Sunday, September 14, 2014

Bergamo Città Alta Italia Italy

Dear Art-loving friend,
Each time I meet an artist, I ask, “So where is the place for artists now?”  Every single time I heard, “Berlin.”  So, my friend Susan and I went up there recently to check it out.  I will write about that experience in a future post.  Today, I want to tell you about our visit to Bergamo, Italia, on the way home.  There is currently an outdoor installation of color and lots of flowering plants and trees in the “Città Alta”  (the upper city), in this case the original part of the city that oversees the lower sections and is still outlined by its ancient walls.

I was delighted to see so much color in Bergamo’s Piazza Vecchia, with the Italian version of “Astro Turf” covering most surfaces and creating above-ground colorful planters for all kinds of herbs and flowering plants.  My traveling companion said she got a headache from it … too much.  But I loved it and thought it fun.

Susan and I meandered on past the Fontana Contarini and through the piazza to see the Basilica and Duomo of Santa Maria MaggioreIn front of this and to the right is the building with the round window called the Cappella Colleoni.  I love how they use the different soft colors of stone together in such elaborate and dimensional designs combined with sculpture.   The metal fence combining Nature and architecture make a lovely frame for the peach and grey stone building across Piazza Duomo.

I share this image of the nearby Torre Civica because I was amused by how the thin clouds appear to be escaping from the “chimney” tower.

I enjoyed this little taste of Bergamo and hope to get another opportunity to visit this small city again.  The art and garden installation you see here continues through 30 September.  Enjoy! 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sarina, Australia - Guest Judge and Art Teacher

Dear Art-Lover,

Australian artist Janice Ailwood and I met about six years ago in Florence and we remained in touch. Facebook has really aided a lot in this way! Janice and her husband Ron were instrumental in helping me see Australia. Thanks to them and the committee who organizes the Sarina Arts Extravaganza in Sarina, Queensland, Australia. This past May marked their 25th anniversary for the huge event open to all Australians.

I arrived about a week before the festival started so that I could recoup a bit from the long journey, do a little sightseeing with my hosts, and also help a little with the last minute promotions. In this case I mean two street paintings on local sidewalks.
In addition to that, I was the guest judge for the national competition that featured ten categories of 2-d and 3-d art forms.
I also taught a workshop for adults to show them how to draw using the Sight-Size Method taught in several ateliers in Florence. Students had their choices of drawing in charcoal or pastels.

In addition to all of that, I also taught art workshops to children of various ages in the Sarina and Mackay schools and I consulted with high school students on making a mural at the entrance for their alma mater.

I struggled with the idea of judging in art, especially because I do not feel competitive with others in my own work. Too busy trying to improve my own, I think. But we live in a world that functions with competition and decisions are made every day. I had to give a little speech at the awards presentation and I asked a friend to use my camera to take shots of me speaking (so my mother could know that I really did get some use out of those Toastmasters lessons she enrolled me in while I was in my last year of high school). However, I got nervous as usual and starting rambling on about my view on competitions and an artist's purpose. I explained what I had decided to do when faced with the difficult task of judging art - some forms about which I knew little. I was looking for art that created an emotion in me, something beyond technical excellence. I wanted to see some creativity from the artist and mostly, communication of ideas in a visual language.

In the end, I did not receive any images of me speaking. My friend said that he got so wrapped up in what I was saying that he forgot his task until he realized that I was saying thank you and rushing away from the microphone. Hahaha.

The next morning I had to walk through the exhibit and explain to interested artists why I chose what I chose and give a critique here and there to those who wanted one. It is funny being on the "other side of the fence." I sometimes do not understand the judge's choice for winners, so it was no real surprise when people questioned my choices. I was pleased to see that some of them told me afterwards that I changed their minds and helped them see the work anew. I was touched that several of the winners approached me after the awards ceremony to tell me how each had thought to give up art because of disparaging comments made to them by others. A foreign artist coming in and seeing a light/voice in their work was a tremendous boost. Lovely, and I feel grateful to have spurred them to continue their works and passion.

Mostly, I warned them to never "chase" a judge or even the market's tastes. Each artist chooses his path and expresses his voice. We are lucky if anyone else catches on and shares our visions, but doing anything less than personal work is, well, … less. It was a real honor and pleasure to speak to so many people hungry for art and art conversations.

