Sunday, October 26, 2014

Street Artist

In Florence, as in many cities, the street artists emerge with the gentler weather and remain until chilly rains and winds force them indoors. Some, like this man, specialize in one particular artwork, repeating it over and over each day. During the course of several days, I saw him tackle Vermeer's "Girl With a Pearl Earring" using a shopworn magazine cover as his guide. Walking past him at different times of the day, I watched him rough in the shapes, lay down the base colors in broad, dusty strokes then blend and highlight the face. It was a good lesson on the technicalities of using pastels and also a reminder that skill comes with repetition. I put a coin in his box and hoped his knees will hold out for the rest of the season.  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Via Jannelli

Near one of the ancient gates in the walls of Cortona, Italy, there is a living fragment of a much earlier era.  A row of medieval houses survive on Via Jannelli. Rough cut timbers braced on the stone walls of the lower levels prop up the overhanging brick upper levels. Over the past nine hundred years, those bricks have sagged and curved themselves into more comfortable and idiosyncratic stances. I stood in the hollow of the street and tried to imagine the shoes that have worn themselves out trudging up and down, the lives that came and went, the chamber pots' contents that were flung from those upper stories. Well, some things are better to imagine rather than to experience.  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Garden at La Foce

Surrounded by the green of the wisteria arbor, I watched the late afternoon sun gild the perfect spheres of boxwood in the Lower Garden at La Foce, southeast of Siena. As the garden became more golden, the surrounding hills and mountains turned blue and misty. When Cecil Pinset designed this garden in the 1920s, he created a series of spaces that range from colorful English flower beds to symmetrical European-style clipped hedges to travertine walls and overlooks shaded by tall Italian cedars. With hydrangeas and full-blown roses were just behind me, the rugged landscape of the Val d’Orcia was the dramatic backdrop.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Red Onions

What a gorgeous pile of onions! Any watercolor artist would relish the challenge of capturing the way the purples shade so gradually into white and then back into purple. The shocks of rootlets, like unkempt hair, contrast with the smooth roundness of the bulbs. We could argue that they really should be called purple onions, but I am not the Official Namer of Vegetables. Instead, I will just enjoy the beauty to be found in humble things.