Monday, September 29, 2008

Weekend of School

This past weekend was full of school events.  The first was on Friday.  We went to a vineyard in the Chianti region for some wine tasting.  The bus ride over was a bit intense for me with sharp turns on narrow streets and Italian techno playing the whole way.  When we got there I was a bit motion sick, but the cool country air helped me get over it.  

The vineyard was an old fort back in the day.  I didn't hear much more than that on the tour because I was way in the back, but I do know that the cellar for the wine used to be a dungeon for prisoners.  
Here are some grapes - fresh picked and into the hopper.  You could see the mushed up grapes go through the tubes and into the winery.

Here's a neat shot of one of the giant Chianti barrels.  These things are seriously huge and probably 5 times (at least) as big as the French or American oak barrels.  You can't really see it, but in the bottom left corner is a black rooster which is the mark of real Chianti wine.  

After the tour we sat down and had wine.  It was more of a wine party than a wine tasting.  We started with two bottles of a white, of which I can't recall the name.   That was served with a light sheep's milk cheese.  The second wine was the Chianti Reserva.  It was a 2003, super smooth and served with salame toscana - my favorite.  The last wine was a cab served with toasted bread with raw garlic rubbed on and drizzled with delicious extra virgin olive oil.  Seriously amazing.  We finished with "holy wine" which is a liquor-like desert wine served with almond biscotti.  At the end of it everyone was pretty tipsy (some more than others) and appropriately the staff passed out order forms.  I ended up sharing a liter of olive oil with a friend.

On Saturday I went into the studio to do a painting for my room.  I'm excited for the paint to dry so I can cover a bit of my bare walls.  After I went to the Galleria Palatina at the Pitti Palace.  

Here is an amazing marble sculpture of Caesar.  It really is incredible and the more time I spend actually sculpting marble the crazier these things are to me.  I just can't imagine doing something this large and this perfect.  

After the palace I took a nap to get ready for my first soccer game!  Fiorentina Vs. Genoa.  It was a "free" trip provided by the school.  The game was exactly as I thought an Italian soccer match would be like.  A lot of cheering, a lot of singing, a lot of heckling/booing, and tons of excitement.  

This is the only picture that came out decent . . . probably because they were warming up and not moving.  Fiorentina ended up winning 1-0.  

On Sunday, my classmates from my painting class and I caught the bus to Certosa to see some of Pontormo's frescos at a monastery.  The bus ride took half an hour and the monastery was at the top of this hill.  When we got there however, we found out that they close from 11:30 to 3.  We got there at 11:25.   So we contemplated going back to Florence and coming back at 3, but decided to just hang out.  Not so sure that was the best idea.  We hung out in a park, walked around, got lunch and 3 and a half hours later we went back.   When we got there we joined a tour.  

We entered in the chapel which was decked out with frescos and sculptures.  This place wasn't kidding around.  After about 25 minutes of the tour though, which was all in Italian, we didn't see any of Pontormo's frescos.  On of the guys on the tour could tell we were kind of lost and told us that we missed the first room of the tour where the frescos were.  So we ditched the tour, found the frescos and to our disappointment saw that a lot of the paint had chipped off and all we could really see were blobs of color.  So we took pictures of it and in 3 minutes (literally) were out of there.  

As we were walking back down the hill we saw our bus pass by.  It didn't really shock any of us, what with our luck that day.  We waited another half an hour for the next bus and whined about our 2-hour-turned-7-hour day.  On the happier side though we definitely bonded and at least it was sunny.  It was also just nice to be out of the city and breath some fresh air.

Italian word of the day: calcio - soccer

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Art is like Sudoku

Art is like Sudoku.  When you start, it seems easy.  Doing anything makes sense and there is nothing to hinder you.  You just go through your normal process and it works out beautifully.  But then you get more numbers in the boxes and things start to get a bit harder.   Then you get stuck.  There are clues of what to do, but you have to make sure you do it in the right order, or else things may get mixed/messed up quickly.  After a while and a lot of thinking, you either put it away for a bit and come back to it later, cheat and look at the key in the back, or give up and start a new puzzle.  

