Saturday, March 1, 2008
During slow season (now) in Florence, Italy, the city is especially lovely. And my favorite time to walk the city center is at night. This image depicts the famous Ponte Vecchio (old bridge). The shops full of gold jewelry and such are closed up and I love their wooden doors with decorative iron hinges. This man on the left is often playing guitar and singing – and in Italian for once – and working for tips. The music is beautiful and while few people are about, those that are here are listening attentively. The Duomo can be seen in the distant center.
There is also an interesting interplay between the police and the illegal immigrants, mostly from Africa. While I do not know much about this issue, I get the impression that everything is a bit of a dance.
Everyone here knows that the men who sell fake Gucci bags and such on the street are illegally doing so. (I heard someone say that even tourists who do not know this will be charged a hefty fine for buying from these merchants.) The immigrants usually display their wares on top of a sheet that they spread out on the street so that as the police cruise by, they may quickly pick up all four corners and scoop their bag of goods up in Santa Claus fashion.
In these last two images, I photographed a police car making its run as two illegals pick up their goods and wait. Sometimes they walk a little bit away, sometimes they simply wait with their bundles. I think sometimes that everyone knows the police will not arrest these men, but nonetheless, the police wish to remind them that at any moment, they have the perfect right and ability to do so. It is an interesting game of tolerance.
Last year, one of my Italian friends who creates caricatures beside the Duomo told me to be careful with my camera. I started to take my camera out of my coat pocket once when I saw the Carabinieri chasing one man, as his cheap wooden toys left a Hansel-and-Gretel trail behind him. My friend asked me to stop. This makes trouble. The authorities do not know who is a tourist and who is a journalist. The last thing this situation needs is one very slanted image of a situation published. But then, he also admitted that the Italian merchants are often frustrated because they pay for selling permits and then must compete with those who sell illegally.
I wonder if these problems are the same everywhere.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
I was finally successful in receiving my permit to make drawing with pastels as a madonnara on Via Calimala here in Florence, Italy. My first two times street painting occurred last September, shortly after starting this blog. On Monday the 25th, I “painted” for the third time.
I madonnari have some pretty good pointers on how to work the crowd for the best tips. They put a lot of psychology in the choice of subject matter and even what time of day to have certain elements. Their choices are very human and make a lot of sense (and at the same time – ha!). However, this time, I chose to ignore all that. I do not want to give up any morning time with Italian model Valentina, so I arrived to start working around 13:45.
Then, I chose to depict the nude male torso, from the back view. Part of our permit regulations is that we do not introduce any original drawings. So, I decided to draw a work that is attributed to Jacques Louis David with a supposed subject of “Patroclus.” The Maestro John Angel told me today that this painting is too romantic to be done by David. He thinks it was done by an unknown contemporary, and my art history knowledge was not enough to be able to share more with you.
Anyway, I was relatively pleased with this effort and fortunate that the weather was not colder. But the night had mixed reviews. On the one hand, it was good practice and I was given many “Complimenti.” I was surprised at how many people told me they loved seeing the male nude figure.
I also met a lot of charming people. However, my body is sore now and most people did not tip at all! The other two artists left because they said that the money earned today was not worth the effort. I held out some hope until I just could not stand waiting for anyone, so . . . I worked from about 13:45 to 20:00.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
By Wednesday night, my friend Janné and I were ready to transfer our cartoon drawings of the model Valentina to the better quality Umbria paper for our charcoal drawings. Pictured here you can see my tracing paper that is used to transfer my original drawing to the new paper.
This method of transfer does not harm the original. I used a blue felt pen to trace over my drawing. Then on the back side of the tracing paper, I rubbed some soft B charcoal over my lines (Nitram brand – French and not available in the States, that I know of). I then position the tracing paper over my Umbria paper, measuring my vertical placement lines from the paper’s edge so that my figure is oriented properly on the paper. And then I use a blunt pencil to trace over my blue felt lines and transfer charcoal lines onto the Umbria.
My next step is to lay-in the tones, starting with the background. I use a soft B charcoal (stubs usually) to scrub-in the ‘dirt on paper.’ Then I use a soft sponge to even out the charcoal and try for some consistent and desired tone. This is not precise because until I see the model in pose, I cannot determine any tonal relationships. Janné took the image you see of me wiping the extra charcoal dust into the street of Via Ghibellina here in Florence, Italy. Vine charcoal is quite dirty and the only other window in my apartment opens up over another woman’s courtyard. She often has laundry hanging up, so it seemed a bit rude to give her the dust. So, go ahead and chastise me for trashing Florence. Some art production is not particularly environmentally friendly.
This last image shows you my basic transfer from a cartoon drawing on inexpensive paper to a tonal disegno on Umbria paper. So far, I like Umbria much better than the Somerset that I used for the drawing of Francesco. As you can see, I have a lot of blending to do in the background, once I establish my desired tones in each area. And, of course, the figure needs much refinement. The face is too garish for my taste, but having gone through this process before, I know she will not end up looking like this for long. Also, I do not often see the model’s face (depending on her and my movements and the fall of her hair during each posing session). However, I want to create her beautiful face before adding wisps of hair over it. And finally, I am pleased with the sexy wave-like shadow her body causes on the model stand.
Thank you for reading!
PS Buon Compleanno, Matteo!