Friday, June 28, 2013

Sketchbook Journeys - Italy: Day 7 (Vicenza)

I'm not sure why it took us a whole week to get around to venturing into Vicenza. It was only a few miles from where we were staying, and the drive, although challenging for tourists like us, was manageable. We didn't even get lost! The city is famous for the work of Andrea Palladio, who designed many of the public buildings in Vicenza, as well as a number of villas in the nearby countryside. The buildings were awe-inspiring and amazingly beautiful, but a little overwhelming to paint, so I focused on smaller vignettes of things we saw as we explored Vicenza on foot.

10" x 7", ink & watercolor, Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook

The shop windows in the city were so gorgeous! I couldn't get over the beauty of some of the displays - they were works of art in and of themselves. Like this hat shop on the main square...

Wow! To think that there is actually a market for those beautiful handmade fabric confections! Wish I could have seen some stylish Italian women wearing them!

We watched the greedy pigeons competing for crumbs as we sipped our cappuccinos and nibbled biscotti. 

 This sweet display of herbs stood outside the bakery...

Any time I sat down, I pulled out my sketchbook. Waiting for my lunch, I drew the condiments on the table (two kinds of olive oil, two kinds of vinegar, salt & pepper) as we conversed with an American soldier and his wife at the next table who told us what the don't-miss highlights of our day in town should be.

After lunch, we hiked up to the top of Mount Berico to see the 15th century Church of St. Mary. Along the way, I paused to sketch this vine-covered gate. Can you tell I was in a hurry? Everything is a little wonky and doesn't line up right. It had started to drizzle, and I was trying to hold my umbrella over my head while balancing my sketchbook in one hand and holding my pen in the other. The sketch is technically all wrong, but there's something about it that I just love.

The view looking out over the city is spectacular...

...but I think I prefer sketching scenes that are less about the big picture and more about small beauties...

More Vicenza sketches coming in my next post

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sketchbook Journeys - Italy: Days 5 & 6 (The countryside of Northern Italy)

My previous two journal entries (here & here) were about our day trip to Lake Garda, where we visited a winery and the walled town of Lazise. Here's one final page about that day, and the adventure we had finding our way home...

10" x 7", ink & watercolor in a Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook

I definitely had a love/hate relationship with our GPS on this trip. It was a great help 90% of the time, but the other 10% was enough to make me want to scream! I just had to include a tiny sketch of what the screen looked like the night it sent us off into dark oblivion on a highway to nowhere...

We were so relieved to make it home to our cozy house that night. Travel is always an adventure, isn't it?

Day 6 was a day to chill out and reenergize. In the morning, we explored the local neighborhood on foot, then in the afternoon drove north toward the Dolomite Mountains and did a little sketching.

10" x 7", ink & watercolor in a Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook. The top sketch was drawn and painted on location. The grape vines were drawn from photo references. I used a Noodler's Creaper Flex pen with Lexington Gray ink.
In the evening, we popped open the bottle of wine we had bought at the winery the day before.

10" x 7", ink & watercolor in a Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook. To make my wine sketch more interesting, I included the mosaic tile backsplash of the kitchen in the house where we were staying, fitting it in between the sections of text.

It was wonderful to spend a vacation day just meandering - seeing the real Italy, driving the back roads, exploring the countryside and tiny villages where nobody speaks English. It's the vacation I'd always dreamed of.

I didn't see Florence, Rome, or Madrid on this trip - I'm saving them for another time - but I got a taste of what makes Italy so special: friendly people, beautiful scenery, and art everywhere you look, from the grandest cathedral to the flowers on a windowsill. I can't wait to return!

Coming up next: We visit the lovely city of Vicenza

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sketchbook Journeys - Italy: Gelato!

Anyone who travels to Italy invariably comes home telling tales of how wonderful the gelato is, and I'm no exception. It's smooth, sweet, creamy, and intensely flavored, but lighter and not as rich as American ice cream.

10" x 7", ink & watercolor in Stillman & Birn Beta Series sketchbook

My goal on this trip was to eat a different flavor of gelato every day that I was in Italy. Try as I might, I only managed to fit it in seven times. I'll try harder next time!

I did the layout for this page on day five of my trip, after savoring my second dish of gelato. I roughed in the title and drew the double-scoop cone, then kept an ongoing list of all the different flavors I tried and where I bought them. At the end of the trip, I sketched them all to complete the page.

The whimsical look of the lettering adds to the fun on this journal page. I drew the letters in pencil first to work out the size, style, and placement, then inked them with a Superfine Pitt Artist's Pen. A size 1 paintbrush helped me get into all those skinny little spaces on the letters to add the watercolor.

I love how this page turned out - happy and carefree - just how I feel when I'm dipping into a scoop of gelato!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Sketchbook Journeys - Italy: Day 5 (Lazise)

(In my last post I wrote about visiting a winery near Lake Garda, in northern Italy. Here are two more journal pages from that day.)

