Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Arte Sella

Nestled in the foothills of the Dolomites, a road southwest of Borgo Valsugana, winds up and up and up, to the beautiful sculpture park, Arte Sella

Site specific sculptures made of natural materials accentuate the surrounding landscape and beckon visitors to not merely view, but to participate and to interact. 

My family and I spent several hours, playing, experiencing, and enjoying the various sculptures at Arte Sella.  

A loop path leads visitors from sculpture site to sculpture site.  The sculptures in the park are constructed on site and are made specifically to interact with the landscape.   

I've included here just a sampling of some of my personal favorites.... 

This little domed building acts as a giant camera obscura, with a little bench on the inside.  Visitors enter and close the door to the outside.  Once seated on the bench, a faint image begins to appear on the adjacent wall.  As your eyes adjust to the light the image becomes clearer.....

inside view
outside view

It is fun to speculate what kind of organisms would build and inhabit these organic structures.  Step inside and you can see the views from the windows and the doors, and see how the structures are built right into the surrounding trees.  

Reminiscent of a cathedral, this sculpture is a beautiful marriage of art and nature. 

A family of owls watch over the entrance and exit of Arte Sella, we look up at them and say, "Good-bye," they look down at us as if to say, "Until next time!" 

The walk back to the car offers a final and amazing panoramic view.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Buzzzz, Flutter, Bloom!

zinnia and bee

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul.
Alfred Austin


The butterfly is a flying flower,
The flower a tethered butterfly.

Ponce Denis Écouchard Lebrun


Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.
May Sarton


Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul. 
Luther Burbank


Life is the flower for which love is the honey. 
Victor Hugo


Dirt under the fingernails is a sign of a day well lived. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

My Fresco Experience

Piazza in Serravalle
I spent last week at a wonderful Fresco Workshop in Serravalle, the historic center of Vittorio Veneto. The workshop, held in the lovely 15th century Palazzo Galletti, was taught by the amazing Alma Ortolan.  Alma Ortolan is an extremely knowledgeable and talented instructor (please check out her site and read all about her current projects and studio).  During the week of the workshop Alma was on a break from her restoration project for the Vatican. She has spent the last several months cleaning and uncovering early Christian frescoes in the depths of the catacombs. 

cat nap on the garden wall
Located on the ground floor of Palazzo Galletti, Studio Ortolan is where I spent most of my "working" hours.  During the down time, I roamed the tiered garden outside of the Palazzo.  On the first day of the workshop I learned about the different layers of mortar, how, when, why, and what they are applied to...part history, part chemistry, part art, very tactile....very exciting.   Day two was spent on a technique called sgraffito, where a thin layer of putty lime mixed with marble dust is applied over a dark ground.  The top layer is then partially removed, creating a two toned design.  The thought process was a bit like creating a relief print, and the actual removal of the lime and marble dust was kind of like using scratch board. 

Sgraffito Bird, Flowers and Leaves
Day three I tried my hand at actual fresco painting.  The brush strokes and manner in which the paint is absorbed into the mortar is very different than the painting style I have grown accustom to...mostly watercolor.  Fresco is made with small regular brush strokes, there is no room for mistakes, once the pigment is painted on, that's where is will stay.  Fresco painting is very time sensitive, the paint must be applied while the mortar is wet, so it is very important to have a clear plan of what you are doing before you begin!

Fresco Birds
Day four we experimented with a different fresco technique, where after the mortar is smoothed, it is given a rough texture.  With the rough fresco, I was able to use brush strokes my hand is more accustom to, more in my comfort zone.
Fresco Blackberries
During the fourth day we also tried painting on a wall outside. Fresco is very temperamental, preferring temperatures that are not too hot, and days that are not too windy.  The mortar must stay wet while you are applying pigment, and then should, ideally, dry slowly.   Unfortunately, it was a hot and windy day.  Day four's efforts proved to be a practice run, and ultimately we reapplied mortar over our work on the morning of the fifth day.   The morning was nice and cool and a thunder storm rolled in, which made for perfect fresco weather.  But, after the rain storm passed, the wind and the sun returned.  There was not time to paint around the whole window before the temperatures got to hot and the wind too strong.  Alma did the detailed brush work around the vines and the flowers...I watched in awe.

