Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Home Sweet Home...

38.5 hours after leaving the Monastery – I landed in Cape Town.
Man, it had never felt so good to get home and be welcomed back by my sweet little family, as it did on this day.  I was shattered.  It was the longest time I had ever been away from them and it wasn't something I found easy to do.  I will never forget their kindness and grace in giving me this time and space to do this. In many ways, I feel they were as brave as me to let me venture across the world to paint. I think they journeyed every step and every moment with me through Skype and Facetime, with my pictures and stories.  This was huge for us as a family, I think it's one of the most amazing and positive moments that have happened to us as a family in a long time.
Maybe somewhere in us living life, surviving things {really difficult things, at times} and moving swiftly through the child-raising years... we forgot to dream... Dream out loud, dream impossible dreams.  And sometimes, when we give ourselves permission to do this seemingly frivilous thing, just sometimes they come together and they become real gifts. Stolen moments in time.  Precious and cherished memories.
This trip meant so many things to me and I know I will spend months unwrapping this incredible gift that I received.  But I love what it showed my girls about following their dreams and following the call on their lives.  I love that it showed them, that sometimes I am more than just their mum and if nothing else, I know I have made them so proud of me!!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Last quiet moments in Orvieto...

I was the last one to leave Orvieto so I got to see everyone leave... One by one everyone started leaving for their long journey’s home… Misty was the first to head out and left in the early hours of Saturday morning, then John by mid-morning and then Dot and Jenny headed off in the afternoon. Saying goodbye to beautiful people is never easy.  Lorraine, Renee, Sharon and I spent most of Saturday in the studio, after a beautiful walk around the market and Orvieto.  Again, we worked late into the night painting in the studio... I cherished these final moments together.

On Sunday, Sharon and I got to spend another full day together in the studio and it was lovely having quality time with her and sharing our life stories,  practicing our new skills and learning new things from Sharon.  She too, is a wonderful teacher in her own right.  Again, Monday was full of goodbyes... I was a bit emotional about saying goodbye to my new friends but I spent my last full day in Orvieto painting quietly outside  and I also spent final moments walking the cobbles, visiting churches and taking more beautiful pictures.  Knowing I was staying a bit longer than Bill and Kristi, made me so nervous because I knew if something went wrong, I had no "go to" plan.  I had no one to phone in the case of emergency because everyone else would already be on their planes and I would be all alone in Italy.  It made me feel rather vulnerable.

Coming down to the Refectory on this final morning, I knew I would be dining alone.  At first I was overwhelmed by the empty room and the silence.  But after a while, the silence became beautiful to me and I so appreciated this quiet time.  I was all packed and I was ready to face my extremely long  journey home.  I knew I needed one more visit to the Blue Bar for my final cappuccino and a final Facetime chat with my hubby.  I also needed one more beautiful lingering walk around Orvieto before I headed out.  I loved all the walking we did in Italy.  I said my goodbyes to the locals who had become our friends for the week and got my bags and headed to catch my bus to the funicular…  After each accomplished step in my journey home, I let my family and Jenny know where I was.  This made me feel less alone and more connected.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Day 5 - Small tributes and a bit of show 'n tell...

There is something special that comes out of allowing oneself to be vulnerable by sharing with one another... Although we had painted together all week - putting ourselves out there on display was emotional and a little nerve wrecking.  It was also in these moments that we knew and understood our time in the studio was now really over... and that wasn't easy for any of us.
I have to say without a shadow of doubt - that every artist produced a piece of art that totally became one of my favorites during the week.
 Beautiful people making beautiful art!
Our studio time was officially over.  Misty was leaving first thing in the morning and John was leaving mid-morning.  Saying goodbye is never easy.  What an incredible week with Misty... Generous with her knowledge and her skills.  Generous with giving us things before she left... And so generous with her time.  I was so blown away this week by everyone's generousity, with sharing skills and knowledge, art supplies and tools.  Being part of this amazing group has touched something deep inside of me, something I wasn't expecting but something I will cherish forever.
Meeting beautiful people in a beautiful place making and doing beautiful things is what makes beautiful memories.

