"It's such a lovely feeling, to know what I want to do with my life! Paint!!!"
--excerpt from my diary from this July, when I was in Italy
I ate so much pasta in Italy, insane amounts of scrumptious carbs. Luckily, all of this gluttony was balanced out by lots and lots of walking, carrying my 20+ pound easel. One day I wandered across the bridge over the ravine that led to the new part of town. Another, seasoned artist had suggested I try a certain terrace that had a good overlook. I found it, and I painted this small study, "View from the New Town." Just as I finished painting it, and had cleaned up my brushes, a bird flew over me and pooped on the painting. I wondered if the bird was expressing some harsh critique, or if perhaps, in Italy, this was a sign of appreciation (for birds, anyway.) Either way, I didn't feel like I wanted to get my brushes dirty again, so I just rubbed the poop in with my finger. So, that makes it extra-special.
Even though I wasn't taking a class, (my artist residency resembled an independent study) I learned so much! I can't stress enough how much I owe to the other artists I encountered in the JSS program. It was humbling and awe-inspiring to be in their presence, and I was constantly absorbing new ideas, techniques, and perspectives from them. I the wrote about this painting [above] the day I painted it:
I'm so grateful to be surrounded by amazing artists every I go, who are generous with their time and knowledge. Yesterday, a young woman named Marsal gave me so many helpful little tips. At her suggestion I tried this "premier coup," a small, one-shot sketch of the motif I was working on in a larger, slower way. It was very cool doing the same thing at different speeds. This is the little fast one.
The heat in Italy was so extreme! It was nearly impossible for me to paint between noon and five pm. I decided to get up at dawn every morning and paint when it was cooler. My amazing roommate, Kristen Peyton, would get up with me. Together, we made our espresso and simple breakfast of yogurt, nutella, and fruit, enjoying it out on the porch while we watched the sunrise. Then, together, we shouldered our heavy easels (Kristen actually had a wagon that she used to drag all her painting gear around town!) and we headed out together for a morning of painting. I spent three mornings on the painting above, trying to get that special misty green in the shadows of the ravine. My new friend Marsal was painting nearby, and once again she gave me quite a bit of encouragement and helpful feedback.
While I painted this scene of cliff shadows and distant mountains [above], three little Italian kittens were watching me! During my painting session, several local people approached the kittens, giving them food. One little old woman came and scattered dry cat food in the corner, calling the kittens by name. Later, a man came and brought some fresh meat for them. Even though they were obviously alley-cats, they were loved and cared-for.
Every day I walked into town, sometimes several times a day. I found a slightly longer route that took me along the ravine, and in the evening it was a quiet place to paint. Hardly anyone was there, except for the occasional lovers trysting...
Painting makes me feel like I am flying! I can't describe the joy that fills my heart. After spending more than a day wandering around being jet-lagged and overwhelmed by beauty, I finally painted this sunny cliff-face [above]. It's my first time touching my paintbrush to linen in Italy.
On my sixth day in Italy, I had my first critique from the teacher of the JSS program, Israel Hershberg. He suggested I pay attention to "where paint meets paint." So, with that in mind, I set up my easel on an incredibly windy day and tried this motif. Eventually the wind won. I couldn't keep my easel from blowing over, so I called it finished.
While I was painting this [above], a group of Italian teenagers came up to me, and shyly offered me some fresh slices of watermelon. It was so refreshing and delicious on a hot day! What a sweet gift!
This is the last painting I did in Italy [below]. I was fascinated by all the laundry hanging everywhere in this tiny old town. It struck me as so poetic, fascinating, and colorful. Every little alley had its flags and streamers of colorful laundry, and I believe if I could have stayed another week or to, I would have done a whole series of laundry-paintings.
When I was painting this, Yael Scalia happened to walk by. She is an artist I have long admired, and it was partly my desire to meet her in person which inspired me to apply for this artist residency in the first place. So of course I felt very glad when she came by twice and gave me some critique. One helpful idea was to scrape away layers of paint with my palette knife, and sort of "start over" with the ghost of the painting remaining as a guide. You can see scrapings pretty clearly in this, my first attempt at trying it.
The old woman pictured in the window of my painting tried to bring her laundry in while I was halfway through, and I cried up to her from the courtyard below: "Signora, per favore, non lavora!" which means (I think) "Ma'am, please don't work." (Because I wasn't sure how to say "please don't do take your laundry in.") Anyway, she thought I was hilarious, and laughed quite a bit. Then she smiled indulgently, and allowed me to finish. Every so often, she would poke her head out and ask how it was going. Finally I called up, "Signora, ho finito!"
But... I'm not finished with you, my dear Italy. More blog posts to come.