How could I have gotten this far and not have written about the FOOD?!?  During the workshop Alma's mother Eleonora cooked both lunch and dinner daily.  Fresh, delicious food, with lots of vegetables...makes me hungry writing about it.... I was in food heaven!   And as a special treat, on the final evening, Alma made traditional Moroccan food!  Oh, the gustatory delights! 

Moroccan Tagine
The last morning of the workshop Alma took me and my family to a cave where sandstone has been quarried for centuries.  The sand and the gravel on the floor of the cave make good mortar!  The cave and the stream passing through were stunningly beautiful. 

from the inside looking out
waterfall flowing over sandstone
I feel so fortunate and grateful for my fresco experience. It changed the way I look at the world around me.  Instead of crumbling buildings I see once carefully laid layers of mortar exposed by time.  Instead of pitted frescoes I see the careful labors of a restoration project, unveiling ancient work.   Instead of only seeing a fresco as I whole, I look for the "giornata," where the painters ended and began a days work.  I see the fine brush stokes and think about the way the artist held their brush and the they moved their arms and wrists.  I dream of ways I can practice my new skill, and plot when and how I can go back to Palazzo Galletti and take another class with Alma...perhaps renaissance drawing...or may be landscape painting....

Monday, July 2, 2012

Wee One's Tee-Shirt Dress

tee shirt dress
I indulged Girl Child's request for a "shirt like Nikki's." Basically adhering to the steps of the tutorial for the 15 minute tee-shirt top, I added a few fun details....

 The flower patch on the front of the dress was created by picking some Queen Ann's Lace, rolling some fabric paint over it, and then pressing it onto a piece of old white tee-shirt.  The patch was sewn over the design that was on the original tee-shirt.  

tee shirt dress
The patch pockets on the front of the dress are made from the discarded sleeves of the tee-shirt.  The hem of the sleeve is used as the top of the pocket. 

The instructions of for the 15 minute tee-shirt top call for cutting off the bottom hem, but I decided just to leave it attached.  I thought the dress could use the extra length.  Without the hem to use as the tie, I used a simple white ribbon.  The ribbon is fashioned to tie on both sides.  Before she wears it again I am going to stitch the top casing to the ribbon so it doesn't continuously side around.  

tee shirt dress
Girl Child loves the dress, it's nice and cool, which is a good thing,  temperatures were over 100F today! 

Always check your model's hands before beginning the photo shoot!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

August Classes 2012

Vicenza Arts & Crafts Center

I am very excited to be teaching two classes at the Arts & Crafts Center this August!  You may enroll at the Arts & Crafts Center or online on Webtrac!  Hope to see you there!

Printing on Fabric

Printing on Fabric is a fun way to personalize a sewing project or add interest to something that is already made.  During each class we we will explore a different technique, discuss where to look for inspiration and ideas, and talk about different project ideas.  You will learn the art of a variety of fabric printing methods, including leaf and flower printing, relief printing, and stenciling.  A background in art or sewing is NOT required!  Anyone can make fun prints on fabric!
August 2, 9, 16, & 23
 9:30 to 12:00 

Examples from left to right, top to bottom:  flower printing, linoleum block printing, linoleum block printing, stenciling, apple printing, potato printing. 

Continuing Watercolor Class

This class was designed at the request of my students in the Beginning Watercolor classes taught last Spring. In this class we will expand on basic watercolor skills and learn some new techniques.  Classes offer a safe environment to practice and grow as a water-colorist.  Some watercolor experience is recommended for this class.  

August 1, 8, 15, & 22
 18:00 to 19:30 

Swans at Lago di Fimon by Daisey Bingham, 2012