Saturday, February 28, 2009

Pastel Figure Drawing


Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

I wrote about the Florence Academy Alumni Art Exhibit here in Florence, Italy, not too long ago. That night, I was not only looking at art. I was looking at people, especially the characters. I met Vida from Brazil that night. Perhaps you remember the photo of the two of us sitting in one of the vintage cars parked in the stables of Princess Corsini.

Since then Vida and I have been working together to create art for my exhibit here in April. Vida is a teacher of traditional capoeira, a type of dance (usually with another) that looks like a combination of dance, tai chi, and sometimes martial arts, or hunting. He says that the more modern version includes acrobatics as a crowd thriller.

I must be missing my days as a street painter in Florence, because after I saw some of Vida’s movements, I decided to try a figure drawing using color pastels. So, I bought some dark brown Roma paper and am enjoying this struggle with perspective (foreshortening) and color. Here is a sneak peek . . . and enjoy your weekend. And keep watching that glorious sky at night!

I love Florence, Italy


Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

Last night I met up with a new friend at an art history lecture on Guido Reni and Bernini by Charles Cecil at his school in Florence, Italy. I love these lectures because Charles brings his passion for the art into the room with him. I do not always agree with his conclusions about specific works of art “obviously” being inspired by another artist, but then, I am not in the know enough to argue. Sometimes I just do not see the connections myself, and other times, I think that since I would not make that connection, it may be incorrect to assume that another artist did. Still I enjoy studies of compositions and am rarely bored at these events each Thursday evening.

After the lecture, my friend invited me over to her flat and I was delighted to discover that she has a rooftop terrace! So, you can imagine where we drank our chamomile tea! I took this (unfortunately terrible) photo of the cactus with Florence’s Duomo to say hello to my Texas guy. How unlikely to see Texas and Italy connected in this way.

And look at the Palazzo Vecchio (old palace): The silhouettes of the rooftop hiding my view of him create a lovely and interesting shape indeed. We could even see San Miniato in the distance. Although we are both night owls, I left before midnight because I have so much work to do.


Today, I rode my bike through the Porta Romana and up the main road to Siena. Like many cities in Italia, Florence was once surrounded by a wall. Today the wall is now mostly a viale (wide street/avenue). But at various “corners” one can still pass through one of the several gates or porte. Porta Romana is the gate that serves the road to Rome.

Traffic was not too bad in this afternoon hour, so I stopped just long enough to take a snapshot of this stone carving of one figure cleverly balanced horizontally and precariously off of another figure’s head. It reminded me of a recent video that my niece took of my brother Paul diving head-first like a sea lion up over the rail and off of our brother Steve’s second story river deck. Bravo, Paul, for not belly-flopping or dying! (And you will NEVER see me doing that!)

I rode up this hill in the direction of Siena to see a sculpture studio that is for rent. But I cannot afford it, so . . . after an Open Studio of short poses, I rode my bike home and saw a sliver of the moon in a smile under a bright planet. Does anyone know which one? I have watched this star for so long and I should know which one it is. Anyway, this is a view of my brief stop on the Ponte San Niccolò. The moon and planet are on the left with their reflections in the famous Arno River. And the Palazzo Vecchio can be seen on the right. I wish you had seen this vision in person.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Nicolas Original Portrait Drawing



Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

I have a friend named Nicolas who cheers me up every time I see him. He is smiling almost all of the time. He wears ORANGE after all (the happy, social color), but it suits him really. He has worked in so many parts of the world and in the most interesting jobs, including working for the French Consulate and being an actor in Hollywood. Last night he sat for me while I created a portrait sketch of him.

I hope you enjoy this portrait of Nicolas. He laughed after seeing my sketch and said that now he knows why he will never be married. Modest guy. I do not know if I have ever drawn anyone quite so jovial and I love the personality in this drawing.

Today while I was out spraying fixative over the charcoal and thick paper, my padrone and coinquillino (landlord and roommate, respectively) Luca thought it would be fun to put Nicolas (the drawing, not the man) into his lemon tree. Ok, so each person appreciates art in a different way. Nicolas (the man, not the drawing) would be the kind to turn lemons to lemonade.

