Thursday, September 25, 2008

Seductive Pastel Drawing in Florence, Italy

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

While I was in Texas this summer, I found the image I took many years ago of the original portrait painting “Madonna Blu” by Italian artist Carlo Dolci. It is so much better than the image off of the Web that I worked from last year. Yesterday I was called to see if I wanted to fill a vacancy in one of the spaces for the madonnari in Florence, Italy. I could not arrive until 3 p.m., so I decided to try again the “Blue Madonna”

What a great day I had! One of the most common questions I hear from visitors who watch me paint on the street is, “Isn’t it difficult to have to wash away your work each day?” Well, I thought it would be, but some days I realize how freeing this experience can be. In one way, the pressure is off. (But yes, your bad drawing days are SO public!) One is reminded that it is just chalk (pastels) and only a street. It is a day to experiment and learn.


Yesterday, I tried to put more color into the portrait. I first outlined the shapes of my light patterns and then the darks. I then began to layer various colors within those forms. It looks a bit wild here (see image on the left), but after . . . I love taking my hands and mushing the pastels carefully to blend. One time I noticed a couple standing behind me watching as I put the layers in. I got the feeling that they thought I was not doing such a good job and as I prepared to blend, I exclaimed, “Wait, do not leave, this is the exciting part!” They did not believe me (or perhaps they were afraid that I would expect a tip!).
They left and I went on with my joy.


Yesterday I realized that one problem I have in the studio is that paper and canvas do not even remotely resemble pavement. Sometime the texture of the street is awful, but when it is pure texture (vs. grease or large holes or lines), the result is glorious! I include the close-up images of the mouth area because I feel this pastel portrait drawing is very sculptural and I was pleased with my efforts. My hands have been rubbed raw though, so I hope the police do not want my fingerprints! No pain, no gain. Ha!


I took this next image after the sun went down and without a flash on my camera. But I love this “light emerging from darkness” concept that I have been working with for a while now. She is mysterious in her serenity, do you not agree?

While many people gave me compliments and took fotos, this was not a good earning day. It surprised me because last year when I drew this image as my first time as a madonnara, I earned three times as much! However, the day was not lost. I met many wonderful people. I loaned chalk to several children as they shyly added to my drawing. One boy, Niccolò, loved posing for his father (who gave his permission for me to post this image of Nico and me).

I also met some musicians from Florence and Tunisia, a young couple (both animators and teachers) from Singapore, two young men from Peru (one spent much time showing me his current photographs of shadows and graffiti art from the train station of Firenze Rifredi – beautiful images). In addition to that, I was again interviewed by a journalist writing about culture in Florence. Maybe I can be published again ;-) I am finding myself totally charmed by a specific northern Italian accent that I hear sometimes here in Florence.

And later, my friend opera singer Miriam Léah, featured on my blog last March, came to visit with her boyfriend James. After she gave her concert (for tips) at the Duomo, she came back to Via Calimala and sang for me. She is very sweet and her voice fits the narrow streets of Florence beautifully (and she said the intimate nature of the area of Via Calimala and Via Porta Rossa is better for her voice than the open space in front of the Duomo).

They hung out with me until I washed away my drawing around midnight. Here you can see the three of us, my copy of Carlo Dolci’s “Madonna Blu” and my friend Hafiza’s bike, which I am honored to have the use of while I live in Florence.


Opera Singer Miriam Léah’s MySpace Page (Hear her sing!)

See my first street painting of Carlo Dolci’s Blue Madonna




Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Street Painting in Florence, Italy

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

Yesterday I again worked as a madonnara on Via Calimala in Florence, Italy. Someone asked me if I ever did the same picture twice. Well, that day I attempted to draw again Pompeo Batoni’s “Madonna and Child” from 1742.

I include here an image of both day’s efforts. I struggle with drawing or painting faces and working on the street is even more difficult than working vertically and on my feet. I find it interesting how different both of my attempts are. I have made quite a few improvements on the madonna’s face, especially in the hair and the dark side of the face. The shorter nose seems more feminine and young to me.

But I see many things that I need to improve. I hope to get the opportunity. One Italian woman asked if I would paint this image on tela (canvas) so she could buy it. Time will tell if she is truly interested. In the meantime, I continue to work on improving my understanding of design and shapes – and color.

If you happen to be in Florence, Italy, on Monday, September 29, please stop by and see me. I will be working the space near the Mercato Porcellino. I usually arrive between 10 and 11 am and draw until mezzanotte (midnight). Cold temperatures and rain usually send me home earlier.

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