Friday, February 20, 2009

Memories of Venice Original Art

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

One of the things I came to Italy to improve is my ability to add an environment to a figure in art. When I began drawing this lovely standing pose with my friend and model Valentina, I had no idea of where I was going. I mean, as far as what other shapes would surround her.

I know that people often call the style of art that I create “photo realism” but that is not the mentality I have when I approach my work. And thus, while I was designing the shape of the shadow the model cast on the floor, I created a wave.

This water theme stuck with me throughout the 5-week pose and what was in reality a slanted easel supporting the model’s hand became a famous and distinctive Venetian canal pole. And because one element does not a story make, I began to try other symbols of Venice to create a pleasing composition that did not take away from the figure.

Determining the composition has been a slow process for me. I drew the model in the late spring of 2008. I am not a faster producer, but also I tried many things that just did not work for me. Everything I arranged seemed like “too much information.” I played around with various shapes and sizes, until things felt comfortably pleasing to my eye.

There is an obvious diagonal going across the image plane, but I wanted something more to slow down the gaze. I wanted to move the viewer’s eye from the gondolas up through the cathedral to the model’s right hand and then face before traveling back down the left arm and then to the hand. For me, this was another nautilus shell composition. Apparently, I feel pretty at peace with shapes from the sea.

“Memories of Venice” will be part of my 3-week solo exhibit here in Florence, Italy, starting on 16 April. However, I have no problems exhibiting a sold piece, so if you know someone who would love to own this original drawing, please give him or her my contact information!

“Memories of Venice” is an original drawing in various materials (mostly charcoal) on Umbria brand paper. She measures 69 x 49 cm (27" x 19.5").

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Inside Brunelleschi’s Dome Florence Italy

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

It is true that we, as a public, no longer know how to read paintings. As a general rule, our society is no longer familiar with the symbols from cultures centuries old. Without recognizing these symbols (often mythological or religious), we miss much of the meanings in the paintings of our past. These were the days when visual art and literature were much more closely related.

However, some artworks still retain the general idea for even the least learned of us. I am thinking now, for example, of the artwork frescoed onto the upper inside of the famous Duomo in Florence, Italy. In my last blog entry, I spoke about Italian architect Filippo Brunelleschi’s brilliantly designed duomo (cathedral), topped with Florence’s landmark red cupola.

I actually went inside the Chiesa di Santa Maria del Fiore (The Church of Saint Mary of the Flowers) on Christmas Eve just before midnight. The music was entrancing. I took these photos before a security guard asked me to stop. Sometimes it is better to ask forgiveness than permission, maybe even especially inside of a church. I made these images a little bit larger than normal because there is so much going on in each one. I understand that my blog site reduces the images, but if you click on them, you will view the original version.

I love this first image. From a distance, my composition of lights against the darks reminds me of a nautilus shell. And I adore the guys hanging out of the architecture near the top of the dome. Honestly, I do not know many of the stories told here myself. For instance, there are two groups of three people interacting with one another in the lower level of the figures in light. I do not doubt for a second, though, that they have very specific identities and lofty purposes.

It does not require an art history major to see that the figures near the bottom are surrounded by darkness and suffering in one way or another. The bodies twist and fall in a rhythm of pain and are tortured by gruesome creatures. This is Hell.

For my taste, I enjoy certain individual parts of the fresco. But overall, the composition is too symmetrical for my eye. The bottom and the very top tiers look much more interesting to me than the cubby-holed, orderly middle. I guess this artwork is a lot like society, huh? Nothing ever changes!

In this last image, you can see the railings clearly. I believe that tourists are permitted up there (and higher) as part of the dome tour. Although the overall colors in this image are more red, I believe the lower contrast is closer to what the real artwork looks like. Enjoy.

If you would like to learn more about Florence’s Duomo, click here
Find out how many artists (and who were they?) who created the dome fresco (true or secco?) check out
wikipedia here

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Brunelleschi’s Dome Florence Italy

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

Buona Festa di San Valentino! Instead of talking about something depressing, I thought I would share with you something impressive. The Chiesa di Santa Maria del Fiore (The Church of Saint Mary of the Flowers) is better known as Florence’s Duomo. In the Italian language, “duomo” does not mean ‘dome.’ It means ‘cathedral.’ Il Duomo is often the focal point of every Italian city. In this case, Florence’s Duomo is capped with a dome, probably the most famous one in Italy if not the world.

Near the Duomo is one of my favorite sculptures in Florence. He is a marble carving dated around 1830 by Luigi Pampaloni of the famous architect Filippo Brunelleschi. Normally, I am not drawn to statues. That must sound strange coming from a sculptor whose work is more realistic than not. But I think of statues as being different from sculpture somehow. Boh! Perhaps the interactive or site-specific pose of the seated architect looking up at his magnificent cupola makes me want to look as well.

But mainly, there is elegance in the simplicity of the forms. I like the man’s tights smoothing over the details in the well-defined legs and feet. I like the gentle sweeping folds of fabric and paper in contrast with angular fingers. I love the light-colored stone figure against a soft grey arch designed by Gaetano Baccani. Next to this, there is a second sculpture by the same artist of another famous architect Arnolfo di Cambio, but I am afraid that it is Brunelleschi’s marble that I admire so much.

Brunelleschi’s cupola is veramente magnifica. It is truly a landmark and can be discerned from almost anywhere in the valley of Florence and surrounding mountains. Believe it or not, I have yet to walk to the top. That probably falls under the “I live here. I can do it anytime and therefore, I have never done it.” I often postpone for perfect weather, but am too busy when that arrives. However, I rarely cease to admire this beautiful and striking architecture.

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