Archive for October, 2010

La Toscana

October 11th, 2010 4 comments

On our drive back to Podenzano from Napoli, Elena and Enzo decided to take me to two towns in Tuscany; Montalcino and Siena. Montalcino is famous for their wine, particularly for their Brunello. Being a teetotaler myself, I had never heard of Brunello, but I looked forward to Elena and Enzo trying the degustazione (or tasting) of 3 varieties of this wine. The town of Montalcino was ancient, small, and pretty. But the first thing we noticed was that we were surrounded by tourists. From every direction we heard American voices and tour groups.
Some of the tour groups were on bicycles. We watched as frightened cyclists rolled down the slippery wet pavement gripping their brakes tightly. It occurred to me that this was the first time I had been in a touristy place since I’d arrived. We went to a nice restaurant and had dinner and the wine tasting, surrounded again by American tourists. The Brunello wines that Elena and Enzo sampled each smelled very different. But the two I liked the smell of were the two they purchased. The nose knows, after all.

Our next stop was Siena, a famous town all over the world for their twice annual Palio, or horse race. There is one horse from every neighborhood in the city, and the fantino (jockey) must ride his horse bareback. If he falls off, it doesn’t matter; if his horse comes in first, his neighborhood still wins. As we stood in the square, someone said 10,000 people stand there during the race. I was glad I was there on a rainy day in October.
The two paintings on this page were done in my travel journal.

Categories: acquarello, Italia, landscapes Tags:


October 10th, 2010 2 comments

As a result of my gift of a portrait I did of my recently deceased cousin to his widow, I suddenly have a few more commissions. The reactions of my Italian cousins to the gifted portrait was “Oh, will you paint a picture of my (daughter, son, parents)?” And so I must introduce you to Caterina, who was a beloved mother and daughter and wife and died far too young.

One of the reasons this painting is so lovely is because I was given a really good photograph to work from. Caterina was in a piazza somewhere bathed by the sun.
As much as you might love that flash photo that you took of your grandfather in 1973, that doesn’t mean it has enough good information to make a portrait from. On the other hand, some old black and white photos have amazing resolution, and can be used as reference material for really fine portraits.

Categories: portrait Tags:

Le Castagne – Chestnuts

October 9th, 2010 6 comments

In Calabria, once upon a time before there were tomatoes (there was a time like this!) and before there was inexpensive pasta, people subsisted on Chestnuts – there was little else so readily available to stave off starvation in the wintertime. They boiled them with other vegetables, they dried them and ground them up for flour to make a heavy kind of bread, and they slowly roasted them in stone ovens for a delicious aromatic snack. The wood as well was very important, used for many purposes, from furniture to firewood.
An elaborate system of gathering, cleaning and drying these nuts developed, with some parts of the process assigned to men, and others to women and children. If you’ve ever been to Calabria in the late summer or early autumn, you have seen these large trees pregnant with big prickly yellowish green spherical husks, nasty to touch, with one to four chestnuts inside. They usually fall in mid October, almost exactly the same time every year. The last two times I visited, I was just a little too early to be able to participate in the harvest. This time, on the day before I left Calabria, my cousin presented me with a pound or so of the very first chestnuts of the season.
Even though people no longer subsist on Chestnuts, they are still a relatively important crop. They are now used more for treats than subsistence, and are also given to pigs to fatten them up. I have one cousin whose job it is to study the health of the Castagno (Chestnut tree) and another of my cousins, Teresa Riccio, has actually written a book about the historical and sociological significance of this tree Il castagno nella tradizione di una Comunità Presilana: Sersale. And I just discovered that they are very fun to paint!

Categories: acquarello, food art, historic, Italia Tags:

A day in Milan

October 8th, 2010 3 comments

I started my Italian Adventure in Milan where Elena works. We left Podenzano at 6:30 in the morning and were on a train heading to Milan shortly after 7. Next we had to take two subway trains the last of which deposited us close to her office. Her coworker drew me a quick map and then I set out on my own in a surprisingly pleasant city. There were bicyclists and pedestrians everywhere, the only negative thing I noticed was the surprising number of smokers. I headed towards the Duomo and navigated many of the streets nearby. About 3 blocks from the Duomo sits Piazzo Corduso. It was surrounded by lots of shops and there were a couple of artists there. Giuseppe Casorio was sitting there painting wonderful miniature watercolors. We got to talking and after I bought one of his paintings of the Duomo, he asked me to sketch him! So I did. It was really fun. He sat there painting, and I sat there drawing his face.

He was delightful to talk to and we alternated between Italian and English. He’s now my facebook buddy too.

After I left Giuseppe I went on to the Galleria, a famous enclosed mall.
This little sketch shows just how much more you can “see with your pencil.” The longer I sat there, the more details I found.

Categories: Italia, landscapes, portrait, travel journal Tags: