Friday, April 4, 2008

Pastries and Pals In Florence, Italy

Cari Amici,
When I was not painting today, I took some time out for visiting friends. Lisa’s husband John has been visiting Florence from Florida. John became one of my first readers of this blog, I think, shortly after I met Lisa last September. And so today, he got to be surrounded by chicks. We three met up with Skye and Anna at Piazza Salvemini en route to I Dolci di Patrizio Cosi – one of the best pastry shops in Florence. My favorites are Fruttini Misti, mixed little fruits in small pie crusts.

After leaving Patrizio Cosi, we walked down Borgo degli Albizi. I include an image here of one of my favorite courtyards in centro. I never tire of it. Now there are beautiful red flowers – perhaps hibiscus – in the pot.

While Skye and Anna were exploring shops around Piazza della Repubblica, Lisa, John, and I went up to the terrazza on the top floor of La Rinascente that I referenced recently. Lisa treated us to a couple of beers and we enjoyed the sun warming up the day. For sitting around doing virtually nothing, it was a pretty good way to go. A wonderfully warm older Italian woman took two shots of us that I include here. And as she and her party left, she wished us a “Buono soggiorno.” (Have a good stay.)

Soon after, Anna headed off for another walk before sundown and John and Lisa headed back to their place. Skye was still angling for some shopping, so I went with her. We stopped in at some big name department store not too far from the Duomo. Skye was enchanted with the clothes there, while I was less enchanted with the sales staff – one woman in particular.

Knowing that Skye would buy what she was trying on, I felt entitled enough to ask this saleswoman where the restroom was. She actually looked me up and down before saying, “Il bagno e rotto.” (The bathroom is broken.) Now, I am no fashion queen to be sure, but that was just rude!

Later, as I was foolin’ around with my Canon, she told me, “NO fotos!” Feeling a bit annoyed, bored, and rather unappealing, I sat down in an orange area near the fitting rooms where Skye was. And I used my snapshot camera to take this self-portrait. Orange is supposed to make one feel happy. Sometimes I think that only chocolate and good friends can do that.

Cascine Market Florence, Italy

Cari Amici,
I felt my cold break in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, although even today I am still feeling some lingering effects. I was happy, though, because I had made plans to meet my friend Anna (who shares a birthday with me) to go to the Tuesday market in the Parco delle Cascine. This park stretches along the famous Arno River, downstream from the Ponte Vecchio.

Although I have been told that Florentines love their gardens, a tourist is unlikely to see much of these in centro unless you can get invited inside the historic buildings to see the courtyards and rooftops. I have a tendency to experience withdrawal symptoms if I do not have contact with trees often, so I was looking forward to seeing more of this park.

The park is lovely (by day – by night, one can see prostitutes and it was not too long ago that the police cracked down on a substantial child prostitute business here) and the market was much larger than I expected. I love the food booths, the plants, and the inexpensive clothes. But they also sell sheets, linens, and other household items. Anna bought a pot for cooking.

We got a kick out of our lack of understanding the Italian language: One shoe booth promoted “Stock solo €1.50”. We were unclear on whether solo meant “only” or “each” since the shoes did not appear to be sold by the pairs. The weather was very spring-like and quite perfect, save for the flying seedlets snowing down on us. I know that I should have been able to name the guilty plant or tree, but labels seem to be escaping me. But enjoy the photo of the temporary groundcover!

And finally, I would like to include this image that I took on our return trip. We crossed the Arno and could see the beginning of the market on the left. And in front of the hills that surround Florence, the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio can be seen behind the bridges we must pass before arriving back where we started – Florence’s Ponte Vecchio.

Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Painting Jess by Candlelight

Cari Amici,

I have been trying to find some time to improve my productivity while I also try different painting techniques. Too many distractions: free museum week, madonnari demonstrations (both over now) and this raffreddore (cold) that I thought I kicked last night. However, I was able to prep some thick water-color paper for accepting oil paint late last week and have been gearing up to do more work when I can get out of bed.

The watercolor paper has a nice bumpy sort of texture that I think lends an interesting softness to the painted image. I painted three coats of acrylic gesso on each sheet and hope to create a series of paintings that are extremely well priced. Each sheet is approximately 11 x 8.5 inches.

Some images stay with me longer than others. And lately, the aesthetic that seems to lure me the most often is the idea of light emerging from darkness. Candlelight has always been a favorite of mine. And I love the sepia tones and have chosen to use them to focus on the light.

So, the first in this project is titled “Jess by Candlelight” and she will sell for $150 (US). Please add $20 for shipping from bella Italia for a total of $170. No sales tax, though. I can accept payment via PayPal. If interested, please send me an e-mail or click on the PayPal button.

