This week has been surreal living and being in Florence. I’m studying abroad for the next seven weeks and taking a plein-air painting class through the Academy of Art University of San Francisco but we are using a Florence campus called the Santa Reparata International School of Art.
It has been quite a stressful week starting last Monday getting to Florence. First I took a plane from Dublin to Rome. Then took the train from Rome to Florence, which was a good 2 hours away. Then I finally arrived around 4:00 pm to check into my school apartment. I seriously got lucky and was able to get my own apartment here through the school for the summer.
Then Tuesday was a whole day of orientation for the school, safety living in Florence, and everything else about learning the Italian culture. Here are a few things I learned about living in Italy for a week:
1) Coffee after 11:00 am is frowned upon, they’ll look at you funny.
2) Most of the restaurants are closed between 12-4
3) Aperitivo is Italian for Happy Hour and they do happy hour between 7-9pm every evening. You buy a drink and get a free buffet of food. Then dinner is 9pm on.
4) All the stores here close early.
5) Italian people live much more slowly. (In contrast to the fast paced living in New York.)
6) Italians don’t get too drunk, they are somewhat classy. They allow themselves to have a drink or two at dinner every night. (They view Americans as drunks, which I think is quite true. Ha.)
7) If you make noise in your apartment past 10:30pm, your neighbors can call the police and fine you a 1,000 euro. ( I wish they had this law in New York City).
8) Italian men can never come on to Italian women. Why? Because they are known to ignore and avoid pursuers on the street.
Pics of Florence and Fiesole below.
We’ve been plein-air painting starting last Wednesday and Thursday, first going to a park location nearby the school and then we went to Fiesole on Thursday to paint on top of the hill. It was a magnificent and breath-taking view. There are photos below to give you an idea of where we went. Fiesole is only twenty minutes away by bus from Florence. But it was also a hell of a time lugging all of our art gear and fold up easels up the hill! Plein-air painting really is a sport! You have to be prepared with all of your supplies, packing everything you need to make painting as smooth and comfortable as you can—and having enough sun block and insect repellant on your skin so that you don’t burn and get bug bites! Also having a hat and sunglasses on also helps to keep the sun out of your eyes. I’m going to be buff and dark by the time this summer is over!
I’m still getting used to painting with oils and painting landscapes on the spot. I sort of get a little bit intimidated with oils since I’m not a fine art major and don’t have much practice with oils. But my goal is to get really comfortable and work independently with paints by the time my class is over at the end of this summer. It’s a good way to learn especially since I want to get really good at painting backgrounds in animation and adopt traditional principles that I can carry over to painting digitally in Photoshop.
I’ve learned that in the few trial runs we had as a class this week that I work best by drawing small thumbnails before I begin painting because it somehow forces me to really look at the contrast between the light and dark shadows of a landscape. And also what recedes into the distance and what colors in different areas are much more vibrant when the sun is hitting it. If you have expressed a sense of atmospheric perspective with a foreground, middle ground, and background—then you are expressing the landscape very well. A focal point is also a good element to have in your painting as you are helping the viewer to have something to focus on and having an “S” curve where you lead the eyes through the painting.
If you are curious about what I packed for plein-air painting or what methods we used, let me know! Or if you have similar experiences with plein air painting that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about them!