Category Archives: Italy: Spring 2017

Why You Should Study Art


Youth, they say, is wasted on the young. Not always, of course, but the older I get, the more I understand the sentiment. In part, your youth is spent resenting the requirements of school. I, for one, was 27 before I truly enjoyed learning for the first time. I went back to college then, partly to explore the curiosity about learning that was suddenly bubbling up inside me. The feeling of anticipation, sitting on the edge of my seat as my professors would unveil the techniques of art or the stories of art history, is burned in my memory like an old master’s etching.


The view from my window at La Casa Berti

And so,  I find myself at 43, still on the edge of my seat, still, and even more so, ready to learn.

There are times when I feel so completely disappointed that we get but one life to learn all of the many joys there are in this world. So one must make choices: Do I want to learn a little about a lot, or a lot, about a little?

To a certain extent, each of us makes our compromises in our learning to something in between those two extremes. If you’re really lucky, you’ll learn a lot about something, but keep with you an endless curiosity about everything.

This is where I find myself. At a place in my life that is fully dedicated to art. The unfolding and excavation of all things art. From history to technique — yes, please, sign me up!

With my great need to learn more, I started looking for a place to go, and I landed back in Florence.  Florence, Italy, is the most beautiful blending of so many areas of interest. Somewhere around the mid part of the fifteenth century the Renaissance bloomed. “Renaissance” literally means rebirth, a rebirth of knowledge and learning.  And Florence was the epicenter of this return to the exploration Ancient Greek and Roman ways — philosophy, art and curiosity.

In ancient Greece and Rome art, science, math, and philosophy were being mixed together, each one helping the other to flourish and grow.  In  ancient art we can see this in the use of perspective, scale, and humanism.  Then during the middle ages- for a thousand years it was lost.  During those dark days there was a mass regression.  It wasn’t until the Renaissance that we began to return to what had already been discovered,  and math, science & philosophy joined with art once again.

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Atmosphere of the setting sun on a cloudy night — it was really quite extraordinary.

Now, my thirst for learning has pulled me to this place where some of the greatest artists once worked.  Returning to structure and methods that have been proven over time. Step by step, those before us in the history of art have figured out how it can be done. Sometimes, as artists, our egos can stop us from pursuing the work of past masters, and in those moments we need to learn to step away from it.  A time comes when we need to surrender ourselves to the teachers from our pasts, in order to find our own way, just a bit easier. It is the circle of learning: structure, exploration, reflection.

What holds us back from learning, from pursuing what we love? I am here to tell you that there are steps you can take along a well traveled path to begin your explorations.  Will you take that path?

Will you expose yourself to something new?

Will you boldly go forth and make art?


Inside the Casa Berti Studio

I hope the answer is yes–if only to learn to see the world from a deeper more meaningful place.  I hope you will come along with me to learn just a bit more about the ways in which artists see the world. How beautiful the world can be when it is seen with profound and sometimes excruciating detail.

As always the best conversations happen on Facebook and Instagram. Have you been following this latest trip and if so what have you learned? Or what trips have you taken that helped to you to learn and grow? Trips where you physically left home or simply took a journey of the mind … I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Join me on an Italian adventure



Painting near Florence in the Tuscan hills

The calendar has turned to April. Spring feels like hope, even when it’s cold. All those hours of daylight feel like a gift after a long winter. You can hear the song of the birds and everything is golden. The grasses turn the most beautiful gold color when they die, and spring is filled with these monochromatic landscapes. It is always, always beautiful in the woods.


Plein air painting is on my mind. The British say there is no such thing as bad weather, just ill-prepared clothing. I agree, except when it comes to plein air painting. I’m a wimp about rain and wind whipping at me while my fingers and toes freeze. I’ve yet to find gloves that allow me the movement to paint and warmth at the same time. But some artists do it even in winter. I’ve determined that they are just sturdier than me.  Still, my mindset is starting to lean in that direction, dreaming of time “Up North” with days spent in nature and a happy fur baby by my side. In preparation, I’m doing a lot of drawing — figures and trees — and thinking about the rules: perspective, proportion, light, shadow, gestures, all the things that figure drawing and nature teach you.


Studying from life

I’m also preparing to leave for Italy in a few weeks. I’ll be in Florence the first week, studying from a live model every morning and in the afternoons visiting the gorgeous art the city holds with an art historian as my guide. The following week, I’ll be in the rolling hills of Tuscany near Lucca. Here, we will spend our mornings painting from life, and our afternoons landscape painting.


The relationship between these two art forms becomes clearer and clearer to me with time. The undraped human body forces you to be accurate when you’re off: The mistakes jump off the page at you, and nature makes you at least attempt to pay tribute to the rules of art, even if your plan is to break the rules. One must know them to break them.

Florence is a Mecca of classical art, and art schools that teach the classical way. When you’re the birthplace of the Renaissance, I suppose it’s hard to move past that. It’s as if Italy in general watches the striving of the rest the world and sits back in its chair, takes a sip of wine, and says, “You know, we are good. We did, after all, give you the Renaissance and oh so much more. Yup, we are good,” with another sip of wine.


All that mind-blowing art can make one feel faint!

I hope you’ll join me this month in my preparation and exploration. We will first be traveling without ever leaving home, and then packing our bags for an adventure — an Italian adventure!


A perfect place to plein air paint

What are the places that have taught you the most? And what places do you think you can learn from? I love hearing your thoughts. Join me on Facebook and Instagram where we can continue the conversation and adventure.



Two years ago, I spent a month studying in Florence. It was so good, I had to come back for more!