Day 5 - Beautiful final moments in the studio...

We all hoped this moment would never come, we were warned it would come quickly and it did.  It's so bitter sweet.  It's been an incredible week of working so hard with full schedules and we all knew it must come to an end but yet our hearts just weren't ready.

Misty started our time off, as usual with incredible tutuorials and as we all sat around her taking in everything we could from her, our incredible teacher - everyone was relaxed and laughing.  There was something special in the class today... I couldn't put my finger on it but I think it was that we had bonded.  In our short time, all coming from different parts of the US and me from a different part of the world - we all had one common thing running through us... that we were all artists and we all in fact, spoke the same language, the language of art.  I wasn't prepared for how powerful that would be, to be around like-minded people in this specific environment for this specific time.  It was truly an honor to be part of something this incredible and this life-changing.
I love this pic - of Misty, John and Dot.

Misty at work - just incredible to watch her in action
Our classroom after a week of play... really lived in
Today was so exciting because after this tutorial - Misty showed us how to put together a collage.  Another first for me - I have never done a collage before and I was completely overwhelmed.  My fear was tangible for me to the point of nausa until I started and the more I worked through it - I just fell in love... I have since done 3 collages and they are just beautiful creative play.  I still have a way to go in what I'm doing but I know I have started something that completely ministers to my artist child...
My first attempt... Still have some work to do but it's love for sure...

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Day 4 - Morning Market, a beautiful Cemetery and an afternoon in the Vineyards...

After our regular coffee and breakfast in the Refectory we met in the courtyard and headed towards the Market, after our mandatory stopover at the Blue Cafe for our quick "wifie" fix, along the way.  I loved the Market vibe.  It was local, organic and smacked of Italian authenticity.    We were all summoned to collect something for lunch... I collected Olives.  Hmmm.  Lunch was a great treat.  I loved the cheese and meat stands most of all... I think most of us ladies went home with a new scarf.
The lovely Kristi and Bill having their daily Cappa at the market place


 Adorable Jenny and Dot choosing our cheese for lunch... what a selection.
After our fun moments at the market, we headed back to the Monastery where Bill and Kristy took us in to see the Monastery's Frescos that they have been restoring and a painting that was apparently painted by Michaelangelo before he moved onto the Sistine Chapel... his practice run.  I found this so incredibly moving to the point of tears.  Why I found it so emotional was because they plastered over the paintings at some point.  At some point they found no value to it.  It upset me so much but the best part is they discovered them and have been restoring them back to their almost original beauty....

The Monestary's Frescos
Bill took some of us down to see the Monestary's Grotto's - 3 floors down.  I found these rooms more moving than the grotto's at the museum perhaps because they felt so untouched and so authentic... very moving.
 After much pleading from us, Bill and Kristi took us down off the rock early to visit a Cemetery before we headed out to Giovanni Dubini's Vineyards.  Only in Italy can the grave-yards be absolutely beautiful and artistic.
Making for beautiful photography.

What was so wonderful about being at the Vineyard - was listening to Giovanni's lovely stories but also the incredible view of Orvieto, in all her glory on top of the Rock.  It's incredible.  In Cape Town we have equally beautiful vineyards and cellars but it was so lovely to be in Umbria, Italy on the borders of Tuscany to experience this.

An old barn original built by the Pope - now a fancy B & B
Giovanni's father bought this property with cattle.

Empty bottles ready to be filled with Orvieto Classico
Our wine tasting table and a look at all the barrels of wine in ancient cellars
Looking back at Orvieto in all her glory, in that gorgeous golden early evening light

 This day was nothing short of beautiful.  We got home exhausted and squeezed in a light dinner at the Wine Bar.  After a quick nap I woke up around 10pm to head back into the studio to paint.  I got down into the studio and just about everyone was there and there was a wonderful vibe.  After a while just about everyone headed to bed and I got to spend the evening painting with Beautiful Lorraine until 2am.  As you can tell I didn't waste too much time sleeping - I wanted to maximize my evenings in the studio.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Day 3 - A day of many Firsts for me in the Studio...

