Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Italian Adventure Part 3 - THE NOSE

This week we began two new projects. I was very excited, feeling like I had done well during week 1 and 2, I was filled with an anticipation and confidence. I knew we were going to begin drawings from real 3-dimensional plaster casts of different parts of the body. Feeling perhaps just a little cocky I thought; "I think I will chose a hand or a foot, they are always the trickiest and I need the practice." Feeling a little full of myself I thought, "I should pick something hard to ensure I really challenge myself, learn something new and avoid getting bored." Arriving in class I saw the only choices available to us 'beginners' were: An eye, an ear, a mouth and a very large nose. Each one a large portion of a sculpture made all in white plaster. Being a few minutes late having stopped for a cappuccino, choice was limited. So I found myself in front of my easel staring at a giant nose and thinking - "this is the next two weeks of my life. Me and this nose. So much for avoiding boredom."
How humbling life can be... By the end of day one I was quite honestly on the verge of tears. how can a nose be so insanely difficult!? At the end of the day I did not have one single point or mark on the page that I felt was a "true" mark in exactly the right spot. I can tell you, it's more than a little ground shaking when you think "I make my living as an artist, yet I can't draw a nose." I went home feeling dejected and discouraged, wondering "what am i doing here?"
That evening I did some homework. We are supposed to be practising our drawing techniques by sketching statues around Florence. Getting out to sketch statues on street corners with two young children in tow is not a reality for me. So I chose the next best thing available to me. Sketching my children at sleep, a motionless, peaceful form to work from. Sitting in the dark on the end of the bed,with no eraser of sharpener handy I sketched my daughter. Although it is not a photographic representation, the image captured the serene peaceful air of my little Sadee sound asleep. And even though the drawing is not identical, her features are recognizable. I was shocked. Through all the frustration something from school is sinking in, slowly filtering through. I went to bed feeling encouraged. When I woke up this morning on day two of drawing the nose, I felt determined and much more humble in my approach. I have another week and a half with this nose. It is much harder than I ever could have imagined. Admittedly a "nose" was not my first choice for a drawing but this is what art class has put in front of me, obviously there is MUCH for me to learn and I am determined to make it a phenomenal drawing.
It may only be a nose, but OH WHAT A NOSE IT WILL  BE!

                                Quick sketch in the dark of my little Sadee peacefully asleep.

One of the sculptures in Boboli Gardens, ten minutes from our home. (The male figure is a sculpture, the Heron is real..pretending to be a sculpture to trick unsuspecting fish in the pond below.)

The Loggia at night. Outside the Uffizi museum, this was built in the 1500's as a place for royalty and nobles to stay out of bad weather while observing events in the square. It houses many original ancient Roman sculptures as well as Renaissance sculpture from the 1400 and 1500's

Next entry, "Life and Fun in Florence"

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Italian Adventure Part 2 - Perfection

Normally I would associate this word with something good. With something to admire and love because it is perfect....but right now it just makes me cringe. My head hurts, my eyes are strained and I am exhausted from hour upon hour upon hour (and then some more hours) staring at a few dots and a few lines on a page. Measuring, re-measuring, checking the placement of the dot that will represent the tip of the nose or the top of the brow line. Placing a dot, re-measuring, erasing, re-measuring, erasing and starting again.
We are learning a very precise method to recreate an image to, to be an exact copy. To begin with we are copying sketches of the old Masters Leonardo, Michelangelo. Later we will do the same exercise working from live models. The idea: to make an exact copy, a reproduction like only a photograph could create. We use thread to measure points, lines, angles. Make a mark, re-measure, erase, make a mark again. Over and over and over. Now the width of the thread is enough to throw off my measurement along the line of the eyelid. The result - disastrous! The minuscule discrepancy changes the expression of the face from "serene" to "tired". In a moment of frustration I say to myself, "In the grand scheme of things why does it matter? It's close enough!" But then I stand back and look at the reproduction of a sketch by Michelangelo taped to my board and I think, "it matters because it mattered to these masters, and this is what i have come here to learn. How to care about the finest detail, how to be disciplined in every element, to be - Perfect."
There is an old saying "You need to know the rules before you can break them. Here this is true, but you need to not just know the rules in theory because you read them in a book, you have to actually be able to follow the rules by hand, perfectly before you chose when and where to break them.
It gives me such a new respect and sense of wonder for these old world painters; who did not have photography, projectors or even lead pencils with erasers! They dedicated a life time to their skill and trade.
Although I am happy to be born in this day and age (for if I had been born in Italy in 1450 as a woman I would not be painting), all the same I feel a little sad at the lose of attention that is given to detail now a days. As a society we don't expect it, nor do we demand it. As I am discovering daily in art class, the more I push to reach perfection the more I amaze myself with what I can do. We are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for.
So yes, "perfection" makes me cringe and has me knocking my head against the wall some mornings yet I am driven to continue to get closer to it. And along the way I am very pleased with my results and what I have learned so far. There is always room for improvement, but there is also room to feel pleased with the process along the way.

Here are a few photos of my drawings from week #1 in school. We will see how they progress.
                                                      Drawing 1 - Charcoal

                                                     Drawing 2 - Sanguin

                                                       Drawing 3 - Silverpoint

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Italian Adventure

It has been many years since I have used this blog, originally an art "website" for me, it became obsolete once I had my true website www.waldenpaint.ca was launched in April 2012. Now after so many recent requests I am returning to this blog o use it as it was originally intended, to write a blog!

What is the reason I agreed to try this blogging thing out? What I refer to as "The Italian Adventure". 12 days ago I left northern Canada with my two young children, my son Kai 5 yrs, and my daughter Sadee 3 yrs. We flew to Rome then jumped on a train to Florence. The city of the Renaissance. We are here for the next 3 months to live, go to school,  immerse ourselves in the Florentine culture and have an "Italian Adventure".

So to begin this blog, never having done one before, here is my first journal entry from Jan 13th, 2014.

The Beginning    Jan 13th, 2014

First off, the cappuccinos are to die for.
Florence - it's like walking through a world trapped in time. Old buildings, narrow stone streets, architecture that stuns the mind it is so grand, beautiful and intricate yet at the same time this is a place at the cutting edge of modern times. High fashion, elegance, everywhere you turn screams "style".
Somehow woman in heels fur and fine leather glide through the mazes of cobblestone streets, while old men pedal by on rickety bicycles piled high with fresh bread. The merging of ancient and modern times is seamless.
It is all so beautiful and inspiring as it makes you feel as though you are part of (or at least an intimate witness to) the past as well as the present. It's inspiring, art is everywhere, and everything around has a touch of "wonder to it".

                                          Florence at Night
                                         The top of the city
Walking to school
                                          Walking home from school.

Next time, more about art school.