Thursday, 7 June 2012

Day 14 - Borghese Gallery and Notan Experiments

Whilst the system to get tickets for the Borghese Gallery seems a bit of a pain, advance booking only and timed visits limited to two hours it has its advantages. How refreshing to be in a popular place without hoards of people limiting the view, the Vatican should take note and not be so greedy. I was told the entrance cost to the Borghese was justified by the Belini's alone and I have to agree, they are incredible in the marble flesh. The paintings are not to be sniffed at either, lots of big names, Caravaggio, Rubens and others but I was particularly taken by Belini's self portraits, not bad at all for a fellow who made his living with a chisel. it was interesting seeing Bernini's version of David too, apparently he used his own features to create the very animated expression.

I spent a fair bit of time exploring the park and gardens again today too, really beautiful with lots of little surprises nestling in amongst the truly magnificent trees. I have worn out a pair of flip flops with all the walking but it's been well worth it.

I have discovered another great use for the iPad, notan sketches or two value quick studies. I am in two minds about digital art, it's certainly not something I can be bothered to learn thoroughly myself but as a tool for quick compositional experiments I found this useful, you can paint in white as well as black. So these are a couple I did sat up in bed last night from photos I took on my phone, the really interesting thing being the failures, nice photos don't necessarily translate to good paintings. Zhaoming really encouraged thumbnail sketches for landscapes as if you don't have a good basic composition to start with your painting will never be up to much. Pencil or digital, it's all the same.

It's packing up and how time now, my own little Grand Tour is over. My soul is fed, I have absorbed all the knowledge I can for the time being and my inspiration cup is overflowing.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Day 13 - Galleries and Gardens

I bet hardly anyone goes to the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna when they visit Rome. Well they should, it's got some little gems and if you walk quickly past the modern nonsense they have some really interesting works from the more sensible eras. They are also pretty unbothered about photos being taken - I usually opt for forgiveness rather than permission anyway unless I particularly don't want to be thrown out of a gallery. So I took a few snaps on my SLR (so cant post yet), captured a few names I didnt know and also applied some of my new knowledge to my 'seeing', looking for value patterns in the landscapes etc.

To drop a few names, they had a couple of Van Gogh's (from his peppermint period), a Repin!!! I spotted as stand out before I knew who's it was, some Boldini's (really not sure about him, the NPG in London got the best one) a Rossetti, (a pre-raphaelite in Rome, I like it), a very early Sorolla (when he was still brown) a Klimt (which instantly reminded me of one of the BP portrait award 2012 artists - one sees so much more when looking at the real thing), a Marcel Duchamp urinal (famous but....???) a Cezanne, a Modigliani and some others. I'll have to learn how to put up a slide show and upload all my cheeky pics.

This Modern museum is set at the edge of the Borghese gardens, a rather lovely place which just happens to have the Borghese museum within its grounds and which I just happen to have tickets for tomorrow. So perhaps it's Bellini's tonight and Bernini's tomorrow. Yeay!

Views from the hotel care of the extremely useful iPad


Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Day 12 - Monastery, Vatican and Gelato

A couple of the guys in the group have been staying in an old monastery near to the studio we used for the figure workshop. We all had a brief look around when we dropped them off one day as its an unusual place full of character and interest in a setting of olive trees, goats and rambling gardens. This morning before finishing packing up for Rome some of us invited ourselves back to the monastery for a more thorough exploration and I took the opportunity for a photo shoot. The mood and light of the place were very inspiring and I hope to have taken some useful reference shots for future paintings. One of the amazing things about this whole area is that around every corner there is yet another visual feast, its almost beauty overload.

Far too soon we then had to say our final goodbye to Corciano and set off in a convoy to Rome. The weather has been very good to us the whole time we have been here and although it rained a bit today it cleared up as soon as we arrived. We have been a very lucky group of artists enjoying just the right amount of sunshine without it ever getting too hot for very long.

We arrived in our very modern hotel which was a bit of a culture shock after the almost stage set medieval fantasy we had come from (albeit with internet access) and so started the readjustment process back into the real world. After a couple of hours break some of us took ourselves off to the centre of Rome and headed straight for St Peters and the Vatican. It was by now late afternoon and a great time of day to go, not too crowded considering although there was a mass taking place. I wondered if the worshippers feel strange about the tourists swarming all over the place, or maybe they are worshipping tourists, either way I related it to when we painted in front of a crowd. St. Peters is pretty special and you really get a proper sense of the scale of the place that you dont froam the TV when you stand in it, it is the most enormous church. Michaelangelos Pieta is of course a major attraction and very beautiful although if you really want to get a good look at it you are better off looking at pictures on the Internet, it is so far back and behind bullet proof glass so it's pretty obscured. Jason, workshop organiser, artist and tour guide extraordinaire is a complete font of knowledge on all things Italian - he lived in Italy for a year to study and spent a lot of that time in Rome so knows it very well indeed. He showed us Raphael's studio which is just to the side of the Vatican and we were told if he craned his neck and looked out of the upstairs window he could wave to the Pope. Jason also seems to have personal experience of every gelateria in Italy, he should write a guidebook. Tonight we had the best Gelato in Italy after having enjoyed the best spaghetti. We saw the Pantheon before dinner and the Trevi fountain afterwards, the pace is still pretty brisk. The atmosphere around the fountain was really lively, lots of happy people really enjoying the sight of it, laughing and enjoying themselves, it has a real village feel to it. There is so much doom and gloom in the world it was really good to see and be a part of it for a while.