Every morning I woke up at around 7am to bells ringing somewhere in the distance.  I got out of bed and opened my shutters and this was my view.  I repeated this everyday for 9 days and I took a picture everyday.  I know it was the same picture everyday - but I just couldn't help it.  It took my breath away every morning.  I would then climb back into bed and Skype call Dig and the girls.  There was no time difference for us so they were also in bed and we had a glorious little chat about what was happening in each of our days... I got the show them out my window every morning.  I loved our morning chats and they got me through the day.  I would then hop in the shower and get ready for the day.  We would all meet in the Refectory for coffee, breakfast and chatting every morning for an hour.  It was a sweet time.

This morning we headed back down into the studio for a full day of lessons.  I was looking forward to it...  Misty gave us incredible tutorials on this day.  It was one of my best days.  She demonstrated how to paint a portrait without drawing up.  Drawing up figures that tell a story and she showed us how to do backgrounds.  This was just so exciting for me.  This was ALL new ground for me... in so many ways.  It would be the first time I would be using Acrylic paints and the figure work was new for me and the beautiful background work too.  If I came to Italy just for today - it would have been so worth it for me.  Having this input first hand was priceless...

We had to start with just dark shadows and shapes and had to slowly build her in.
As you can see my nose and mouth were too high and off...
Replacing the nose and mouth... and working on the headdress.

The headdress and earrings are my favorite part of this painting...

It was tough going... I found using Acrylics difficult but the more I worked with it the more we started to understand each other.  It's a road I will continue to walk down and try learn more.  Besides the blending on the face - the rest of her was a delight to do in Acrylics.  It was the first time I had ever used Acrylics and HotPress 100% Cotton WaterColor Paper.
My first background... using Acrylics and Ephermia - I am in love with this process
We spent the late afternoon out and had dinner together as a group.  Jenny and I later returned to the studio to paint until 2am quietly chatting and listening to music while we painted.
It was one of my favorite days and evenings by far... hmmm I know I am pretty much saying that about everyday... aren't I?

Day 3 - Discovering the City under the City...

Our afternoon outing was a guided tour exploring the Etruscan caves that lay beneath the city.  It is the incredible story behind Orvieto... the City that sits over hundreds of caves that was built for food and water storage as well as making wine.  It was also where they dug wells to the water table as there was no natural resources on the Rock of Orvieto... in other words, no rivers or dams.  What blew my mind about this tour was realising the technology that they used to build cellars, wells and waste tunnels was rather advanced for this time, their building skills were nothing short of remarkable.  The other thing that was rather interesting was that they are still discovering caves to this day.  I find this truly remarkable... from jars and pottery and things they discovered in the waste tunnels... have told many stories and it is a fascinating story.
Christina our "wealth of information" tour guide... it was an incredible history lesson

The thin tunnel down the side of the large well is actually the water well and it was dug by one man with a basket on his back...  pretty fine craftsmanship if you ask me.
Pottery jars - these were the main color paints they used in the Etruscan era

A beautiful wine cellar - I so wanted to go down there to explore

Waste Tunnels - where lots of pottery and wealth of info found in these tunnels
After our time together down in the grotto's it was so awesome to be walking the streets again at sunset on our way to dinner.  I have so many highlights from my trip but the walking was definitely one of them - they completely energized me.  I took so many pictures and I wish I could share them all.  But here are some of my favourites.

I love this shot... I love the nickers on the line... talk about airing your laundry for all to see!!!
 These two shots are two of my favorite photographs... I know it seems impossible to choose from over 1200 photos but I just love the positioning of them and the glow of the street lights at dusk and capturing the buildings... they are just so beautiful to me...
I am thinking about choosing a selection of my pics to make them into postcards.