Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bouguereau First Kiss Streetpainting

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

Last Monday, I assisted my streetpainting colleague Sukyong (from Korea) in recreating the Mona Lisa in chalk and pastel. In bed by 2:30 am that night, I was up early and streetpainting in Florence, Italy, again by 10 am the next day. My Japanese colleague Kumiko and I had agreed the night before to create William Bouguereau’s “First Kiss” (or as the Italians call it ”Il Premio Bacio”).

I decided on how I wanted to crop the image – the art of the madonnari is to create large works to make a spettacolo and then began making measurements in my space. I then sketched out most of the entire composition in white chalk. Just as I was wrapping that up, Kumiko arrived and we decided that she would create the masculine figure on the left, I would do the girl on the right.

Collaborating is often interesting and I think that Kumiko and I did a good job on this one. Although I have known this sculptor/madonnara for a couple of years now, we have never drawn together. You can see from this second image that she and I start off a little bit differently. While I was thinking of dividing my shapes into lights and darks and then layering in colors, Kumiko started off with a reddish base on the entire face, then adding darks and lights (and neutralizing the colors as she went along). I told her that her method was more like the classical painting method of starting with a campitura or more simply put: toning a canvas with a color that will show through a bit into the design.

After I smoothed all of my layers into the street with my palms and fingers, I stood up and back and had a good laugh. It looked to me as if I have drawn the face of a geisha, not a child! Kumiko agreed, jokingly suggesting that I just add a bit of color to the outer edge of the upper eyelid to finish the effect.

Bouguereau has always been difficult for me to copy because he is so subtle on his tonal contrasts. I have never felt gifted in the art of subtlety. I also love to draw hands and was enjoying this particular challenge today. Here I am laying in the arm (later to be trimmed down a bit).

Several times throughout the day, I offered a stick of chalk to a child. Earlier in the day, I must have met all of the shy kids. Later, two girls accepted. The first one is from England and was doing her “Oh my, this is hard work” pose. A future actress no doubt, her parents admitted. The little blonde girl is from Germany. I do find it fun to let kids participate. While technically, I am not supposed to have anyone help me with my work (unless they have paid the permit fee with me), no one has ever objected to my invitations to the children.

As the night wore on, my friend “Joe” that I wrote to you about a couple of weeks ago returned. “Joe” is the homeless poet from England who stole salmon and mushrooms in order to share lunch with me in the street. Well, he took a liking to Kumiko and I wish that I could share a few images that I took of him. He is very expressive with his hands and his body posture as he crouches down to speak with us.

Joe pulled out a new book he had started for pressing flowers and composed a poem on one page for my friend. To the left of the flowers he wrote:

Wake with a Smile
Walk with Grace
And the Day is Yours

He signed it to the right of his pressings, “So” with the “S” looking more like a long vertical squiggle and the smaller “o” tucked up inside the top curve of the “S.” I would not have realized that was what he was going for, except that he explained it to me. Here Kumiko shows off her gift.

Finally, I leave you with our final efforts. I must confess that the heart frame was actually my idea. This strikes me as funny since I do not particularly like hearts (in design – I tend to think they are too cheesey). However, for some reason the typical rectangular cornice seemed dull and I wanted parts of the wings to extend beyond the image border. I could not figure out how to make a circle around the composition without losing too much space around the figures’ heads, so … my desire for space and extended parts overrode my avoidance of cheese.

I include here a flash image and one with only the streetlight. I could not decide which situation I liked better. I was pleased with our work and Kumiko and I certainly have fun together: Not a bad way to spend my last day in streetpainting during this trip to Italy.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Crocodile Hangs in Church Italy

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

So my last two blog entries were about the streetpainting festival in northern Italy in il Piazzale del Santuario della Madonna delle Grazie (the large square in front of the Shrine of Our Lady of Grace) in the small town of Grazie di Curtatone.

After I finished my work, I took a look at others and also entered the church. I must say that I have never seen a church quite like this one. The sides of the church were lined with wooden columns and sculptures, but some depicted men being tortured and killed. Only, as one of my Italian friends explained, they apparently did not die. This church wanted to show the miracles that have happened, perhaps in this region.

That might even explain why there is a crocodile hanging from the ceiling near the back of the church (see the photo with the chandelier). Apparently a few years back, he was found in the nearby lake. His presence there must have been quite a shock and for at least the last two years, some madonnari have chosen to honor him in their streetpaintings.

Another side note on the wooden columns. Maybe it is just me, but I could have sworn that decorative patterns on these columns and side walls were made with light wooden body parts, namely hands and boobs. Those shapes are interesting and when repeated in lines, create a rather artistic effect. Still, did I really see nude castrated boobs in a church? Davvero?

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Streetpainting Grazie Di Curtatone Italy

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

Grazie di Curtatone in northern Italy recently hosted its 38th Annual Streetpainting Festival. The art of the madonnnari (as streetpainters are called in Italia) began centuries ago as devotional drawings outside of the churches, most often depicting the Madonna, hence the name.

This festival is also a competition with a sacred theme. Any madonnaro/a may draw anything, but if the judges determine your work does not fit the theme, the artist is ineligible for prizes. It is important to win a medal here so that one may eventually earn the title of Maestro. This earns the artist more money. And it does not matter if one is a master artist in general, she must earn this title specifically in this city for it to mean anything.

The money is important because each year, they have been paying the artists less and less. And some artists have traveled a long way to be here and the food is expensive. There are free accommodations if you do not have a problem sleeping in a smelly tent on a wooden floor with bunches of other streetpainters. Artists use up a whole lot more pastel and chalk on this particularly hard street, and if you do not finish your work during the night, be prepared to draw in full sun in August.

Despite all of these obstacles, il Piazzale del Santuario della Madonna delle Grazie (the large square in front of the Shrine of Our Lady of Grace) gets filled with art of all kinds. Today, I am including only a few more images. Even the more political ones at the end were beautifully done and not even particularly controversial.

Because of the rain the night before, we all had from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to draw, instead of the 24 hours straight that we have normally.