I'm stuck.  A new puzzle isn't the answer... this is my new puzzle.  I can't cheat because that just not me.  Call it stubborn, call it moral, call it courageous ... I can't sell out.  BUT, I can't put it away and come back to it later either - I only have a semester.   So I guess I just need to figure it out some other way.  Maybe pretend I'm doing a less advanced level of Sudoku?  Or maybe I should just not play by the rules and just put 3's in every box.  

Well, I'll figure it out.  

Italian word of the day: nebbioso - foggy/cloudy

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hopping Through History

This past weekend I saw some of the greatest pieces of art of all time.  I'm not exaggerating.  I finally made it to the Uffizi Gallery.  They really should change the name from a "gallery" to a "giant mansion of art. "  Needless to say, it was amazing, mind blowing, inspirational, and (at times) emotional.  

The museum is set up chronologically, starting with the International Gothic.  We cannot talk about International Gothic art without talking about Giotto.  He was was the father of the renaissance and took what they were doing in International Gothic and introduced humanism and perspective.

Here is Giotto's Madonna and Child Enthrowned.  The crazy thing was that it was right next to Cimabue's Madonna and Child Enthrowned.  These two altarpieces are considered the turning point into renaissance.  There is a great sense of space and naturalistic qualities that the artists incorporated that hadn't been seen before.  Oh, and these things are HUGE and I had my face 6 inches away from it!  Insane.  

So the cool thing about the gallery being chronologically set up is that you know what pieces and artists are coming next... you just don't know in what room they will show.  So I got to the beginning of High Renaissance and knew that Botticelli was coming up.  And sure enough, I turned into another room and there in front of me was...
La Primavera by Sandro Botticelli.  This piece is in my top 5 favorite/inspirational works of art.  It is breathtaking and I'm sure if someone was watching me they'd get a kick out of how my face contorted as I scanned the painting.  I just ... it's so ... gahhh, AMAZING.  Ha, and on the next wall was Botticelli's Birth of Venus.  I think I spent a good 45 minutes in this alone.  

I made my way through the end of the Renaissance, seeing works from both Michelangelo (his Holy Family) and an unfinished piece my Leonardo di Vinci.  Both cool, but Michelangelo was a sculptor and Leonardo's was unfinished, so I didn't spend too much time with those.  After the renaissance came one of my favorite art movements: the Baroque.  And the father of Baroque was Caravaggio.  

Here is Caravaggio's Bacchus.  He was notorious for using street people/gypsies as his models.  This is a pretty well know painting of a street boy posing as the god of wine.  Amazing detail and even though this isn't a great example of his Baroque work, its still incredible.  Sadly, now you can find this image on cheap Chianti ... like at Trader Joe's.

This is Artemisia Gentileschi's Judith Slaying Holofernes.  Gentileschi is one of my favorite artists and is considered second to Caravaggio in Baroque painting.  This is quite a feat as women were not generally respected as painters back in the day.  She does such a great job at using tenebrism, which is a method of having a strong source of light that creates heavy chiaroscuro, or lights and darks, making a very deep 3-D visual.  

Besides the Uffizi, I went to the Santa Felicita Church and saw Pontormo's Deposition, a work that exemplifies mannerism.  Its a huge fresco and stunning.  

Alright, time to get some sleep in this freezing apartment.  I need a blanket . . . . Buonanotte!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

First works of art school

Just a short post to share some assignments I've been working on.  There drawings are for my painting class.  We were to draw statues in "excellent proportion."  I'm pretty happy with them, mostly because I hardly take the time draw the whole figure.  

This one is "Perseus with the Head of Medusa" by Cellini in the Loggia of the Piazza della Signoria.  Just a little history on this piece . . .  Before this piece, metal sculptures were usually cast in section and put together.  Cellini wanted to challenge Michelangelo and Donatelo and created this - the first bronze statue done as one piece of this scale.  It is about 18 feet tall and is seriously a masterpiece.  
This one is "san Luca" by Giambologna, which is in a niche outside the Church of Orsanmichele.  It is also a bronze sculpture and really amazing.

Here is Michelangelo.  In the courtyard of the Uffizi are a bunch of sculptures of influential Italian artist, philosophers, thinkers and famous figures.  I'm not sure who sculpted them, probably a bunch of workshops, but they very well done.  

