29 April 2013

Playdate with Watercolor Paint

I had the pleasure of meeting Nancy from Indiana a couple months back. Nancy is a creative and energetic retired schoolteacher, who spends most of the year abroad. Somehow in our conversation that first meeting she told me about her watercolor project: She paints her travelogues on postcard-sized paper! Nancy shows me a sample of her work, and I fall in love with the concept.  I think it a creative way to imprint lasting memories.

Maestro Nancy

Watercolor has always been the paint medium I prefer; my artistic talent is sorely lacking, never graduating from stick figure drawings.  Nancy insists her approach is so simple and easy that even I can do it. I ask Nancy to show me her technique. I challenge her to teach me.

Nancy's work in progress based on Villa La Petraia visit

Today is our playdate. Lucy and her daughter, Elizabeth, and I traipse on over to Nancy's home for our painting lesson. Nancy tells us this is a new art form for her which she incorporated only a few months ago when she returned to Europe. As she explains her techniques, we follow our maestro's guidance. The first thing we do is section our postcard-size paper into at least five sections. That way the blank page is less daunting. Nancy makes a postcard for each side trip she takes. I choose Italian subjects that require minimal skill to sketch. We have scheduled an hour for our playdate, but we stay five. We each go home with our own miniature capolavoro ("masterpiece") after also sharing ideas, laughs, and getting to know one another a bit more.

Elizabeth has talent

Notice the detail in Elizabeth's first masterpiece

Nancy shared with me an entire book filled with her miniature paintings. Each one is priceless.  Because I doubt my artistic ability, her point was to show me the evolution of her skill in poco tempo (little time). I do have hope. Even I could see the evolution of her style and technique as she grew confident in her newfound skill and learned how to handle the brushes and paints. Thank you, Nancy, for sharing with us. 


My creation.  Um, can you recognize any objects???

A picture is worth a thousand words; each miniature picture here tells many, many stories.

Lucy's creation

Many stories

Keep an eye on your mailbox. You just might receive an original piece of artwork in the mail from me one day soon.

27 April 2013

Villa della Petraia, Florence, Italy

April 25th was another holiday here in Italy, Liberation Day, which marks the end of Mussolini's regime. Five American women chose this holiday for a field trip. From Stazione Santa Maria Novella, we took one of two ATAF buses, the   No. 2 or 28, to visit one of more than 25 Medici family villas throughout Tuscany. We visited La Petraia.

The bus arrives about 15 minutes after leaving the station. A short walk up the hill past another Medici villa, the Villa di Castello, and past the onetime home of Collodi, the author of Pinocchio, will land you at the entrance of La Petraia. Free admittance and a free guided tour. Our tour was in Italian. I did my best to follow along, grasping 60 to 70 percent, enough to fascinate me to discover more. The villa previously belonged to the Brunelleschi family, the architect who built the dome on Santa Maria del Fiore ("the Duomo"). The villa is worth the visit for its frescoed courtyard .

However, what particularly interests me are the gardens. Italian gardens are not quite what we think of as gardens in the U.S. A few hundred years ago, they were rarely full of flowers, though flowers were included. Instead, they were about order and beauty, geometric designs of landscape architecture. They were designed to impress, and they were about power. The larger the garden, the more power the family had. The Italian-style gardens were later copied throughout Europe (French Renaissance Gardens and English Gardens). One more art form to be appreciated in this city, the birthplace of the Renaissance (thanks to the Medici family).

Villa della Petraia
via della Petraia, 40
Castello, Firenze, Italia

14 April 2013

Humanities 101 (Notes from a Recent Trip to Los Angeles)

More than two months ago, on 2 February, I left Florence in a hurry ... and arrived to Los Angeles with a sad and heavy heart under a cloud of unpleasant circumstances.  This trip home was not planned, but sudden.

The generosity of my friends and family overwhelmed me then, and now, when I look back, still overwhelms me. Each and every one of you played a part in my feeling loved and cared for at a time when that was precisely what I needed. Many of you went out of your way to be available for me in one form or another. Words alone cannot adequately describe my gratitude for your kindnesses. Nonetheless...

In a short month's time, I had the opportunity to see so many old friends, and family, which helped restore my faith in humanity during a crucial personal crisis. During our too brief time together, we enjoyed plenty of laughs, tears, stories, love shared, love lost, bonding, re-bonding, meals, and even a bit of shopping.  (Needed that!)

A big THANK YOU to all of you.

With love from Florence, Italy