Another SketchCrawl in Roma

We did another sketchcrawl yesterday in Rome - mainly the same folks who got together for the 'official' sketchcrawl on July 11 - Marco Carloni, Marta Palazzo, and Manlio Vetri (and a few other folks for whom I unfortunately have no links!) - results from the previous crawl are here, and we'll likely post results from yesterday's efforts there as well. Also joining the group this time around was Benedetta Dossi, who is a fellow correspondent for Urban Sketchers. We met in the late afternoon at the Villa Torlonia, out along the Via Nomentana beyond the Porta Pia, a beautiful location to sketch for a few hours. This first sketch is of the main building, designed by Giuseppe Valadier in 1806 (Mussolini used this as his state residence from about 1920 onward).

The next sketch is of the Casina delle Civette ("House of the Owls"), designed as a 'Swiss Cabin' in 1840 by Giuseppe Jappelli, but later transformed into a 'Medieval Hamlet' under the direction of architect Enrico Gennari.

It was a fantastic time taking the breezes and sketching with new friends. I was especially impressed with Benedetta's sketching techniques, and we had some great conversation when we weren't so focused on drawing. Also, big thanks to Marco for giving me a lift back to Trastevere! It's a shame my time in Rome is almost done this time around, but I've been very fortunate to see many new places in this amazing city, and even more fortunate to connect with a wonderful group of folks who love to sketch as much as I do.


Bioparco & Meeting with Luc!

Wednesday the 22nd was my son Will's birthday, so we headed to the Bioparco (i.e., "Zoo") here in Roma. It was a great place, and it was fun to do a little sketching as we strolled around ... probably could have done more, but it was very hot and at some point I simply lost the motivation. Next year, I hope to go back there earlier in the summer, when the weather is more agreeable.

Also yesterday, I met up with a new friend and sketching partner, Luciano, for the first time - he had commented a few times here on my blog, so we got together at the Campidoglio to chat about our sketchbooks and then headed to San Giorgio Velabro for a quick sketch session before I had to get back to Trastevere for Will's birthday dinner. The temperature had come down somewhat, though we had to deal with a portiere that didn't want us sitting on his precious steps (this is the only time I can recall someone not letting me sit in a particular place to do a sketch - usually they are curious about the drawing and entirely accommodating). I hope to connect with Luc again next summer - his blog, with some really amazing drawings and watercolors, is here - go take a look!


FINA World Championships in Rome

The FINA World Championships, including swimming, water polo, diving, and synchronized swimming, have just gotten underway here in Rome. As a former water polo player (in high school and a couple years in college), I knew I had to go to yesterday evening's preliminaries, which had the USA vs. Italy as the final game of the session. The first two matches I watched were fairly close (Spain vs. Serbia, during which I made this sketch, and then Romania vs. Macedonia), and I was really enjoying the novelty of seeing world-class water polo in person. Then, at about 9pm, the lights came on and the place really filled up. There were just a few small groups of US fans scattered around - otherwise it was a very excited and vocal crowd favoring the home team. The US got off to an early but small lead, though the Italians kept it close throughout, eventually tying it up late in the game. Every time they scored a goal, the place absolutely erupted in wild cheers. There was a certain amount of jeering directed at the US team and the US fans, but it all seemed good-natured, even comical at times. The US team emerged victorious, with a score of 9-8, and now I'm considering going back for another of the preliminary rounds - when's the next time I'd be likely to see this level of water polo? ... A news report on the game can be found here.


Home in Rome

This is where we've been living for the summer in Rome. The first drawing is a plan of the apartment at Via del Cipresso 12 in Trastevere. I first had to set up a grid based on the floor tiles in order to figure out the slight angles of some of the walls, and then added watercolor to show the spaces with some shading. The area in grey is our little courtyard - more of a light well, really, but it's a good place to dry the laundry. The blue areas are the kitchen and bathrooms, which are finished in a blue tile.

I considered drawing a section to show the interior space, but instead did a quick sketch of the front door ... it had to be quick, because it's gotten very warm here! Just a couple more weeks before I head back to the states. It's been a great summer.


A Couple New Ones ...

I was trying to connect with my students this morning, as they had each gone to their various piazzas to sketch. Ordinarily we head out as a group, but they're in the final throes of collecting information and images for their piazza study projects (each student is assigned two small piazzas to document and analyze). It was an unsuccessful strategy, but I did manage to do a couple sketches myself. The first is the facade of Sant' Eustachio, sketched from the back side of the Pantheon. I was trying out a new pencil - a Faber-Castell "Pitt Oil-Base Extra-Soft." It was relatively smooth, with a nice dark tone, and a worthwhile change of pace from the Staedtler-Mars pencils I typically use.

The next sketch is Via degli Spagnoli, just off Piazza delle Coppelle. I was trying to be more patient with the watercolors, building up the darker tones as I went, and I think it paid off fairly well. I was a bit nervous about laying in the purple shadow on the left, but it was one of those instances where I knew immediately that it was the right thing to do to complete the drawing. So I celebrated a little with a frulatto (banana and pineapple) at Pascucci's on my way back to Tratevere.


SketchCrawl #23 - Roma

Yesterday was the 23rd Worldwide SketchCrawl. I first went to the Centrale Montemartini, where I really should have done some drawing, but the combination of early-twentieth century power plant with late-Republican Roman sculpture was just too much to process. Instead I took many photos of the collection, which I found to be more fascinating in some respects than the Capitoline Museum. Next it was off to the Cimitero Acottolico, aka the "Protestant Cemetery" - one of my favorite places in this city for its history and atmosphere. John Keats is buried here, and Percy Shelley, who said of the cemetery, "It might make one in love with death, to be buried in so sweet a place."