Recently the weather has gone from sweltering and humid to cold and rainy.  With the clouds in the sky you get this at sunset:

Bellissimo!  This is exactly how the picture came off my camera.  No editing.  

Italian word of the entry: scultura di bronzo - Bronze sculpture 

Monday, September 15, 2008


Well, I had my first run in with a pickpocket. 

Earlier today I was in the courtyard of the Uffizi Gallery drawing a sculpture of Michelangelo for my painting class.  I was sitting on the ground, leaned back against the corner of a post of a  temporary wall they put up to separate construction.  As I was drawing, a few tourist, actually more than a few, would stop and glance over at what I was doing.  Some would try to see from a distance while others came in for a closer look.  Then this guy came to my side, slightly behind me, and crouched down to take a better look.  I looked at him because he was so close to me and he tried to pronounce Michelangelo.  

So I went back to drawing.  About a minute or so later the last song of the album I was listened to finished.  So I turned a bit to put on a new album.  Out of the corner of my eye, through the sweater he had draped over his arms and onto my bag, I saw him reach into my bag.  So I asked him if what he was doing.  He stood up, but as he did I saw he had my phone.  So I stood up too and shouted "Give me phone!"  He dropped it and walked away pretty quickly.

As he was walking away I checked my bag to see if everything was there.  It was, but I was  prepared to go after him.  A few moments later a French couple came by to inquire if he had taken my phone.  It was more of a "Cool, was that really a pickpocket trying to get your phone?" rather than a "Are you ok?" Gah,  tourists . . . 

Anyway, I am Ok.  Looking back at it I guess I was an easy target.  I had my focus on my drawing with my music on and my bag wide open to the side of me.  He probably watched me for a while and planned it out.  I learned my lesson.  So from now on I am either going to have my legs on my bag or have it behind me.  I'm going to make sure that I look at someone who gets too close to me.  And, if they don't know how to pronounce Michelangelo and are in Florence I'm punching them square in the nose and calling the police.  

Italian word of the entry: Borseggiatore - pickpocket

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Weekend of Museums

This past weekend I went to three museums... talk about saving up.  Two of them were mandatory visits for class.  The first museum was the Marino Marini Museum.  He was a sculptor from Pistoia, a town near Florence, who worked from the 50s to the late 70s.  He mainly sculpted figures interacting with horses.  What's cool about his work is the levels of stylization and abstraction he explored along his use of space.  That was probably the main reason why my painting instructor had us go to the museum. 

I went to the second museum this morning.  On my way there I had to pass through a piazza where there was big outdoor market.  I found out today that most of the piazzas have a market on Sundays.  
I just took this picture because I thought all the colors complimented each other so randomly well.  Very fall/autumn like.  There were some really cool crafts and some delicious looking food at the market.  

Anyway, the second museum was the Archeological Museum with primarily Etruscan and Egyptian artifacts.  Marino Marini was very influenced by Etruscan art and it was interesting to see how he translated and incorporated it into his work.  I'm still trying to understand this because his art doesn't really look like Etruscan art and his subject matter definitely isn't the same.  
The famous Chimera is at this museum.  Not the best photograph, but I think the museum did a bad job in placing the piece.  It was in a corridor that was too narrow to step back far enough to look at it properly.  In any case, the museum was interesting, although a bit hard to appreciate because there were so many artifacts.  One thing that was cool was seeing the mummies and their sarcophagus. I even got to see an unwrapped mummy.  

After that museum, I had lunch and headed to the Galleria dell'Accademia to see... (drum roll please!)
Michelangelo's David!  Sorry for the blurry picture.  It was the only one I could get before I was told we couldn't take pictures.  Even if I could have taken a better picture it wouldn't have done justice.  This is seriously a masterpiece.  I got goosebumps when I saw it.  To start, its 17 ft tall!  It was originally meant to be seen 30 feet up, so that is why it is so large, especially his hands and head (to compensate for the vantage point).  The David is very important to Florentines as he is the symbol of the city.  Before Italy was united as a country, Florence along with the other major Italian cities were city-states and always at war.  Florence was a central city and important to trade, so it was constantly under attack.  Despite being such a small city-state they fended off their attackers.  That is why David, the boy who defeated the giant, is an appropriate symbol of Florence.  

