Poppy sleeping (graphite) - Miami 2017

One of the greatest things about coming to Miami was meeting my air bnb hostess, Penny. Had it not been for her, I might not have stayed in Miami. Not only did she become a great friend but she also showed me some of the lesser known sights and sites - a Thai temple, a place to buy cheap orchids, a bee keeper and his honey farm just to name a few. Her house was always a place where I could go for great conversation, pick up a few plants or fresh eggs, grab a cup of tea and enjoy the company of her dogs, of which Poppy is one. 

3 female sketches + 3 female sketches (ink pen and wash) - Miami 2017 + Italy 1988

This summer a grad friend generously gave me an hour's worth of time to do figure drawing, and the sketches reminded me of a similar situation about 30 years ago when a fellow art student did me the same favor. Both sets of sketches are posted here. 

The first three sketches were done in the studio at UM, the last three were done along the streets in Urbino. The Italian Tratto Pen works wonderfully on Fabriano F4 paper. 

palm tree studies (graphite on paper) - Miami Florida USA 2016

From having spent the last 30 years in Italy to having to spend the next 3 years in Florida has been something of a transition. Personal matters and climate issues aside, to say that life as I know it has changed is an understatement. Artistically I try to orient myself on terrain that goes neither up nor down, where the wild vegetation and the buildings converge into the blue ceiling of the sky, and where the sun cuts everything into pieces.  

These three sketches were done outside the door of my apartment while mosquitoes made a feast of my legs. Similar to the chair sketches done on my terrace in Italy, these sketches mark the beginning of my fascination with vertical palms, geometric shapes of buildings and what would later develop into a full-blown exploration into color and light. 

daffodils (graphite and white paste on manila paper, oil pastel and xacto knife on paper) - Italy 2016

The last entries in my sketchbooks before leaving Italy were daffodils. A patch of them grew spontaneously near my neighbor's winter wood piles, and I cut a few before the springtime-walkers and restaurant-goes took them all. 

The graphite sketch was an attempt to capture the weak spring light from my front room window as it passed through the petals, while the second is me playing around with color, materials and techniques. Oil pastel can build up and get muddy but scratching it off allows the pigment stain underneath to come through and create a sort of colorful cross-hatching. 

self portrait & figure study (graphite and white pastel on manila paper) - Italy 2015

Finding a model was hard. The nearby beach offered multiple opportunities for bodies, but sketching in a crowd was too much of a side show. Getting a total stranger to pose nude in the front room was unthinkable and not even friends (who are usually willing to pose nude) want to model when they understand that it means sitting around for hours without moving. They were happy to do it at the beach but then we were back to square one. In the end, it was easier to draw myself. 

The first portrait sketch was done in the bathroom with the help of two mirrors. The second one was also done in the bathroom with the same two mirrors and with me perched on top of the washing machine. My feet were killing me in the end. 

broken chairs (graphite and white pastel on manila paper) - Italy 2015

These two chairs sat on my terrace in all kinds of weather, including one of the heaviest snowfalls on record which totally buried them for a couple of weeks. The chair in the first sketch is one I'd picked up with two others (mistakenly destroyed while in storage) at an open air market for 5 euro, and it was impervious to snow and heat. Unfortunately when I left Italy, I left them behind but they remain famous for having been the first of a long and still continuing series of chair drawings and paintings. 

The combination of graphite for darks and white pastel pencil for highlights works wonderfully well on the yellowish manila sketch paper. The horizontals of the chairs and the verticals of the railing were more intriguing to me than the landscape in the background which I barely suggested. Although geometric in nature, the chairs are perfect stand-ins for the human figure.

Olive groves (watercolor, pencil) - Italy 2015

Sketching outdoors in Italy was always a bit of a challenge. Even if I thought I was out in the middle of nowhere, people would come out of their homes to see what I was doing in the middle of their field. Not that they would be upset, they were merely curious and would talk or invite me in for coffee and my plans to work would slip away. When I began in earnest to prepare a portfolio, my friends at the Baldelli horse farm happily allowed me to roam their fields and olive groves so I could paint and sketch in peace. 

These postcard sized watercolor sketches show rows of young olive trees under a hot July sun. The small study of an olive tree that had been pruned back: the shadows on the trunk and the leaves on the one arching branch fascinated me. 

3 landscapes (felt pen & white pastel) - Italy 2015

Le Marche is - like all of Italy - beautiful. The hills truly are gently rolling and stretch out in slow waves. Looking to the west, the view went on and on until it bumped up to the last line of peaks of the low mountains. 

These three sketches were done around my last house which was part of another cluster of small houses on top of a hill in the middle of a regional park. Squares of olive trees, fields lined from haying and long low clouds are all typical landscape markers. 

bowl of cherries (ink pen wash) & two pears (watercolor) - Italy 2015

In Italy, from the time I arrived til I began tending a garden and orchard on my own, a passion of mine was always fruit and vegetables. My greatest friends became the people who owned the small fruit and vegetable shops all around town. Over the years these places became fewer and fewer but I always found them and never tired of enjoying the seasons via fruit and vegetables.

Spring and early summer meant cherries, several varieties, each replacing the previous harvest. It's a miracle I managed to paint these without eating them since "una tira l'altra". This sketch was done with a bleedable felt pen and a bit of white acrylic. The pears are a late summer variety, one of the first to be picked, and my attempt at using a Japanese water color set I'd been given.  

knife, fork & saucer (acrylic on paper) - Italy, 2015

The heat of the summer forced me to work indoors during the summer: acrylic is tough to work with under direct sunlight and when using an acrylic wash it's even tougher as it tends to dry as soon as it is put to paper, making it difficult to push around. Finding something to paint indoors in the semi-dark with the blinds drawn against the heat was a challenge. Summer is spent outdoors and all the color and light and stimuli were there, not in my back room. Post lunch dishes provided inspiration, a half-raised blind provided the light, and a muted palette did the rest.