We finished up our visit at Villa Monteleone in the kitchen, where we stood warming ourselves by the old stone fireplace as the owner, Lucia, told us about the history of the place and the story of how she came to live there.

10" x 7", ink & watercolor (text was done with Pitt Artist's Pen, size S, sketch was drawn with Noodler's Creaper pen & Lexington gray ink)

I included a sketch of the kitchen sink in my journal, because it was so unusual. It's the original one from the 1700s, and the whole slab of pink marble, which had the sink cut into it, was installed on an angle so that water would drain to the left. There were metal hooks hanging from the marble shelf above, used to hang water buckets from for hundreds of years. I think it's so cool that, down through the centuries, the various owners of the villa have used and preserved their eccentric kitchen sink rather than ripping it out and installing a modern one. They do enjoy one modern amenity, however...running water!


To add a little color to the page, I painted a sprig of lavender up the left side and across the center where it serves as a natural divider between two sections of text.

After we left the winery, we headed west to Lake Garda and the historic town of Lazise. It's the site of a 13th century castle, and within the castle walls is a thriving village of retail shops, restaurants, and homes. It was a Sunday afternoon when we were there, and it was brimming with Italian families walking their dogs, riding bikes, and just relaxing at the outdoor cafes with a gelato or a glass of wine.

I wish we'd had more time to check out all the neat shops, but after strolling by the harbor and wandering the streets for awhile (and treating ourselves to a double scoop of gelato!), we settled in to sketch the waterfront.

I loved the lamp posts and wanted to make them a predominant feature in my sketch, along with the oddly round evergreen tree near the restaurant in the center of the sketch. Lazise was such a happy, pretty place and seemed to call for bright, clear colors in my painting.

During my time in Italy, I was struck by the way the Italians seem to place a high priority on relaxing and spending time with family on the weekends, especially on Sunday afternoons. There's a time for work and a time to put work aside and focus on the truly important things in life. It was a good lesson for me.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sketchbook Journeys - Italy: Day 5 (Villa Monteleone & San Giorgio)

We ventured farther afield on day five of our Italian adventure and headed west to explore the area around Verona and Lake Garda. We weren't exactly sure where we were going and didn't have a firm plan for what we wanted to see, but my friend Ann had suggested we visit a small winery, Villa Monteleone, in Sant' Ambrogio di Valpolicella, so we plugged the address into the GPS and hit the road. It turned out to be one of the most memorable days of the whole trip. (Read all about it in my journal pages, shown here.)

10" x 7", watercolor & Lexington gray ink, Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook

My sketch of Lucia Raimondi, the owner of Villa Monteleone, certainly doesn't do her justice, but it's a good reminder of our visit to the winery. She was such a kind and generous host and one of the most interesting people I met. For this journal page, I did an antique-y looking wash around the edges with a mixture of burnt sienna + yellow ochre + a touch of ultramarine blue and faded it into the center to tie it in with the wine cellar sketch.

Just over the hill from the winery was the tiny village of San Giorgio. It was a special place, off the beaten track, perched on top of a mountain and surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. The main (and only) street was so narrow and winding that drivers honked their horns when approaching a turn in the road to warn oncoming traffic to make way.  Some of the buildings are over five hundred years old, and the church is even older. It's hard to imagine what life was like back then, but just being there in that place gave me a taste of it.

10" x 7", watercolor & ink (Sakura Pigma Micron pen), Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook

The deep window sills in the restaurant where we ate lunch held beautiful still life arrangements of antiques, dried gourds, plants, candles, and wine bottles. I sketched one of the vignettes while waiting for my lunch to arrive.

There was a scenic overlook in San Giorgio that gave us 180ยบ views of the countryside, looking across the famous Valpolicella grape-growing region. It was the perfect place to set up for a sketching session.

Here's a photo of the scene with my half-finished sketch in the foreground...

This next page shows the vineyards and mountains near Lake Garda. It's a typical scene in that region of northern Italy where most of the land is taken up by neat, tidy rows of perfectly manicured grapevines.

10" x 7", watercolor & Lexington gray ink, Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook

Just imagine all the man hours that go into maintaining those thousands of acres of vines. Whew! I have enough trouble keeping up with my own little garden!

The old church in San Giorgio was begun in the 8th century, and it's still standing, solid and immovable, today. Its bells chime on the hour, playing, not just a note or two to denote the time, but full-length hymns with multiple verses! It was a treat to hear the music pealing out from the bell tower on the mountaintop as we walked through the village.

Our new friend, Lucia, from the winery, said we might enjoy visiting the lakeside town of Lazise in the afternoon, and I'm so glad we took her advice. It's a beautiful little gem of a place. I'll show you my sketches from there in the next post.
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