Also at the Galeria dell'Accademia was a large collection of international gothic and high renaissance paintings.  Lucky for me I got my museum card and can go to see them whenever I want without waiting in line!  Thats a really good thing because I'm going to need a lot more time with those pieces.  

After the museum visits I sat in the Loggia della Signoria of the Uffizi Gallery, drawing a sculpture for class.  I spent a while on it with a bunch of annoying tourists peaking over my shoulder.  I guess I need to get used it since I have to do two more sculpture copies.  

Buona notte!

Friday, September 12, 2008

First Week of Classes

A sight I see at least once a day.

This past week was my first week of classes.  After all of it I'm both excited and scared for the semester.  

On Monday I had my intermediate painting class.  Within 45 minutes there was a model and we were taking an entrance exam.  Pretty nerve racking, but I did well.  After reviewing the course syllabus though, I realized that this class wasn't for me.  So I talked to my professor and after showing her my work from last semester she bumped me up to the fourth level painting class: Advanced Conceptual Painting.  (I'll get more into that later)  I also had beginning Italian on Monday which was very easy.

Tuesday was tiring.  My day started with Stone and Marble sculpture.  My professor had us get familiar with the tools - hammer and chisel - by carving a concave into the surface of some marble.  After 5 minutes of pounding away I developed an overwhelming appreciation for stone sculpture and will never look at it the same.  It is serious hard work and I already know this class is going to take a lot of patience.  I also had my pastel techniques class on Tuesday.  I think I'm really going to like this class.  My instructor is a young artist originally from New York who is enthusiastic and really into art.  I think he will be a good source of motivation and knowledge. 

Wednesday was just Italian again and again it was easy.  

Thursday was a day.  I had my new painting class and we had an exam for this class.  This one was way harder though.  We had two models come in so we had to paint them and a metaphor of ourselves... in an hour!  Not fun.  I totally choked and for the first time, painted something I was embarrassed of.  It was a very humbling experience.  After some discussion and understanding what this course will be, I know this class is going to kick my butt.  It a lot of work, I need to stretch the way I think and I might just go mad, but when its over I think I will come out of it a much stronger artist in what an artist is now days.  

After my painting class I headed off to my cooking class where I am the only guy.  I got these judgmental looks from the girls as if I was in the class to pick up on them.  WRONG.  I'm excited to cook in this course and learn about nutrition and nutritious food preparation.  I made fresh pasta in class and let me tell you that a pasta roller is 10 times easier that rolling out the pasta with a rolling pin.  The other groups made the sauce for the pasta and a chocolate tart for dessert.  When we were done we ate. 

So after spending way more money than I ever have on art supplies I truly am a starving artist ready to start chipping away at my (what already seems like) never ending list of assignments.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A good weekend

I had a pretty good day yesterday.  I woke up and went on, what turned out to be, an adventure to Ikea.  I saw online that there was a free shuttle to Ikea, so I figured I would just see a giant Ikea bus.  Nope.  So I asked a man at the station in my horrible Italian how to get there.  He told me to take the #30 bus.  So I bought a ticket and after half an hour of waiting realized I was waiting in the wrong place.  I finally got on the bus and expected to see a giant Ikea wearhouse.  Nope.  I ended up riding the bus to the end of its route.  On the way back however I got a glimpse of Ikea in the distance and got off when I thought we were close to it. 

Anyway, long story short, I found Ikea, got some bedding and bathroom stuff and ....

A little olive tree.  I named it Olea.  Yeah, not very original, but I like the way it sounds.  Anyway, its nice to have a plant in my room again.  

After my Ikea trip, my friend Francesca and her boyfriend picked me up to explore the area outside of Florence.  They both live in neighboring towns and I got see them both.  First was Prato, where we went to a mall that reminded me of the ones in the States to pick up some items I needed.  Then we headed towards Francesca's town of Carmignano.  It is beautiful!

Here's the hills of Tuscany.  We had really weird weather yesterday and there was a blanket of ....something.  It wasn't smog or fog, it was just this blanket of humidity.  Anyway, it didn't make for the most comfortable outdoor experience, but it did make for a nice picture.  The hills are full of vineyards and olive tree orchards and Carmignano is known for their wine and oil.  

