The Last Week In Photos

My Last Figure Drawing (not satisfied with her face, but otherwise quite proud of the results):

day one

day two

day three

day four

day five

First Charcoal Portrait:

Gianluca

likenesses (my and Jaimie's work)

Last Gusta Pizza (I did promise):

nommmmmm

Other delicious things from this month’s adventures:

table wine (the good kind)

gnocchi with soft cheese and white truffle oil

homemade raspberry daiquiris

soon-to-be insalata caprese

Piemontese red

Bruschetta

olive oil

And The David:

to see his sheer size

I never said I was mature

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Reflections and Other Images

Today is my last full Monday in Florence. Having just finished another ‘first day’ of figure drawing (this week we’re doing portraits in charcoal – of real people) I gave myself a little time to reflect on my last three weeks here. I’m sure I’ve said this already – but, it’s been an absolute whirlwind of art, tourism, eating, and making friends. I feel like I’ve barely had time for a nap! There’s going to be time for sleep when I’m home, right?

I haven’t been able to update as often as I would have liked, but this week instead of glueing myself to the Internet, I’ve been going to sketch classes:

first sketch class

second week

Going to the Pitti Palace and surrounding gardens for some drawing practice with my new friend, Iona:

Iona sketches a big ol' naked dude

Gallery in the Palazzo Pitti

sketch of lounging park goer

And eating some delicious food (and gelato, because it’s in its own category) – unfortunately I haven’t taken any pictures of these places, but I’ll remedy that situation for my next post, so you’ll have to settle for google pics:

GustaPizza's signature pizza

La Carraia Gelateria

Regarding what I’ve learned, I can already tell that my eye is getting better and my hand is improving as well. This afternoon I noticed I could commit to a line and draw back from the paper to look, only to see that I was more delicate, deliberate, quick and accurate with my pencil. This may seem a little silly, but having done this every day for weeks straight, I can tell you it’s nice to be less frustrated with my work than I am satisfied with what I’ve accomplished! On Friday I think I’ll post a day-by-day picture set of my last figure drawing, so we can all see what work is done in three hours every day, for five days.

This is last Thursday’s figure – the only sitting pose that we labored over. What a trial that was!

All this improvement and frustration and concentration and general *hard work* adds up. I am so glad to have taken a chance on myself, and to have put myself out there! There’s a lot of value in trying something new, whether it is living alone, traveling abroad, or taking a class in something you’ve never really tried before! That’s my advice for today: do something new. You might surprise yourself with how capable you are!

And if nothing else comes of it, you’ll meet new people with new perspectives and experience:

From left: Iona, Sam, and me!

That’s enough for today! You’ll hear from me on Friday!

Getting to know Firenze

not sure how, but the Medici accountant is morphing into Nicholas Cage

I don’t know how I do it, standing up for nine-ish hours everyday drawing and having the energy to explore, but I do. Somehoooooow. It’s been a bit too long since my last post, but I’ve been spending some time with Florence!

Here are some things you might see here:

1. Gelato. Everywhere. There may just be a scrumptious opportunity on every corner, but you have to search out the good stuff. Never buy two scoops for more than €2.
2. Cafes. Also everywhere. Sometimes in the same space as a gelateria. They have other options, but the only good thing is coffee. And there’s a spectrum of quality even within that. Unfortunately I don’t know the best coffee in town, because I do not partake, so I judge a place on its atmosphere. Or, you know, a wireless signal. If you’re ordering anything else (ex: Coke) you’re probably American.
3. Internationals. I don’t mean tourists (although there are many of those too). You are just as likely to run into a Brit as you are an Italian, if not more so. According to my cousin Charles, who has lived here for 40-some years, Florence is the smallest international city by population in the world, so the people you see everyday are most likely from out of town. I think more people speak English than they do in any other non-English country I’ve been to, and I’ve been to so seriously touristy places!
4. Picturesque landmarks. There are many ugly parts of Florence, but the majority of the inner city by the Arno is gorgeous. The tourist destinations and preserved sites are definitely worth the wait, or the money or whatever you think you’re giving up when you’re traveling. On Monday I visited the Boboli Gardens with a couple friends from school and got some pictures which may illustrate my point:

(You may get the Duomo from all of the angles by the end of my stay, fair warning.)

5. Amazing architecture still in use, that may also be covered in art dating back as far as the Renaissance. There are paintings on almost every street, including my little alley way, of the Madonna and Child. Juxtaposed with the grime of streetlife, you get quite a scene. Apparently Florence’s skyline hasn’t so hanged since the fifties, so the view from any apartment building can still get a sight of the surrounding hills.

