Arrivederci San Cresci

My time at La Macina di San Cresci is coming to an end and as I reminisce on my special experience, I reflect upon my initial proposal which I sent in 2012.

Searching through my computer files I found my proposal. At the time I was painting landscapes and I wrote “I currently live in Pokolbin, Hunter Valley which is wine country of Australia.  My work responds to this environment and I would therefore enjoy working en plein air within the rural, wine country area of La Macina. To compare, contrast and explore the similarities of these two rural towns would be inspirational”.

It has been 4 years since the proposal and upon my first visit I was so overwhelmed and intimidated by the beauty of the landscape, I decided to go back to what I knew best and draw. This resulted in large gestural drawings of local produce. I was happy with what I had produced but I left with a feeling of disappointment that I hadn’t been brave enough to complete my initial project.

Soft pastel drawing in the garden at San Cresci

Small soft pastel drawings on the church floor

Oil on ply panel paintings

Two years later and equipped with my pochade box (en plein air box) of confidence, I embarked on my initial project of painting this majestic landscape. I’m still rather in awe of its beauty however after a month long residency, resulting in 30 paintings, 3 boxes, 20 drawings, sketches and 2 large soft pastel drawing, I am feeling more assured to paint this breathtaking scenery.

I don’t know if I will ever be completely relaxed, in the company of this historical backdrop, but I’m happy with the work I’ve produced. I look forward to bringing a piece of Tuscany home with me and using the colours, marks and textures I’ve discovered here in future landscapes.

It is always hard to say goodbye especially when you fall in love and that is certainly the case here. I love this experience more than I am able to express in writing and to say farewell to my second home (seconda casa) is not easy.

It will be another patient two years (fingers crossed) until I return to take on this landscape again.

A special thanks to my patient little family, Andy, Oscar and Baxter, for joining me on this wild adventure. I hope you had fun too!

Grazie mille e arrivederci Mimma, Duccio, Ugo. I will miss you and San Cresci very much.

Please feel free to like and comment below.

Yours in art,

Bec xx

"Various Storms and Saints: paintings and drawings from Hunter Valley, Australia and Tuscany, Italy" opens Saturday 9th July 2016 Galerie Belimage Switzerland. All work is for sale. Please contact the gallery if you are interested in buying work.

Residency life.

I’ve been asked by Emma Targett to share more about my residency experience. She asked some really interesting questions and I thought I’d share my response in this post. I hope you don’t mind me answering them here, Emma?

I’d like to start off my saying the following is purely my experiences. Residencies come in all sorts of incarnations, so everyone's experiences will be all different. I’m also travelling with my family which is another entirely differently experience than if you are travelling alone.

About 8-10 years ago I discovered artist residencies. I never knew about them at art school and I don’t know if they are more popular now than when I first started college in 1994. In any such case, when I found them, I really wanted to attend one. The idea of intense focus on your practice in order to develop your work was a dream which I wanted to achieve.

I discovered the website www.resartis.org. It lists all the residencies throughout the world. To my delight it also had a drop down menu and offered residencies for families. This is where I found La Macina di San Cresci.

There are many listed here. You can tailor it to suit your needs and apply to those which are appropriate to your work. There is no point in applying for a city residency when your work is about Nature (unless you have a reason for it!).

The process for applying is different to all residencies, however I feel the key point is to think about why you are applying to that particular one, what you will gain from the experience and what you can also give back. Residencies are usually a communal experience both physically and metaphorically. You may be the only artist at the residency but you are part of a bigger thing. Be prepared to share your space and time with others (many tourists drop into the studios at San Crecsi).

Communal life at San Cresci. Mimma and Duccio live downstairs and the other artist apartment is above left. This is the inside courtyard. Opposite stone wall is the church.

Logistics! This one is interesting, as last time I drew really large pastel drawings and now I’m painting rather small and en plein air. Be mindful of how to send work home as I had to buy a very large plumbing tube to send my work in the post!

Making do with my art supplies and painting outside.

Research local art supply stores before you go, however do take your necessities with you. I have reduced my palette and supplies only through trial and error.

Once again it is all a learning curve and you can ‘make do’ with what you have if you are unable to track down supplies. It may be an opportunity to learn a new technique! You take advantage of any situation as a reason to grow your practice. I try to look at how I can make it work rather than why I can’t do a work, even if I don’t have a certain colour or special pencil.

Finally, I don’t think there are any ‘bad’ moments. The challenging ones test you at times but if you find the good out of them then they are just another reason to grow as a person and as an artist.

You are out of your comfort zone so expect the unexpected but most of all have fun! It is such a special time in your artistic journey.

For me the opportunity to completely immerse myself into a foreign culture, learn a different language, make wonderful new friends, practise my art and share it all with my family is a very memorable experience.

My advice is simple, just do it, your art will thank you for it!

I hope this has helped, Emma.

Please feel free to comment and like below.

Yours in art,

Bec x

Being Brave.

I’ve recently been told by my fellow San Cresci residents, Elena and Monique, that I say “Don’t be precious” often. It’s funny how your idiosyncrasies are amplified when you are out of your comfort zone.

San Cresci this way

Gratefully my idiosyncrasies aren’t getting on my fellow artists nerves (well, they aren’t saying anyway!). Elena and Monique have encouraged me to write this post about my ideas of being precious.

Drawing in a storm.

My art has evolved into a fairly fast and intuitive process. I like to capture a moment in a drawing or painting. Fleeting and transient, I seek to document time though marks. As such my marks are rather strong, bold and directional. I don’t have time to be ‘precious’ about the details.

This process has evolved due to my other roles of family life. As described in previous posts, I’m often juggling family duties so my time at the easel is limited. I have embraced this and my art has developed accordingly.

It wasn’t always this way. I remember my drawing test for art school. We had to draw a cow skull in 40 minutes. My line, at this time, reflected my personality. Timid and shy, I was a real wallflower. I don’t know if my pencil even made a mark on the paper that day! I was scared to make a mistake as I really wanted to be accepted into art school.

I couldn't make up my mind so I painted both scenes!

Over time my confidence has grown and consequently so has my mark (my handwriting style). I have let go of many self limiting concerns. It has been difficult at times yet I (and my art) have really benefited as a result. It has been a wonderful journey; an analogy for life.

I actively work at not being precious. I enjoy getting my hands dirty, making that bold brush mark or pastel line. This view has continued through to home life. I now like to use the good china for cups of tea and wear my expensive blouse to the shops.

Life is too short to worry about the details. NOW is that special time to use the good china, wear your best shoes and make that bold line.

Let go. Be brave. You are worth it.

Yours in art,

Bec x

Finding Home

Over 35 hours of travelling and I’ve finally made it back ‘home’. Although exhausted from the tyranny of distance, the moment I laid eyes on the rolling green hills of Greve in Chianti, I was re-charged and full of excitement.

Ugo

Ugo

It sounds corny but this morning I couldn’t help but cry with the pure relief of being here again. I’ll blame the jet lag and sleep deprivation, but to see that nothing had changed at San Cresci was pure joy. Mimma and Duccio are just as welcoming as when we visited in 2014. Their dog Ugo has grown and perhaps there are a few more pigeons in the roof to coo me to sleep at night but nevertheless it is still the same as I remember.

Have you ever visited a place and felt that you had ‘come home’? That life just slotted into place and you felt a calmness and sense of belonging? That is what San Cresci has become for me.

Artists are interesting creatures. We can be obsessive, dedicated, spirited and single minded in our pursuit for that perfect realisation of our art. We tend to be outsiders and are often that square peg in the round hole, so when you find an oasis like San Cresci you hold on tight -- for it’s that sense of belonging which welcomes you.

I’m currently sharing San Cresci with three visual artists from America and Canada. Like-minded, spirited and fun, it is a pleasure to create work among them.