Thank you so much for being a part of my creative journey!
Ciao, ciao,

Monday, March 31, 2008

Street Art, Griff Parish and Florence

Cari Amici,
Today was the last day that the madonnari were allowed to create chalk drawings on the streets in Florence. The Comune di Firenze changed the Street Art law in January and raised our permit fees by a rather serious percentage. And as of the prima di Aprile, there will be no more madonnari making disegni in Firenze. No foolin’.

We madonnari have been demonstrating in our three drawing spaces on Via Calimala and also in the famous Piazza della Signoria off and on since December, and it always seems surprising to locals and tourists alike that we pay to draw. Some people seem to think that tips are not necessary (even when they photo and videotape us) because they assume that the city of Florence pays us to entertain them.

Although I caught a cold a couple of days ago (probably should have avoided the “wet head outside” situation), I thought that I should join Claudio, Tomo, Giovanni, Laura, Giuseppe, Miho, Hwaja, Hisayuki, and others in a joint drawing project on paper taped to the street.

I arrived just before they all left for il pranzo (lunch). I asked Claudio what I should do while they were gone and he asked me to fix a specific face on the copy of a Botticelli that the group had started some time ago. It is a bit weird to work on someone else’s drawing like this – somehow different than when I am teaching (although even then, I try to be sensitive to the student’s desires in this area). I had no idea who the original madonnaro was and I hoped that he would not return while I was in-process.

In this image above, you can see how much more contrasty my work is from the other artists. (The face I reworked is the one on the far right.) Hmmmm. I can also see the places in which I need more tone changes and blending, as well as color temperature issues in the hair. Beside this edge of the drawing, you may also see the petition in which we have been collecting signatures and Claudio’s signage today explaining something of our plight.

Returning from lunch, Claudio brought me another “Paradise” It comes in a small plastic shot glass and often a cute little take-out tray with holes in it. Claudio often treats the other artists to this refresher. It is the crème of some kind of citrone fruit, plus some kicking alcohol. Some days the crème seems almost like pudding. I usually do not drink on the job (not because I have a creative issue when toasted, but because I am a klutz and tend to spill things), but some days, it is worth making an exception. We topped that off with a couple of glasses of red wine a little bit later. In the image above, you can see Claudio broadcasting that today is our last day and we could use the signatures of the people.

One admirer of the artworks turned out to be an American musician from La Grange, Georgia. His name is Griff Parish and he tipped me with a copy of his yet-to-be-released (25 April) CD titled “to dream of winged things.” We had a fun conversation and Tomo took this image of us on my battery-challenged camera today. Griff is enjoying Florence, but is headed to Roma soon: He is singing with a chorus group (I believe he said) at the Vatican this Sunday! Seems to be my week to meet young musicians.

Click here to learn more about Griff Parish and his music

Adesso, ho un raffreddore e non sento bene. (Now, I have a cold and I do not feel well.) Giuseppe told me before I left that to cure a cold, I should drink before bed: il vino rosso con (red wine with) cannella, chiodo di garofano, e la buccia d’arancia (cinnamon, clove, and orange peel). I assume warmed.
Oh – Italy turned its clocks forward late last night for Daylight Savings Time. Kinda threw me for a loop today. But then, I was looped already.
Ciao, ciao,

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Water Fountain in Florence, Italy

My friend Lisa heard from her friend Alice about a fountain in Florence, Italy, in which one can refill a water jug for free. She showed me where this was the other day in a park on Via dell’Agnolo, not too far from where I live on Via Ghibellina.

I must admit that I am spoiled. When in Texas, I drink distilled water. Yes, the beauty and purity of 3 –> H2 + O. I have yet to drink anything out of any city’s tap or out of a bought bottle that tastes any better to me. And I am totally guilty of thinking that bottled water is a big scam. As far as inventions go, I mean, at least Velcro was a CLEVER observation of nature’s design and not just some false claim to improve upon it!

Allora, I have yet to decide whether or not this fountain in Florence has tastier water than my tap here because it is quite possible that I am enchanted by the idea of hauling water home from a fountain. But then I also think it is sexy to hang laundry outside on a breezy spring day while wearing a dress. I am a bit bizarre that way, I suppose. In any case, this Florentine fountain is not nearly as beautiful as the fountain I painted in Lucca several years ago. That is still one of my favorite paintings.

Lisa took this image of me filling one of my jugs.

Click here to see my oil painting "Fontana di Lucca"

Ok, I am about to commit a social faux pas (is that redundant – are there any other kind of faux pas-s?), so if you want to save me some embarrassment, please stop reading . . . I wonder if I am doing this since I am frustrated at not having finished the painting I stayed indoors all day to finish today?