The cemetery is just inside the Aurelian Wall (first sketch) and adjacent to the Piramide di Caio Cestio (second sketch). I would have enjoyed spending more time there, and perhaps doing more drawing, but there was going to be a meeting of SketchCrawlers back in Trastevere, so I had to get moving in that direction.

The plan was to meet in Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, very close to our apartment. I had never met any of them before, but by carrying my Moleskine where people could see it I managed to attract the attention of another sketcher who had arrived a little early. The rest of the folks showed up over the course of the next hour while a few of us got started. It was great to meet some new people and do a little sketching, but I had dinner plans with Patty and wasn't able to stay long. Nonetheless, contact info was exchanged and I look forward to meeting up again with Marco, Antonello, and the others before I have to leave Rome in a few weeks.


Barcelona ... Meeting with Lapin!

Barcelona was an amazing city, and I would have enjoyed my brief time there in any case. But the experience was made far more fascinating and memorable having a knowledgable guide and brilliant sketch partner. Lapin is a fellow Urban Sketchers correspondent and a very prolific sketcher and illustrator, as well as a fine host and guide to a city he obviously loves. We met on Friday evening for the first time for a brief sketch before continuing on to a small party and then dinner with "Lapinette" (i.e., Lapin's wife Isabelle). This first sketch was from the Placa del Rei, and the first time in a very long time that I had attempted a night sketch like this. Lapin works quickly, and I probably got too involved in the pen hatching, so I had to finish some of the watercolor later.

We had an excellent dinner, with delicious food and great rambling conversation about all sorts of things, and it was the perfect end to a long fulfilling day. We met again Sunday morning, and visited the cloister at the Catedral de Barcelona for some sketching. Throughout our walks around the city, Lapin had much to say about the buildings, designers, and general history of Barcelona.

We finished up that morning down at the end of La Rambla, sketching the Column of Christopher Columbus. It was fun to see the different approaches we each took with the same subject. All-in-all, a fantastic experience in a new city. A big THANK YOU to Lapin and Lapinette for their friendship and hospitality. I hope someday I can return the favor, whether it might be in Rome or Moscow (Idaho, that is)!

Barcelona ... July 4th Sketching

Had an odd 4th of July; odd in the sense that I was very far from the typical Independence Day involving bbq/baseball/beer/fireworks/etc. I had to spend a chunk of the day at the 16th International Conference on Learning, where I gave a presentation that went over well. Of the few other presentations I attended that morning, the one in this first sketch was the most interesting, focused on helping students learn to keep graphic journals of their experiences. So naturally, it was an opportunity to graphically record the experience.

Later that day, after my conference obligations were done, I headed off to find the "Barcelona Pavilion" aka the "German Pavilion for the 1929 International Exposition" aka the "Pavello de Mies van der Rohe" ... it was a long walk, but entirely worthwhile. Yet another architectural gem in Barcelona that lived up to - and in some ways exceeded - my expectations. It's strange how a building lacking any apparent program could be so captivating, but it's just pure series of spaces defined by walls (some clear, some translucent, some solid), roofs, floors, pools, and a smattering of columns. What surprised me was the evident role played by shadows and reflections, which accentuate the changing perspective of vertical and horizontal planes. Good stuff.

So it really didn't feel like the 4th until later, when I found a bar in the Barri Gotic that was playing Johnny Cash and had killer cheeseburgers and good cheap beer.


Barcelona ... La Pedrera

"La Pedrera" aka Casa Mila, designed by Antonio Gaudi in 1906 ... I've wanted to visit this place since studying it in my first architectural history course, circa 1985. It didn't disappoint, this place is really incredible. After taking several exterior photos, I settled in for a sketch, trying to capture the undulating lines of the facade. Really had to trust my eyes while laying out this drawing ... the changing scale, the perspective ... too much for my little brain to process. Wish I had another shot at the sky - the intention was for a rich, but clear wash - but it kind of got away from me somehow. That's watercolor for you - just when things feel like they're clicking along something goes awry. The facade is amazing, but not unexpectedly so ... I suppose I was prepared for it, having seen so many photos and drawings over the years.

The ROOF, on the other hand, really blew me away. Apart from the substructure of brick arches, which created a fascinating series of attic spaces, the culmination of the building (it hardly seems adequate to just call it a "roof") blasted my puny expectations out of the water. It's a crazy, elevated, roller-coaster landscape with gaping holes like volcanoes dropping into the courtyards, twisting marshmallow stair towers covered in white tile fragments, and chimneys that rise like little groups of medieval warriors. I spent far more time up there than I had anticipated, because I simply didn't want to go anywhere else. The views of the Barcelona skyline were tremendous, the breezes were wonderful, and there was even a little music playing, as they were setting up for what must have been an incredible and elegant party.

Barcelona ... Bars

I'm in Barcelona to present an academic paper at a conference, and though I've already had to spend too much time at the hotel working on my presentation, I've also managed to get out and see some of the city. After what felt like a long day of traveling, I headed into the Barri Gotic district in search of a beer. This first sketch is from "Los Alamos" - a good, dark, relatively quiet place with some interesting music and an indecipherable video montage projected on the back wall. It was a challenge to paint with very little light, but the beer helped.

The next evening, after lots of work and a great visit to Gaudi's La Pedrera, I found my way to La Ria Taberna for some excellent calamares. This place had a large, open window behind the bar with a view out into the darkened street. The two bartenders checked in occasionally on my progress, though the woman was laughing about how I drew her as being far too muscular.
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