Thursday, February 26, 2009

Chapter Firenze is Closed

Today is my last day in Firenze.  It's strange thinking that its over already, but over the last week I've been gaining closure to this city and am ready for the change.  Its always interesting to me how your view on things changes so drastically when you have a week left in a place.  For me I realized that I'm really connected to this city, but I am ready to live simpler.  

I climbed the Duomo the other day to get a view of Firenze from the center out.  It was breathtaking.

It's just crazy how many amazing things are in this picture.  There's the Palazzo Vecchio, Piazza Santa Croce, the Bargello, San Miniato and Piazzale Michelangelo.  Being up there really gave me good perspective (excuse the pun) on my experience here.  Just seeing Firenze as a whole like that made my time here feel like a big experience, rather than just a bunch of moments

Yesterday I explored Tuscany a bit.  First I went to Lucca, a charming medieval town with a huge wall surround it.  It really had that old feeling to it, with no sidewalks - just paved streets going up to buildings.  I originally went to eat at a specific restaurant for a specific dish, but the restaurant was closed until March 1st and the menu didn't even have the dish I was looking for.  I did however find Baccellato di Lucca, the famous bread from Lucca with raisins and  anise seeds. 
Here's a shot of a Palace from the wall.  The wall is really thick and you can walk on it.

After Lucca I went to Pisa.  I've been there a number of times, but only to its airport.  This time I made it into the city.  Ok, what do you think about when you hear the word PISA.  I'm guessing its something leaning.

Well, so does everyone else, and they all attempt to save the leaning tower from falling over.  

Next to the tower there is a great cathedral.   To my surprise it was very decorative inside and is one to the best cathedrals I've seen in Italy.  There are huge oil paintings lining the walls, nice bronze and marble sculptures, an over-the-top altar and golden ceilings.  

And here's the tower in a mix of cool and warm.  Don't let the slightly sloped grass fool you, the tower is pretty leaned.  

Tomorrow I head for the farm.  I'm not sure how frequently I'll be able to post there, but check back once in a while and I'll show you my life on the farm.  Montepulciano in T-minus 12 hours. 

Monday, February 23, 2009

Carnevale in Firenze

As I was walking back from the city center yesterday I heard thunderous drumming.  Curious, I went to check it out and when I turned the corner I found a medieval dressed drum line, followed by trumpet players.  Following them was a procession of wealthy dressed medieval characters.
I had no idea what was going on, but that's not a shock since there are always festivals going on, most of which I have no clue about.  I had to give them credit though, they totally stayed in characters.  

Since being here and walking around Renaissance and Medieval towns and seeing how modern life is injected into the antique settings, I've been really interested in the idea of historical figures living in modern times.  This was definitely a treat for me.  

I guess these guys were the royal couple since they were dressed up in rich colors and lead the procession.  
I had thought that this was the entire show and they were going off somewhere to reenact something.  Following this last couple I started to hear some loud beats and cheering.  Looking in the opposite directed I saw a bunch of dancers in feathers and sequenced costumes making their way down the street.  Immediately I thought "Oh, this must be Carnival," which was later verified by someone I asked.

There were probably 25-30 different countries following the Italian Carnevale, showing how they celebrate the pre-lent festivities in their respective countries.  

Bright colors....
.. smiling faces and flowing fabric.
It was a pretty great day.  The energy was so positive from the worldly celebration.  After coming back from the parade I was pleasantly surprised by a homemade lasagna made by my roommate Peppe (from Sicily).  I've had his amazing lasagna before, but this one was by far the best lasagna I've ever had.  It was hot and gooey with those crispy edges of melted cheese.  

Changing gears a bit, I've finished up my last painting for a while.  The fumes were really getting to me and I'm actually running out of supplies.  

Bob Dylan.  This one is for my friend/former roommate who I'll hopefully be spending some time with in Puglia (the heel of Italy) this summer.  

I also did a drawing.  It wasn't until midway through it that I realized its been a while since I've done some detailed drawing.  


Saturday, February 14, 2009

La Seconda Settimana di Febbraio

Finally the sun has been showing its bright smile, which in turn makes me smile.   With that said, its still freezing here (for what I'm used to anyway) and I can't wait for things to start warming up.  With the motivation of the sun calling me out, I've been spending my mornings paintings and afternoons reading in the sun.  Here's a few of the paintings I did this week:

Via dell'Alloro - the street that my school is on

I'm going to call it Purange Girl, just because I like word mash-ups.  Since I wasn't painting for anyone, I thought I'd try out something new while sticking to a limited palette.  I'm pretty happy with the way this one came out.  

I'm not even going to attempt to name this one.  I was painting Devendra Banhardt and just wasn't satisfied with how I came out, so I thought I'd go as far as I was planning to with go with Purange Girl.  I'll admit, its a bit creepy, but I'm still pretty happy with how it came out.  

I've also written a new JOpinion on on an amazing oil painter - Kim Cogan.  Check it out and let me know what you think.  

Saturday, February 7, 2009

I've Got Plans

I've been kind of MIA lately mainly because there hasn't been much to report on.  But now my plans have firmed up and I can give a proper update.  At the end of this month I will be moving to Pienza, a town south of Florence in the Comune of Siena, to work on a farm.  This is a family run farm where they mainly produce sheep cheese and pasta.  They also have a vineyard and large vegetable garden.  I'm very excited to go to the farm and learn how to grown and cultivate produce as well as learn how to make cheese!  I'll be at that farm for two months until May. 

For May I will be moving up north to Alessandria, a town between Torino and Milano, to work on a co-op that has a large olive grove and vineyard.  They also have a vegetable garden, although I think most of my work will be in the vineyard.  I'm super excited to work on this farm too.  I really hope that in addition to learning about working the land I can learn more about Italian culture while improving my language skills.  

[Lately it's been rainy and cloudy all the time.  It's a real bummer to be motivated to stay indoors by unfriendly weather, but at least it makes for some cool lighting situations]

I've deemed February my art month, partly because I was feeling stagnant with my days, partly because I need to use up some supplies before I leave, and partly just because I wanted the challenge.  I haven't set that many guideline for myself, only that I need to work on some form of art for a good portion of time, everyday.  I've been working on some portraits of my roommates' favorite musical artists as farewell gifts.

Bob Marley

Django Reinhardt

Jimmy Page

It's been great getting back to painting, although now that my small room also serves as my studio I need to take a break before the fumes overwhelm me.  I've been experimenting with different techniques too and am focusing on getting a better grasp on color.