Close up shot of some olives.  They were everywhere!

After seeing the amazing sights (and a gelato break) we headed to dinner at this nice restaurant at the top of this hill near Francesca's house.  I was so excited because I haven't been to a restaurant since arriving and if you know me, you know I love food.  This place did not disappoint.  I had the Toscano antipasti which consisted of some prosciutto, salame, polenta and a couple crostini topped with different salsa.  It was just a plate of savory deliciousness.  For my pain dish I had Pizza Gorgonzola e Speck, which is just a pizza topped with gorgonzola and prosciutto.  The crust was perfectly crisp and tasted of a wood burning oven, while the cheese was full and rich and the ham was nice and salty.  Its a good thing food is a bit expensive here otherwise I would be in trouble with overeating.  We ended the meal with a caffe and headed home.  

Yesterday was really nice and gave a me a better idea of Italian culture.  Women sit outside in the courtyard on Saturday afternoons and just chat.  One can see their cousin walking down the street in a small town.  A meal is meant to be savored and enjoyed over conversation, not trudged through in front of a screen.  It was great to see Italian life.

Ok, changing topics, here is a short list of things I like and dislike:

like:  gelato
dislike: mosquitos
like: Nutella
dislike: Sarah Palin
like: beautiful Tuscany

( I know its uneven, but I wanted to end on a good note)
Anyway, I like those things because it makes me happy and satisfies my senses.  I dislike those things because they are annoying and have no purpose.  Ok ok, thats a bit harsh... the purpose of mosquitos is to feed other creatures.  Haha, but really, since hearing and reading about Palin and listening to her speech, she has become one of my least favorite people.  

If you have a chance, check out this site (thanks Kristen for the link) :
You might want to read this too: Enviornmantalists can't Corral Palin

It is disturbing how she thinks and very scary to image her as someone with power, especially as Vice President.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Imagine this

TMI Warning: You may visualize something involuntarily if you read the following paragraph. 
Apparently the use of bidets are more common than I thought in Italy.  Today, nature called and there was no TP in sight and then looking over at the bidet it dawned on me that there was reason for this.  So, I had my first bidet session.  And now on to better images.

As promised, here a few pics.  This first one is my room.  I took it a bit early as now there a calendar on my wall.  I think it really pull the room together.  

Anyway, its a pretty good room.  Simple, green and brown, and it has a really cool window.  I like it!

Here is the living room.  This is the first thing you see when you enter the apartment.  Not sure how much time Im going to spend in here.  If I can't get internet to work in my room, I'm thinking I'll spend a good amount.  

So today was pretty good.  I found a supermarket about 10 minutes away from my place and bought a pillow there.  I'm trying not to use the supermarket as much, but I'm wait till my Italian is a little stronger so I can communicate with the mom and pops of the smaller shops.  Anyway, I'm stoked on the pillow.  Later in the day I hiked up to the Piazelle Michelangelo and saw this:
Amazing!  Its one of those things where you are sweating and climbing up these ridiculous stairs and cursing even starting the trip.  You keep looking back and think "Ok, its cool, but not worth it."  BUT, when you get to the top, turn left and take about 15 steps, all of a sudden you see this and forget how you got there.  I can't believe I've been walking around in this for the last week.  
Here I am with the Duomo on my shoulder.  Boo for pictures of me in Europe by myself.  I wish my pumpkin sweetie poo muffin cakes was here with me.  Ok, thats not really what I call Casey, but the thought is still the same.  

Monday, September 1, 2008


After a week that’s felt like a month and a day that’s felt like a week I have finally got a place to unpack.  It’s a single after all near the Piazza Santo Spirito.  My room is a bed, a chest of drawers, a closed, a table with a chair and a side table – perfect and everything I need!  I can’t wait to make it my own. 

My roommates are pretty cool too!  I’ve met two out of three.  Peppe is a design student who’s really into reggae.  The designs he’s done on the computer are pretty cool and he recording some of his own songs in his room.  The other, Eugenio, is a language student who is a nice, outgoing, happy guy and really good at the guitar.  They are both the same age as me (1985 represent!) and both seem to be really into music. 

So for now I am going to unpack and get settled.  I think I’m going to like it here.

-pictures to come!