about a month, I think.   

I took her down occasionally to develop the painting in layers, letting each one have about a week to dry, if I could manage that.  My models stayed in place while I worked on other easels.  Ok, so THAT part of the process is not particularly efficient for productivity, but hey, I love red and black, both slow driers.  It was the egg tempera trick that gave me light and speed.  There… I have given away all of my secrets.  So, I will go home now. 

I started “Turkish Light” in mid-July.  I finished her in mid-October.  Sadly, in my new flat, I have not yet figured out how to get a high-quality image of an oil painting.  But here is the shot that I have.  

“Turkish Light” is available.  She is a 50 x 35 cm (19.6 x 13.7 inches) oil painting on Italian Geso-vero’d primed wooden panel.  Please contact me if you would like to own this gem or gift her to someone you love.

Thank you for your interest and enthusiasm,
~ Kelly Borsheim, sculptor, painter, writer, teacher

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