I have now been in Italy for ten weeks and class for nine weeks. My weekdays are routine and are focused on learning how to see and draw. Really seeing something well enough to remember it in your brain and translate it, verbatim, to paper is an entirely new experience for me. As an architect, I am accustomed imagining space and translating the idea to paper—and refining it through iterative sketches. In this architectural process, the act of altering the initial sketch is an act of transformation. When viewing a live figure, plaster cast or drawing, the act of transferring to a two-dimensional surface requires a completely different set of skills. In live figure drawing, transformation is limited to the “design” of the gesture all the while keeping true to the essence of the bodily form and personality. In drawing the Bargue exercises, variation and transformation is not permitted. Having said this, one is not doing a “photo-realistic” transfer—which means there will be variations between your drawing and originals. These variations should be subtle and not intentional.
As I reprogram my brain to this new way of seeing and drawing I am discovering a few things about myself:
- I tend to want to work rapidly—which is antithetical to the artistic process being taught at the Angel Academy of Art. I think this is a product of the way I explored ideas in architecture and the pace of running a business.
- Learning to breathe and slow down.
- I am good at the big picture but often miss subtler elements of the gesture. This is something I will have to work hard to correct—since tiny variations in the human form and face can mean the difference between a recognizable drawing and just an exercise. Sometimes corrections on a live nude drawing are as little as 1/2 millimeter (drawings are 30 centimeters high).
- While I have good stamina and am a hard working person, I loose patience somedays with having to correct tiny areas of a drawing several times. However, after each process of correcting, the degree of impatience diminishes. This is one reason, I believe, that training to be an artist will be a long journey of continuous repeating and learning from mistakes. The only nagging question is whether I will live long enough to get good at it.
- I am older than I want to be and can not work as long each day as I my mind is urging me to do.
2017.03.04 Week 10 Day 1
This Saturday was spent at home. I needed a day of rest for my shoulder and my psyche. I did laundry, updated my accounting, finished my week 9 blog and read. In the evening I had dinner with Alan and Wendy Carrol and their son Liam. I met Alan in the waiting room of the orthopedic surgeon. He and his wife are here with students from the University of Wisconsin Madison. He is a geologist and, the the small world department, went to Stanford and knows Brian and Hannah (son-in-law and daughter who also got their PhDs at Stanford.)
2017.03.05 Week 10 Day 2
Sunday was a simple day until the end. In the morning I slept in and enjoyed a quiet time alone. I spent 4 hours in the afternoon on my usual Sunday missions: Mass-mediation, candle lighting for the dogs, and walking. Today’s perambulation was through the Boboli Gardens attached to the Pitti Palace.
From “Visit Florence”
These gardens comprise the largest monumental green area in Florence. Their history goes back over four centuries, for Cosimo I commissioned the designs from Niccolo Pericoli, known as Tribolo, in 1549. Work was continued by Ammannati, Buontalenti and Parigi the Younger. Noteworthy places are: Buontalenti’s Grotto (1583), the Amphitheather with the Roman basin and the Egyptian obelisk at the center, Neptune’s Fishpond, the statue of Plenty by Giambologna and Tacca (1563), the Grand Duke’s Casino, the Cavalier’s Garden, Parigi’s Fountain of the Ocean.
It rained for about 1/3 of the time I was there so the photographs are not of the highest quality. On the plus side, admission was free since the first Sunday all State Museums are free.
The day ended on a sad note. Being separated from Lea is getting harder as she has to deal with issues back home alone. We talked today and it is clear that it would be better if I were there. She is adamant that I finish the course (as much as I can within one year). But I ache wanting to be there to help out with things. It is trying. It also has induced in me something I have never experienced: depression. I can purge these feelings through work; and fatigue helps me sleep. But the stress and responsibilities she is carrying is constantly on my mind.
2017.03.06 Week 10 Day 3 Class 41
Today my Bargue #2 (Tors0) was accepted (after 4 1/2 weeks work). The new Bargue (#3 and the final one) will be assigned tomorrow. We began a new pose from a classic pose (photograph.). This new pose is included with this post. This will be finished (shadow shapes and articulation) then transferred to Canson paper for grouping of the darks, big form modeling and final rendering .