The children I worked with in the schools were really great, as kids tend to be. I even enjoyed the grumpy one who glared at everyone but eventually did some drawing.
To see a lot more cool pics of Australia and the other news, please click here:

Thank you for hanging with me.  I still have technical issues (i.e., new techniques to learn) to get my Web site and newsletter subscriptions working.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

An Open Mind in Istanbul – Nargile

Dear Art Lover,
Istanbul: exotic and fun, and full of shopping and imbibing. My friend Kumiko and I went there for a few days after we finished carving stone at a symposium in Bulgaria. How inviting some of the spaces are: so cozy and comfortable! I tried to keep an open mind or at least the mentality of “When in Roma…” I was delighted to experience the Hamam and discovered that a sauna of steaming marble is actually much more refreshing that the direct hot summer sun in a city.

We were in Istanbul during Ramadan, but also during the World Cup finales. That meant for a lot of people out in the bars and restaurants that had large or multiple screens. I had no idea of the close ties between Turkey and Japan, but Kumiko did not even have to pay for a tourist visa, while I did (it was only 25 euro for an American, paid at the border). The Japanese have built tunnels under the waterways to connect Istanbul to itself, among other wonderful business deals. Kumiko was spoken to in Japanese more often than I ever anticipated while she and I toured the city by foot.

So, it was no surprise when she made friends with some rug merchants near our hotel. One of the men had even lived in Japan for over 15 years with his Japanese wife and was returning this month.

So, we found ourselves getting taken to a nearby restaurant and offered things by this man’s friend. I had been curious of the Nargile, the Turkish water pipes one sees almost everyone sitting around and smoking.
It is legal and yet, I think that I had hoped it was something exotic by the expressions on consumers’ faces.

Admittedly, I have a hard time just sitting around and relaxing. During this trip, I was often distracted by thoughts of my work at home. However, when the restaurateur offered to let me try Nargile for only 5 bucks (normally about 15, I think), I thought, Ok, why not? Even my hero Audrey Hepburn made her long cigarette holder next to her lips look elegant and beautiful in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

Yours truly on holiday.  Foto by Kumiko Suzuki - Istanbul

They had no coconut, so I tried strawberry. The man set the mechanism on the floor beside our table and lit it with hot coals, sucking on the end to get it going. Then he gave us two plastic reeds. We each had one to slip into the mouthpiece for our own use. I was sadly disappointed. I think some part of me wanted this to taste good, the way that I will drink Turkish coffee, but really have no affinity towards any other.

But … tobacco is tobacco. I have hated it even before childhood friends wanted to get me into it. And this tasted only slightly better than how splashing perfume over stale and horrendous body odor smells. I waited a bit, then gave it a few more puffs, hoping that maybe I was just biased against it. Nope, I just do not like the taste nor the smell of tobacco.

The next morning Kumiko and I walked under an open arch somewhere in the city. We found a bunch of Turks sitting around smoking. But for me, these next three gray images just reminded me of what tobacco puts in one’s body. And I am sure that I would be unhappy in a lifestyle of just sitting around numbing myself. But, I DID give it a shot.

Happy birthday wherever your energy be, Vasily Fedorouk.  You are missed!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Bike Life Florence Italy

Dear Art-Loving Friend,
My father once suggested to me that I “go ahead and get this Europe thing out of my system and come back to live in the States.”  I think he has turned into my grandmother.  She worried constantly.  But that was years ago and while I still have not worked out how to have permanent residence here in Italy, and my life is in limbo, I think I have convinced those who care about me that I am not finished with Europe. 

One of the perks that is difficult to argue with is the wonderful public transportation.  I love walking and biking to most places in Florence, Italy, where I live now.  When I need to go somewhere else, I can usually take a bus or a train.  Some people complain about the services in Italy, but I have not encountered many problems and am amazed actually by how train, planes, and even motorways are all created and organized. 
Anyway, most of Europe basically dies in August, with most people heading towards the surrounding seas for rest and relaxation.  It is a bit bizarre, especially since August is the time when many tourists can visit, especially if they have school-age children. 

I have been doing my best to seclude myself in my new space here, at least during August. I have two easels set up and the doors to my balcony remain always open.  This is for my sanity.  I am working on many paintings, allowing the layers of oil paint to dry while I work on other images.  And sadly, I have not yet solved all of the Web site problems after I transferred in late June to a new host company.  My contact form and order forms do not yet work.  But I have discovered that there is only so much frustration I can take in one day and do not wish to spend more than a few hours each day on this.

