Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

Generalizing with Icons

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Icons can be used to suggest not only a specific city but a broader region as well. They serve as a generalization of the idea of a place.

The Staircase Rose

I took advantage of icons in “The Stair Rose” (#110702) to suggest a place and atmosphere without making it so specific that other viewers would be unable to relate to it. Rather, it’s the kind of scene that almost any traveler in Italy might come across and could imagine having seen in person.

It’s like thumbing through old photographs and saying, “Oh yes, we took these on our trip to Italy. I don’t remember which city it was in, … but do you remember …?”

In the same way, icons serve to trigger personal memories, and our art can take advantage of them to appeal to a much broader audience than experience-specific images usually do.

Iconic Images

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

How better to retell the story of our visit to an age-old city than to illustrate it through iconic imagery? One of the classic icons of Venice, of course, is her gondoliers, garbed in their striped or sailor-collared shirts and their brimmed and beribboned hats.

A la Venezia

As the weather was particularly pleasant while we were in Venice this past spring, the canals teemed with boat activity of all kinds. Gondoliers hung out on their landings in hopes of catching the eye (and custom) of a tourist. Cocky, callow youths flirted with tank-topped teens who ambled past while jaded fellows snatched cigarette breaks between fares. Seasoned boatsmen, poling their crafts through the shallow water, used their feet to shove away from inconveniently jutting walls. And, as depicted in “A la Venezia” (#110703) above, muscular men, supplementing their winter income during the lucrative tourist season, stood by their gleaming gondolas and critiqued the style of their competition.

I couldn’t help asking myself: Who are these men in their “off” hours? Why are they doing what they do? And how do they feel about the passengers who madly snap pictures of every novel sight they pass, or the drunken party who crowd into a craft with raucous laughter and bawdy ditties, or the pairs and threesomes of ladies who hope to experience the romance of the classic (and often non-existent) gondola serenade.

Although I captured the literal image of many of these situations with my camera, my challenge comes in expressing through watercolor the essence of each experience, telling my version of the stories those images recall.

From a Closer Perspective

Monday, August 15th, 2011

When faced with depicting a broad subject, it’s often difficult to decide where to start. Where does one begin to describe an entire country like Italy? The people, the food, the cities, the architecture? I’ve discovered that sometimes, instead of stepping back to fit everything into the overall picture, it’s best to take a closer look and focus on a single aspect of the scene. In that way I can reveal several unified elements that contribute to the overall revelation.

Arched Window with Plant

I was intrigued by the architectural features I found throughout Italy – doors, windows, arches, roofs, stairs, masonry, metal work, and sculpture – as well as by the natural features, epitomized in the wide range of plant life.

Perhaps most appealing of all, though, were the colors, the quality of light – its added color, angles, reflections, softness or harshness, and contrasts – which so radically influenced my impression of everything else, and the pervading sense of antiquity.

In “Arched Window with Plant” (#110604), shown above, I was able to condense several of those elements into a single painting. The key was in looking closely enough at the subject that, while focusing on the most appealing features, the viewer does not become distracted by extraneous and unnecessary information.

In essence, this painting offers a general overall image of my impressions of Italy.

Taking Time Away

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Drat that old catch-22! I needed to get away from the studio so I could do better work, but the very process of getting away has made it more difficult to pick up where I left off.

110602 Where Today Meets Tradition

It was time to recharge my batteries, get a change of scenery, learn something from the old masters, and stimulate my creative juices. So in early May, my husband and I took a two-week trans-Atlantic cruise that led into an additional two week tour of Italy. As exemplified above in “Where Today Meets Tradition” (#110602), the month was filled with people and experiences and scenes we’ll long remember. My wonderful, digital (film-free!) memory cards recorded more than 5000 pictures from which I should be able to draw subject matter for a long time to come. Our European sojourn was followed by more domestic travels, including a family wedding, which kept me away from my studio for an additional month.

But now that I’m back home and anxious to get back into some serious painting, I find much of our time is filled with catching up on the “little (and some not so little) things” that fell by the wayside during our absence. It was a welcome and necessary hiatus, but it has been difficult to get back into a productive artistic mode since our return.

The question now seems to be where do I go from here? How has my creative thought process changed, what have I learned, and how will my artwork reflect these changes? I’m afraid that only time will tell. Learning is often subconscious, and despite brilliant ideas and concepts flashing like lightning bolts across our minds, the transitions our processes undergo are often so subtle as to remain unnoticed for a long time. Or if a new process is consciously applied, it takes time to polish and perfect it and make it our own.

Stay tuned. I hope to develop several series in the months to come, based on images from our recent travel experiences. But they will have to develop one painting at a time. So bear with me, and together we’ll watch what happens.