After a hair raising taxi trip back to the hotel there were a few more goodbyes as the group starts to disperse. Jason has a new group are arriving, they will be working with a different artist and as long as they all have good walking shoes and lots of enthusiasm they will have a ball. Our group came from very different walks of life, ages and nationalities but all gelled well and really seemed to enjoy all aspects of the trip. The art tuition and inspiration was everything I hoped it would be but the cultural exposure to Umbria and Tuscany was a bonus, much more than any of us had expected and has enriched our experience enormously. We are the Wu Group now and maybe we'll do it again next time Zhaoming comes to Italy.

Many thanks to Jason, and Zhaoming and also to our Italian hosts Dena and Gabrielle.

The Wu Group

David - A full time art student with a great future, the youngest of the group at least in years. Also known as mortal David to differentiate him from Mike's boy.

Jessica and Jeff - Champion Duomo tower climbers, Jeff knowlegeable about everything especially where to get Guinness in Italy and Jess the epitome of an American abroad, always cool and glamourous.

Arka and Jahnvee - Both stunning photographers as well as painters and great company and pursuers of the truffle.

Steve - Spanish Steve from the Midlands. Super warm friendly artist and number one Zhaoming disciple.

Martha - Gentle, unflappable Texan/Southern Belle from San Francisco, one of my roomies and a fellow appreciator of a good strong Enlish cuppa.

Julie - Mad as a box of frogs lady from Oz and my other roomie. Great fun with lots of inciteful stories to tell about her world travels.

Qiuzhen Wei - The fragrant Mrs Wu, a really lovely lady and very accomplished and hard working artist. It was an extra bonus getting to see her working.

I have about 1000 photos to plough through when I get home. These are not mine for the reasons mentioned earlier.


Sunday, 3 June 2012

Day 11 - Plein air and St Francis

We set off for Todi early this morning with the promise of a amazing views and and a great location to paint from and weren't disappointed. We have climbed a few pretty steep hills in the time we have been here but today we had a lift up to the panorama from the car park. The painting location was shaded for the whole day which was just as well as it was a clear and hot day from the outset. We set out to do one painting in the morning and one this afternoon and as it was the last painting day I was determined to make the most of it so didn't even break off to explore the town.

It was a good day for the whole group, but for those of us who hadnt done much plein air before we were introduced to the joys of painting in front of an audience. The views are a major tourist attraction (as were we it seemed) and it was noisy and crowded with people really interested in what we were doing. It didn't bother me too much but I had my headphones plugged in and managed to zone out mostly. People are friendly and kind for the most part but I was glad to have had this experience as part of a group because it is kind of weird. Oh and plein air is pretty challenging, reducing what you see before you and do a good composition is no mean feat, endless beauty has to be organised and thought about carefully. Zhaoming has a classical art education plus decades of experience in plein air as well as the figure so we have had some good guidance and strong foundations to build upon but it will require a lot of hard work and brush miles to get to grips with it.

We packed up in the late afternoon, it was still burning hot though, and set off on the 40 minute drive to Assisi. What a stunning place, a very imposing city on yet another mountaintop. This trip has been one stunning sight after another, none of them the same and all of them chocolate box beautiful. We explored on our own for a while and then met up as a group again for dinner. It was the last time all of us would be together so we enjoyed our first farewell dinner and a birthday celebration for one of my flat mates Martha. Jason presented us all with a token gift to take home as a reminder to keep on our journey and stay dedicated. It was a satisfying day and a fun night although I have to say that Assisi is one of the most bizarre places I have been to in so far as there is a Franciscan monastery, a Nunnary and yet another amazing Duomo but is also one of the most touristy places we have been to, really pushing the souvenirs and goodies and I am not sure what St Francis would have made of it all.






Saturday, 2 June 2012

Day 10 - The long day

We set off at 8.00am for plein air at Montepulciano, Zhaoming did another demo then after a wander around the town and lunch we did our own paintings. After packing up at 4.00pm we then headed off to Siena for more sightseeing and dinner - pizza and beer in my case. There is lots of history and interest in these Tuscan towns but having got home at 10.30 to brush washing and preparation for tomorrow, details and more photos will have to wait. Even Super Jason admitted to slight fatigue and a bit too much sun.

Tomorrow Todi and Assisi - bring it on!


Friday, 1 June 2012

Day 9 - Plein air in Umbertide

Not Umber-tide but Uhm-bear-tee-deh! It'll take more than two weeks for me to get to grips with the lingo though, it's wonderful to listen to and so musical and pretty so who needs to understand it all?

Understanding the complexities of painting is a bit more important and plein air day no. 2 is a baby step nearer. Really it is very challenging, especially with all lush green everywhere. The last couple of days have been largely overcast so that gives us a consistent light which is helpful, its almost English, but I yearn to paint in the drama of bright Umbrian light that artists over the years have come here for.

We did two paintings today, I learnt more than is evident here and remain optimistic for tomorrow when we set off at the crack of dawn for Montepulciano and then Siena for the evening.

Several of us enjoyed an evening getting pixelated tonight (our crazy Oz companion Julie's phrase) and set the world to rights. I enjoyed a rather amazing truffle oil pasta dish - not sure I want to be acquiring a taste for truffles though.

Here are my two today and one from our first day. Slightly lousy photos I'm afraid.