Thursday, April 24, 2014

Painting at the Loggia and Bellosguardo in Florence, Italy

Our last full day in Florence – after the Robert Liberace Art Historical tour group left for home – was spent painting.  Big surprise. 

Choosing My Subjects
"Loggia, Piazza della Signoria, Florence, Italy" plein air painting, oil, 12"h x 16"w, copyright Jill Banks 2014
I'm such a bendable soul, open to all sorts of (good) influences. All of Florence is paintable. Exciting subjects abound. The problem is figuring out what I MOST want to paint ... and how.

Looking at the art in the Pitti Palace with scenes capturing so well the Florence we’d experienced this past week made me want to commit more of the whole of it to canvas.  While not there at the Pitti Palace (actually far away in Santa Barbara, California ... if I remember right) is a painting done by John Singer Sargent, a nocturne of the Perseus sculpture by Cellini in the loggia near the Uffizi -- yet another painting that awaits my answer. (As in ... "here I've provided great inspiration. What are you going to do about it?"] 

My choice of where to paint for at least part of the last day in Florence: The Loggia dei Lanzi near the Uffizi (following close in Sargent's footsteps). My subject: the backside view of:  The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna – a sculpture created from a single block of marble from 1579 to 1583 -- with a view into the scene beyond of the Piazza della Signoria.

I ended up sitting in the back corner on the top step after husband Randy wrangled permission from the guard in charge. There was a sign with lists of no-nos including eating and drinking, AND suitcases. So, my handy-dandy rolling studio (en suitcase) needed to be disassembled, streamlined and hand-carried into the spot … with Randy lunching alone in the pizzeria joint right next door.  I’ve painted that scene/restaurant before ... years ago after my first trip to Florence. It now resides with a few more of my paintings in a collector’s home in the Midwest.

That was yet another fun aspect of this visit. I passed scenes previously captured and now dispersed, purchased and hanging elsewhere. It seemed like visiting old friends. Painting is always an experience. Relished, well-remembered. Hard to ever forget one.

Painting went great. It was solace, quiet amid the masses. The tripod that usually extends so I can stand was kept miniature, as short as it could be to take up little space.  

Eventually, the guard who agreed to Randy's request was replaced by a more rules-bound soul.  He came over, pointed, frowned, waved his hands, spoke to me in Italian. I stared back, blankly ... not knowing he was an official or what he had said. He brought over another cohort. They argued gently. In the end, I believe I was asked not to spill. Okay.

That was about quitting time for that spot anyway. (To move on to another that beckoned.) A woman who was watching behind me offered me two plastic bags that helped greatly in getting my pile from the loggia to Randy and the suitcase. Yea for a kind and thoughtful stranger!!!! Thoughtfulness has no language barriers.

The Trek to Bellosguardo
"View from Torre Di Bellesguardo," oil, 12"h x 16"w, copyright Jill Banks 2014
Before setting up to paint in the Loggia, I'd emailed Torre de Bellesguardo, a four-star hotel that overlooks Florence high on the hill  -- to ask permission to set up and paint there.  While I sat painting one, I heard my answer back. Yes, I could paint in the garden. So when the Loggia guard wanted me out of there, I had a plan for the next destination.

What a trek. And, yes, I've learned it is always worth it. But, whoa.  Jokingly, on the way up I pointed to a building way up high and said ... I bet that's it. Well, it was.

Randy and I ... mainly Randy rolled that suitcase full of painting supplies from the Uffizi up high on the hill to a place so gorgeous it's hard to believe it's here on earth.

I so appreciate the invitation to paint there. Guests are treated to this secluded, private paradise ... but still seemed happy to share this glorious view with me. As I was finishing, and Randy was off to catch better glimpses of the donkey and pony and streams and fountains on the ground, ... the city of Florence lit up like many precious golden jewels. Sunset, when the clouds aren't in the way, is simply unbelievably ... but I've never seen it quite as beautiful as in those few moments.

Arrividerci, Florence. On to another adventure (going on now ... stay tuned), and I will see you again.

Ciao and thank you for reading!


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April 5 - April 27: Fine Art Professionals of Northern Virginia at Delaplaine, Frederick, MD  Reception on Saturday, April 5, 3 to 5pm at the Delaplaine Art Center, 40 Carroll Street, Frederick, MD. On exhibit: "Main Street USA," "Tony" and "Ice Cold Lemonade."

May 3 & 4: Fairfax Fine Art Festival  I'll be under a tent in Fairfax Corners ... surrounded by artwork. Come visit/shop for original art. More details to come on my web site's Events page.

May 27-May 31: Mountain Maryland Plein Air I join 29 other artists juried from around the country to capture Cumberland MD and surrounding areas in this plein air competition and exhibition. Second time around.

May 31 & June 1: Great Falls Studios Spring Outdoor Art Festival  Two days with my work under a tent in the Great Falls Village Centre, corner of Georgetown Pike and Walker Road,  Great Falls, VA. Husband Randy will hold down “the Fort” on Saturday while I finish up at Mountain Maryland and then I hope to see you on Sunday, June 1!
March 5 - December: Richeson75 Still Life and Floral 2014  Two of my paintings: "Honey Bunny" and "Garden Girl" were chosen as finalists in this online competition and exhibition. 75 total works were selected for this exhibition from entries/artists worldwide. See the exhibit at

Paint with Me in Italy: August 3 to 10, 2014. For more info, itinerary and links to register, see the classes page on my web site. Great folks are signing up to join me on this wonderful adventure. I hope you can, too!

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