But seriously, this original charcoal drawing of a man’s portrait measures 36 x 25 cm (14.25" x 10") and is available.

In the meantime, I have been enjoying schiacciata alla fiorentina, a cake with crème between layers and topped with decorative powdered sugars. It is specifically made by Florentines before Carnevale and has the Florentine fleur-de-lis on the top. It is delicious, and a good thing because the crème makes it not so easy to keep around.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Florence Academy of Art Exhibit

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

Last evening I attended the art reception for the Florence Academy of Art Fourth Alumni Exhibition. About 70 artists have original artworks on exhibit this week at the Corsini Family Stables in Florence, Italy.


The art was mostly strong and in a beautiful setting. I will share with you some of my favorite pieces in a bit, but I must confess that I was also drawn to people watching. Many artists attend openings, but I could not help wonder if some of the collectors were also part of the “cool” scene. I saw amazing hats, capes, hairstyles, faces, and vivacious conversations happening while the wine was flowing.

The location was fantastic, with guests walking the red carpet, cruising by some working antique cars and a motorcycle. Stone, iron, wood, all we needed were horses and hay!
In the photo with the large angel, I believe that is the art school’s founder Daniel Graves in the beret. I was too shy to go up to meet him. But I did meet a few more artists and models. The guy in the car with me (gutsy – I never would have done that alone!) is a dancer and model from Brazil, who happens to be the boyfriend of a fellow madonnara (street painter) friend of mine who attends Florence Academy. A small world indeed!

See a representation of the works online: www.florenceacademyexhibition.com

What you will not see online are the frames. Some were truly works of art themselves. Many fit the artwork they surrounded perfectly.



Sculptor Lori Shorin’s “Massi” is really expressive in bronze. Lori and I each created sculptures from the same male model during the Christmas holidays. I am pictured here with her during the reception – without wet clay about us! (My clay sculpture is still drying, so you have not seen him yet.)


My favorites (and in no order):
A charcoal drawing that was sold in the private auction before the show opened. The drawing was a study for Toby Wright’s “La Salvatrice,” a 300 cm tall oil painting.

“Portrait of Sarah” a charcoal drawing by Hunter Eddy

For the curvy fence that creates a circular path into the composition, and for the portrayal of the light in darkening clouds, I add to my favorites: Joakim Ericsson’s oil painting “Norwegian Landscape I”


Jura Bedic’s still life painting in oil “Rose Hips” for its tactile qualities and je ne sais qois.

And, of course, I loved the mysterious energy in Hege Elisabeth Haugen’s oil painting “Sonata”


Carlos Madrid’s “Mangoes” surprised me because I do not normally enjoy this kind of composition. Something about the way the fabric was painted and the softness of the fruit seemed perfect for this symmetrical design. Kudos to someone who can make my change my mind! (The image online does not do justice.)


While I am normally creeped-out with the “head on a stick” concept, Carl Martin Sandvold’s “Head of my Father” was very well done.

Cody Swanson’s Larger than Life “Judas” was perfect and moving. Really, Robert Bodem’s Sculpture Department at the Florence Academy is fantastic.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Carnevale Florence Italy

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

I have been in my own head so much lately that I need reminders that it is Carnevale time in Italy! This afternoon I reluctantly left my studio to go to the Florence Academy of Art Alumni Exhibit. It is not that I did not want to see the show – I did – but I have more ideas in my head now and too little time. Most of the time, I enjoy working.


On my bike ride to the show, two charming children greeted me in the street. The girl was throwing confetti over her own head, while the boy was tooting his horn. I could not get my horrible camera out fast enough, but managed to take a couple of shots before they headed down the via with their parents.



Later I passed Piazza d’Ognissanti and caught the tail end of a small children’s festival. Most of the kids wore costumes and were dancing around and otherwise having a fairly social evening. I was enjoying the shadows cast by the setting sun.

Next time I will share with you something of the Florence Academy exhibit.

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