I went to Italy with my school's drawing program this past spring. Even for a trip to Italy, it was an unbeatable experience. The program was five weeks long and very intensive in drawing. The first, third, and fifth weeks were spent at a villa and studio near Corciano, a small town in Northern Italy. The second and fourth weeks were travel weeks. Florence, Rome, Venice, Assisi, and Naples were a few of the destinations.
We went to went to as many museums and churches as we could, going out of our way for the odd Caravaggio painting or Giotto fresco. It was about the art, but also the encounter. We pursued and then responded. The physical experience of being in a place so rich with history and art was a common ground that each student on the trip confronted through a series of artworks.
If you go to the 'Italy Series' link, you will find twelve pieces that don't go well together. It is a less of a series and more of an arrangement. But the Art in America critics haven't found this website yet so I can get away with this misidentification. Most of the pieces were responses to different places - given by the title - that I saw. I toyed with several themes before I settled on my more or less "official" series, the first four drawings.
The first three drawings are the ones I enjoy the most. They are a response to the way I saw history on the trip. I find it fascinating that Italians live with so many layers of history surrounding them. In America, we don't get to commute past thousands of years of civilization. We aren't constantly faced with our past. It doesn't stare at us through rosy marble eyes or loom monolithically over us in our parks.
The particular notion of layers of history - not just archeological but cultural as well - was what grabbed my attention. Each of these three drawings began with a casual photograph I took on my travels. In the studio, I painted a simplified acrylic version of the photo, using three or four colors. After that, I used pastels to layer on top of the painting. I gradually worked towards an even tone throughout by using the same colors in different arrangements. By the end, I had about ten layers. The layers were separated by fixative but the colors still interacted with each other. Early layers pushed out visually, while later ones might recede. The color was deep and satisfying to look at. The original subject didn't matter at the end. It was obscured, but influential: like layers of history and the slow process of time, this was an exercise in obscurity.