Recently a friend sent me a link to a news story about US politics. Something about some Democratic leader asking one candidate to step down and out of the way for another. I do believe I am getting less tolerant of politicians (and the public too) the older I get. My response was:

Good God. Do the Democrats EVER learn?
It sounds quite possible that they could thoroughly disgust the American voting public so much more than President Bush and the Republicans have done that the vote may sway / stay towards a known (and organized) evil vs. ANY of the bickering, wavering, INDECISIVE, and just-as-righteous power-hungry, individually oriented Democrats.

And how backwards are we that we are still having conversations about penises and pigments in the context of job qualifications???
We are supposed to be the country that believes that all people are created equally (or at least are treated as such initially).

I do not want a PETTY President, no matter how right/justified/qualified/deserving/idealistic s/he thinks s/he might be.

Basta! Let us find someone with some kind of dignity to lead our country. And a view of the big picture of the world we live in would be wonderful as well.
When will we, the People, stop putting up with this theatrical crap?

Ok, I am done now.
Um, thanks for sharing, . . . I think.


The Horne Museum Florence Italy

Yesterday, for my ‘free museum’ jaunt in Florence, Italy, I tried to visit the Casa di Dante, but it was not free to enter after all, so I turned back. I then went to Il Museo Horne and asked, “L’ingresso è libero oggi?” (“Is the entry free today?”) The response in English was basically, “No, but tomorrow it will be,” with an explanation of why it was not free on Friday.

I then said, in very nervous and therefore, incorrect Italian (because I forgot words I knew even), “Why is it that all the Florentines speak with me in English?” “Because the information you ask for is complicated.” I responded, “Sì, lo so, ma vorrei imparare la lingua qui. Forse non è possibile?” (“Yes, I know, but I would like to learn the language here. Maybe it is not possible?”)

I was then treated to warmer smiles by the two women behind the counter, which I took to be kindness to an American who was apparently not a typical tourist. They told me that I spoke well, but this is not possible either, although most Italians are polite to those who at least try to speak the language of the land. I then asked what hours they would be open on Saturday. As I left, I made another language mistake: I cheerfully said, “Ciao, domani!” (See you tomorrow.) But this is informal and since I did not know them, I should have said, “Grazie. Arrivederci.” (or “Arrivederla”)

I walk by The Horne Museum on Via dei Benci almost every day and decided that instead of hitting the major museums during Cultural Heritage Week, I should take a chance on discovering a new place that I may or may not enjoy. Allora, I returned this morning.

The best thing about The Horne Museum, for my taste, was the house itself and the furniture. I loved the wooden shutters that folded around large stone walls, the round glass in the windows, the rooms with high ceilings, and all of the inlaid wood that was in the doors and tables, chests, and chairs.

The museum is the historic Corsi building and was bought in 1911 by an English architect and art historian Herbert Percy Horne. He wanted to showcase his entire collexion of over 6,000 pieces of art, coins, and decorative items in an authentic Renaissance home. The Italian government received his gift as The Horne Foundation upon his death in 1916.

I was not particularly enchanted by most of the artworks or even the ceramics on exhibit. However, my friend Rodney asked me some time ago if I would create a self portrait. So, here I am reflected in this ivory mirror. At least I think the material is ivory. I have always admired the craftsmanship in ivory sculptures, but in truth, I have a difficult time forgetting what price the elephant paid for each piece.

I was delighted to discover a terra-cotta maquette by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) in a charming wooden display case. The titolo of the small and loosely detailed sculpture is “Angeli in gloria”. Sometimes I cannot decide which fascinates me more: the creative process or a finished work. Journeys are amazing, but it does feel great to actually see something to completion!

È finalemente, I know that I am supposed to know this artist. I have seen this image or a similar one of this same man in many of the art history lectures I have heard here in Florence. This man’s nose is quite distinctive and there are various theories about what happened to him – war injury or defect? One theory I heard was that he lost his eyesight in one eye in a battle and the bridge of the nose was cut away to help him see all around him with the remaining good eye! Anyway, since I did not receive a programme, I do not know the artist or even if this is a copy or derivative work. Mi dispiace!

Oh – and the diagonal shadow across the bottom left of the painting is caused by a nearby wardrobe. I must say that the lighting in this building was not ideal. Even in the main rooms, there was so much light bouncing around from the multiple windows that one could not view the artworks without glare. But then again, the collector’s intent was to showcase art in a typical environment. So, perhaps he succeeded.

Now, back to painting . . .