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.
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.
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!
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.