San Cresci is situated top right of the picture.

My family arrive next week which will change the energy at San Cresci. This is what makes the residency even more special. Different people come and go during your stay, which enriches the wonderful experience which is La Macina di San Cresci artist residency.

Ciao from Italia

Yours in art,

Bec

Postscript... La Macina di San Cresci Residency

Having been successful in an application to attend La Macina di San Cresci residency, my family and I travelled to the beautiful and historic town of Greve in Chianti, 50km south of Florence, last year to spend a month at the artistic oasis. 

Steeped in history, the residency is set amongst the grounds of the oldest standing church in Florence, San Cresci. Some of the first recorded history dates back to the 10th century where pilgrims to Rome would stay at the church and leave their valued possessions to be collected on their homeward return. La Macina means ‘the millstone’ in Italian and in the bowels of the villa you can find the original olive press used by the monks during former times. The history includes modern times with the famous French philosopher Guy Debord living there as a child. 

Today the new tenants of the estate (still owned by the Catholic Church) have lovingly restored the church and villa to house up to 5 artists at any one time. The owners, architect Demetria (Mimma) Verduci and world renowned light sculptor Professor Duccio Trassinelli, opened up the residency to welcome international artists about 15 years ago. The estate is an oasis for artists across all disciplines. When we stayed there we shared the facilities with 3 other artists including a choreographer, visual artist and another graphic designer/visual artist all from USA. 

We were extremely fortunate to find a residency which was located in the heart of Tuscany, 40 mins from Florence. Surrounded by the hills of the wine and olive growing Chianti region and set amongst the historic building of San Cresci. We had a wonderful apartment with views of Chianti, plus I had fully equipped studio and access to great facilities 24/7. The entire residency was a very special and unique experience. 

The self-directed project, which I undertook during the residency, was a body of work based on the local produce and ceramics of the Chianti area. Italy is renowned for its relaxed lifestyle with beautiful healthy food, which is grown in abundance. I was inspired by the weekly village markets where we would buy our fresh fruit and vegetables from local growers. The produce was delicious both visually and to taste. This coupled with our evening communal meal with our fellow artists and hosts, inspired me to create my body of work – In Season. Our hosts Mimma and Duccio were wonderful and welcoming. Many nights were spent in their beautiful garden talking broken English and Italian, eating delicious food and drinking local wine together with the other resident artists. I realised that an intrinsic part of Italian culture was the communal sharing of food. Food brought people together and evening times were a celebration of sharing the day’s events together with a meal.

Focusing on local seasonal produce which I had bought from the local market, I did preliminary sketches, which eventually I translated into larger drawings to emphasise the importance of the subject matter. Georgia O’Keeffe once wrote: “I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty”.

As I live on a vineyard in the Hunter Valley and have a family vegetable and fruit garden, I am conscious of the seasons and eating produce directly sourced from the garden. Eating with the seasons has a direct effect on your health and wellbeing.

All drawings created there and subsequently in Australia are watercolour, charcoal, pastel and conté on Fabriano paper. The paper I use is made in Italy (Fabriano) and of a very high quality. It is a heavy weighted paper (300gsm) and can withstand vigorous treatment. It is cold pressed and therefore has a textured surface, which I really enjoy. I utilise this aspect and love working on the ground creating frottage (texture) in the drawings. I used this process in Italy and took the work outside the studio and onto the floor of the church. It was wonderful to create a site specific work while there and think about the many pilgrims over the 1000 years who have trodden on the ground where I was drawing. There are still remnants of renaissance frescos on the ceiling of the church. 

This amazing experience has spurred my interest into contemporary drawing practice to the point where I have started my Masters of Creative Practice majoring in drawing. I look forward to the journey artistically and returning in 2016 to the artistic oasis of San Cresci -the place which fuelled my passion for contemporary drawing. 

The exhibition "In Season" will be shown at Muswellbrook Regional Art Centre June 2015. 

Bec xx