Tomorrow we start a new nude pose directly to Canson paper–which will require precise and care in how the pencil touches the paper.
Tonight was anatomy home work with a) Benny Goodman’s Carneigie Hall concert, b) 2014 Santa Cristina Chianto c) Gemelli Delverde Flax seed pasta with arugula, fennel, onion and tomatoes. For the first time, power went out at the house (thunder storms). Reminder: buy a flash light.
2017.03.07 Week 10 Day 4 Class 42 – 2017.03.010 Week 10 Day 7 Class 45
The rest of the week we worked on our Bargue’s in the morning. By the end of the week I was able to get the general outline completed on my Bargue 3: Jupiter. The Romans thought of him as the equivalent to Zeus. Jupiter was the chief deity of Roman state religion throughout the Republican and Imperial eras, until Christianity became the dominant religion of the Empire. In Roman mythology, he negotiates with Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, to establish principles of Roman religion such as offering, or sacrifice. This is considered one of the hardest Bargue drawings. Since we make the choice, I doubt anyone who knows me will be surprised that I picked one of the hardest. Why take the easy road in life? It is especially hard because of the “apparent” symmetry. In fact, there are very subtle shifts from the horizontal and vertical axis. I doubt I will finish this by the end of the term.
In the afternoons we completed a four day standing nude. The model is an Australian who is here because of her Italian boyfriend (a chef). This is her first time to model–couldn’t find another job for now. Despite her being a first-time model, she is quite good. She can hold her pose between sessions (crucial) and has great flow through lines. Critically, the turning points on her body are visible. This allows for more accurate sight-sizing. I was able to get through to the “big form model” stage by the end of the day Friday. My ability to “see” is improving every day.
We celebrated International Women’s Day here in Italy on the 8th. From my Facebook post that day:
While I know why it is important, I find it sad and demoralizing that we have to have “days” for any gender, race, creed, nationality, sex–you name it. If we were a society of love and equality, then none of this would be required.
In any case, I am grateful for the strong, smart and wise women in my life: First and foremost is Lea, my wife, who married me despite my truths and dedicated many years to my three daughters; Lauren Soucy, Nora Scherer and Hannah Scherer, my daughters, who have put up with their dad’s unbalanced life and absentee fatherhood but strove and succeeded in being fully formed and savvy women who are breaking new ground in their respective professions ; Olive Soucy, my granddaughter, who I wish I could spend more time with but is being raised as a powerful girl–I just hope I live long enough to see her fully blossomed; my mother Cora Lee, RIP–the first female US rural route postal carrier–who taught me to clean house, sew, cook, read the Bible for wisdom not dogma, work hard and respect everyone; my grandmothers who taught me cooking, crafts, laughter and respect for making do with what you have; the librarians of the world (mostly women) who found things to help me navigate this treacherous journey we call life; my teachers (3/4 women until college where the percentage dropped precipitously) who took in a kid with crazy ambitions, moderate intelligence and radical views of the political scene; the very few girl friends I had who taught me how to be respectful of women; my first wife, mother of our three daughters, who was with me as I grew up and supported me while I made way too many big mistakes; Coly Clarke, my teacher in the 9th grade architecture class who saw in me something special and managed to help me get a scholarship to come to Rome in 1965 and encouraged me to become an architect; my co-principal Traci Lesneski at MSR Design who taught me about being a better architect and person. And finally: to Mother Earth–the lady who is being assaulted every day but still gives us far more than we take–at least for now (who knows after the #socalledpresident gets done with her in the US).
Socially, I had dinner Friday night with Kris Bigalk, Director of Creative Writing and Writing Center Director at N0rmandale Community College. She is Italy visiting her boyfriend who is stationed in Vicenza for a year with US Army. They are doing a whirlwind four day tour of three cities.
The weather changed this week to what seems like spring. It reached 19º C on Friday. I treated myself to a little indulgence of Prosecco sitting outside at a Ristorante Ciberèo. For the small sum of 5€ I was treated to a nice drink, snack and olives. I milked the drink long enough to unwind from a very hard week. Below are photos I took that evening—including Ponte Vecchio and Piazza Croce with its sculpture of Dante.