Tag Archives: open mind

Florence, Day 18-19: Travel, the Great Teacher

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Working in “my office” today

It’s not just the sheer joy of it; it’s the expansion inside you. The growth of knowing something different. Simply put, I have never met a seeker who sets out on a journey and ends up regretting that choice.

My sweetie arrived yesterday. I was so genuinely giddy to see him. Not that I minded my time alone; in fact, it’s something I have come to understand about myself, that I need and completely enjoy time by myself, but with someone fantastic, the sharing is oh-so-sweet as well. Catching up, sharing “my city” and what I’ve learned with my partner — what a gift. As I poured through my sketchbook with him, he commented, “It’s got to affect you — I mean, your work.” Yes, indeed, it has, and it will.

Today was also my last day of class. I guess I’m feeling reflective. Three weeks and three fantastic teachers later, I’m affected. And with little time to think of it, it’s now as I type that I ponder. Tonight is a great and simple example. We were both tired, my love and I. A city can wear you out. So I offered to go to the grocery store to pick up ingredients for dinner in. Walking the route to my grocery store was wonderfully simple and familiar. I’ve come to form an intimacy with this city. A slight peeling beyond the surface.

The sun was shining low in the sky and the shutters, tabernacles, frescos and architecture I passed along the way were fondly familiar. It occurred to me that it’s this becoming acquainted with the new, this change in culture and routine and way of working — that, that, is the best bit of going away. To be able to see your passion, your life and work in that new context is a gift. The gift of shaking it all up so you can rearrange things back in place on your terms with the backdrop of the new, the knowledge. Each journey in life both near and far is a teacher; it’s only our job to be good students. I hope I have been that.

I’ve certainly had great teachers. To Enrico, Bennedetta and Francesca, a deep bow of gratitude: You’re all wonderfully talented, and I have big respect for each of you. thank you!

To the city of Florence, you also are a teacher of all who seek to know you. I’m not leaving the city for several more days; I’m not done here. And I’m not yet ready to come home (no matter how much I miss my sweet pup). It’s off to clear my head in the mountains and the sea, reflect and watch where these new seeds will take me, with my partner by my side. The seeking and learning is not over, but to all the teachers who so generously give of their knowledge — in particular, my teachers on this particular journey — a deep, deep bow of appreciation!

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The grand old king of cities, Florence

Florence, Day 5: What Can One Day Teach You? And Other Reflections on Life and Learning

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The sun rose on a warm and glorious day in Tuscany. After sleeping more (much-needed) hours than I can count, I woke up good as new, excited and ready to work outside in Florence. What can I learn today?

My mentor here in Italy is Enrico, a kind and patient teacher — thankfully, because, well, my prior training and the rules of Italy are different. For example, when I studied art in Mexico, my teacher would say, “Now that you are done looking, close your eyes and think how you feel. I don’t care so much what you see as how you feel about it. Now paint that.” I suspect if it were not for that very long and extremely well-established art history here, Italians with all of their wild, impassioned ways would be like this.

You see, Mexico does not have Michelangelo to live up to. But as my winemaker friends have explained to me, when you’ve been doing things a certain way for literally hundreds of years, you do it a certain way. There is only one way to make a Chianti, a Brunello, a Barolo. And so it is with art.

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My local winemaker friends say they have a freedom that a winemaker in Italy or other well-established regions don’t: They can experiment. And so it is with me.

I have to convince Enrico that it’s perfectly OK for me to leave that unsightly pillar out of my drawing, or forget about the big wall to my left, blocking my view of the city. He says, “But it is there.” Still, he’s patient with me; he’s very talented and kind, so I pay attention.

I, for my part, came here in a large part for the discipline. How do they teach art where they have been masters for so very long? So I stretch my comfort zone. I do as I’m told (mostly), and I’m growing. I’m using my pencil more than I have since college, and I’m slowing down. It’s relaxing on one hand, uncomfortable on the other. But isn’t the old saying, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”?

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