In any event, I hope that you enjoy these snapshots I took around the Arno River in Florence… ah, the bike life!  I am shown here with my friend Biljana, visiting from her home in Serbia.  We took a day trip to the charming San Gimignano recently (the exception to my August rule).  You may see some of those images on my Facebook page, if you like. 
Thank you for sticking with me on this art journey and I hope August is good to you.  Me?  I must get back to my paintings.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Istanbul during Ramadan

Dear Art-Loving Friend,

On the night of the full moon, after my friend Kumiko and I finished up at the art symposium in Bulgaria, she and I were on our way to Istanbul.  I hope you enjoy these images.  We packed a lot in to the short time we were there, my first.  I will be writing about the experiences in Bulgaria in an art newsletter in August.  If you would like to receive a subscription to that publication (only 6-8 times per year), please send me your e-mail address with an add request (that list is different from the blog subscription list, which I do not manage).

Anyway, I would write more, but today is my birthday and I want to eat dark chocolate and cherries, some good food, and do some painting.  Hard to believe this journey thus far, and I am curious to know where and how the future unfolds… in any event, I am now:

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Hélène's Vase - still life oil painting and Australia Arts

Dear Art Lover,
I have been having some difficulties transferring my site to a new host and distributing my art newsletter.  It may be a focus issue, since I keep arguing with myself that I would rather be making art. ha. 
In any event, here is the newsletter that I recently published about my trip to Australia, including some lovely beach and Nature images.  I hope you enjoy:

Also included in my newest oil painting on a wooden panel, a still life titled "Hélène's Vase" She is available.  Just contact me at sculptor @  [minus the spaces].

Thank you for stickin' with me!  Happy days to you.
~ Kelly

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sarina Arts Extravaganza Australia

Dear Art Loving Friend,

I have spent the majority of this past week teaching workshops to children in the schools, as well as to adults in our makeshift atelier up on the stage in the community building that houses the Sarina Arts Extravaganza here in Australia.  In addition to that, I have been working in a local high school to help the kids learn how to create a mural.  I have been consulting with the class to show them how to take their ideas, expand them to fit the project and create a composition.  Because of the time constraints, I was only allowed to talk about several ways they can take their – to date – unfinished designs and enlarge them to create the cartoons needed to transfer their ideas to a much larger space.  [Cartoon as defined in Michelangelo’s time, not today’s definition of the word.]

One of the area schools was thrilled to let us guide the various age groups of their classes around the art exhibit while I spoke about the idea of art being more than “just a pretty picture.”  Art is the safe place in which we can express and explore our humanity … all aspects of it, as well as appreciating the Natural (or unnatural) world we inhabit. I also wanted to tell them that artists train as long as or longer than other professions, such as doctors and engineers.   THAT raised a lot of eyebrows as the possibilities began to open in their minds!  Several asked me if I make a living at art and I told them, “Yes,” and that my life as an artist is what brought me to their lovely country!

Thanks to a suggestion by local artist and art teacher Sally Cunnington, my hostess (and Sally’s artist mother) Janice Ailwood and I asked the children and teens to choose an artwork in the exhibition that made them feel some emotion and use it as inspiration for their own creations.  We were all thrilled at how well they took to this.  I really love the freedom and joy in young children’s art!

I include a few images (not showing any kid faces) and have a few more of Facebook.  I loved this little girl with pigtails’ posture as she drew a mermaid.  Not unlike my own, perhaps, although she is way more flexible than I, even before my spine injury.  [The image of me was taken by Ayfer Mills in March 2014 in Florence, Italy.]

The kids copied the grownups art, other youths art, and a few went off on their own way and drew what they wanted with the inspirations already in their heads.  We must have seen hundreds of kids over a three day span and it was wonderful!  In general, the response here has been overwhelmingly positive and I wonder what sort of long-term impact our work here may achieve. 

I asked a few of the kids in our last class if they could hold their art up to the artwork that inspired them, but not show their faces to protect their privacy.  Isn’t it lovely how different their designs are from the original? 

This last image is my last sunset for this visit to Sarina in Queensland.  Next stop . . . Tasmania!

Thank you for reading and sharing the journey.

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