Things I’ve experienced:

– platform-heeled bicyclists
– leather shops, everywhere
– grandmas riding Vespas
– hen parties in front of the duomo
– gypsies
– baby blue capri suits on men
– street art
– babies in Armani
– tights for men
– amazing food, both from dining out and from the local grocer
– street performers pre-performance

I could write more, but then I’d be sitting here until closing! If you have any question of my travels or would like to request pics or suggest destinations, feel free to comment! Now, to sit and relax and enjoy a little Internet before I head out into the rainy afternoon!

Arrivederci!

Of long days and late nights, or, Figure Drawing May Kill You But You’ll Like It

Whew. I finally have an hour or so to sit down and relax!

These last couple of days have been both extremely rewarding and extremely exhausting. Combining jet lag, living without A/C, late nights and 6+ hours of drawing a day will get to you. Yes, I’ve been drawing all day every day since Monday morning at 9 am, which has been paired nicely with evenings out with my family before they moved on to Rome, as well a some sight-seeing and getting to know my roommates.

Duomo

Duomo interior

But, classes are just as amazing as Florence itself. The students – some with minimal experience – are all learning through the sight-size method used by artists since the Renaissance (artists who drew or painted their subjects proportionally). The idea is to stand far enough away that the entirety of the subject of your art will fit comfortably on the page/canvas and from there you can measure quite precisely the proportions of your work because of its closeness to reality. This theory comes from the idea that art should be looked at feet away as opposed to up close (which may be what you’ll find to be the norm in a crowded museum), which may remind you of the Impressionists:

Monet in Venice

Look at any Monet, like this study done in Venice, up close and you’ll get rainbow vomit. Not very sorry for that visual. However, stand back ten feet and you’re looking at a lovely study of light.

I quite enjoy the method because it is that – methodical, and requires organizing yourself, maintaining a routine and paying very close attention to detail.

my work with charcoal next to the real thing

The potential issue with drawing sight-size is – you must continue to stand back around 4-9 feet to look at your subject, and then walk forward to make a mark on the page. You can’t look around your easel to see if you’re doing it right, because it doesn’t look the same from nearly ten feet closer! So, I may have walked miles already, but not around the city… Just back and forth across the studio.

life drawing

Despite my fatigue, I will continue to persevere to live the life here in Florence, starting with a gelato on the way to my flat before I head off to an evening lecture in art history! Looks like a long day ahead, and it’s already four!

I’ll leave you with my first figure drawing, and hopefully will have an update at the end of the weekend!

first drawing with sight-size

Written May 27: more of Cairo

I haven’t had the chance to update in a couple days while in Zamalek, Cairo (mostly because of the many activities the choir has been up to, but also because of faulty Internet)! What are those activities, you ask?

If you caught my last post, the photo op of our wanderings in downtown Cairo and visit to the Cairo Museum, then you saw just a glimpse of what we’ve experienced. Our morning that day consisted of a couple hours in the museum with a local Egyptologist, where we got an up close and personal look at some the world’s oldest pieces of art, things I’ve only seen in textbooks and on slides in art history classes. We saw the Narmer Stone, one of the oldest artifacts in the world, and met Ramses II and Hapshetsut, two of several mummies in the pharaohs exhibit. After our time at the museum, we saw several monuments and other famous buildings in Cairo and got a glimpse of the City of the Dead, which is deceptively full of slums as well as very, very old grave sites. Out of the dusty brown one can sometimes glimpse an Acacia tree, which blooms fiery red around here – it’s very pleasing to the eye especially for those used to more colorful climbs. Coming from Portland where it’s all green has been different, to say the least, and difficult for others (mostly adjusting to food and water and dry air). However, now we’re bound for Luxor in the south for a sponsored stay at the local Sofitel and our final concert, which may include audience members from the higher-ups in the Luxor government if I’m not mistaken.

We have had three concerts so far during our stay. The first was at a church in Maadi, where we had a brown-out which ended mid-song in our first set of early American music. The second was in collaboration with Cairo American College, which I may have mentioned already. The best part of that experience was to share our knowledge of college a cappella with some of the high schoolers. We were able to do a ten-minute improvised song with the CAC kids, which was fun both because we all got to share our talents, but also because I haven’t had the pleasure of singing with the a cappella members from different groups at school before – but now is as good a time as any, though, especially when one is graduated! Two nights ago, once we’d moved from our home stays to Zamalek, we performed at a popular venue downtown, which was unfortunately and entertainingly on an outdoor stage by the Nile. It was quite an experience to sing with bugs zooming around the stage lights and into our mouths while in our concert black in 80 degree weather.

However, this was after a phenomenal day at the pyramids, where I got some great shots:

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Yesterday in Luxor we visited the museum, local monuments and the marketplace after checking out our performance space and checking out our hotel! Expect more photos soon.