Sunday, April 2, 2017

Monteleone Sabino

Yes, the name of this tiny hillside town just rolls off your tongue. Monteleone Sabino is guarded by a stone lion on a pedestal, so old that its teeth are rounded, its tail embedded in the curved flank. There is a one-room grocery tucked into a steep street, a butcher, a post office, a school and two "bars" where the cappuccino is savory and strong. A couple of kilometers away, down a steep road and up a bluff, sits the stone cottage that became our art studio and home. La Torretta's walls are thick and peppered with remnants of Roman ruins. It sits on the foundation of an ancient bath and the grounds have dug-up pieces of pillars and capitals scattered about that provide seating. Olive groves with century-old trees surround the property and several yellow-ochre buildings across the valley reflect the sunrise each day, blue mountains behind.

After spending most of my time drawing in Rome, I again picked up my pen and recorded the landscape with line, then watercolored some of these pieces, coloring-book style. It was a pleasure to settle in and really focus, the hum of bees my only distraction. The second day I pulled out acrylics. I have not used this medium since I painted the backdrop for a high school play. I was curious to see how it would compare to oil paint, my current favorite. Because of my inexperience, I allowed myself to play, not caring about the result. It can be a challenge to let go of the familiar, but - once done - it is sweet indeed to simply explore.

Sometimes, while painting, I would lie down in the scratchy grass with my sunhat over my face and wonder if I had somehow passed through a portal to a previous century. We were living so simply: hiking, painting and eating, our meals easy combinations of fresh fruits and vegetables, meat grilled over an open fire and lots of local red wine. Night brought interesting discussions about what makes a good composition, how did Van Gogh respond to olive trees and why our art-making goals here might be different from those at home. Each morning I felt fresh energy, invigorated by these conversations and inspired by surroundings so different from West Michigan.

Ten days flew by. I struggled with rendering the strange shapes of olive trees. The chenille-bedspread texture of distant groves tickled my vision, teasing me. Acrylic paint's tendency to dry quickly and its jelly-like consistency (compared to oil paint) just about drove me crazy. But I learned so much by letting go of expectations and simply experiencing. And now I'm sure that these old olive trees will remain in my heart and my brain, perhaps taking on new life in my studio at home.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, love the lines and "coloring book style" blocked painting of the simple landscape. Such beauty in the negative space. LOVE!