Day 11: Thursday, August 30, 2012 Thursday, Aug 30 2012 

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There aren’t many who do not know of Michelangelo’s David but many do not get the pleasure of seeing the 17 feet sculpture, not including the pedestal, in person; today, not only does the program allows student to belong to those who have but also to make a sketch of the one and only David. Students learn that it is because Donatello never finished, Michelangelo did; how David was supposed to originally be viewed from below and that is why his head seems so big to the rest of his body; and that it was famous figures such as Leonardo da Vinci that had influenced the decision. David’s arm was broken but then was fixed in the 19th century and as marble dissolves in 1873 David was moved to the Accademia where it would be better preserved as Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabines and an extensive collection of timeless artworks.

Because Sunday will be a full day field trip our weekend begins early this week. For many, the upcoming weekend is time to check out the local hangouts and nightlife while others focus more on catching up on sleep, schoolwork, and unwinding from the previous weeks.


Day 10: Wednesday, August 29, 2012 Wednesday, Aug 29 2012 

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It has been ten days since we’ve been in Italy and it has been amazing. We have adapted to our surroundings to navigate comfortably through the streets of Florence. With the help of our instructors and having had a chance to explore the local hangouts, shopping, and restaurants, students have now established some favorites local food and retail. To list a few, the local gelato shop that sells the most delicious gelato on a cone for only a single euro; Bibi, an excellent leather store with very friendly owners; and Mange Toia, Irradi, and the Trattoria del Carmine, are highly praised in price, quality, and experience. The students’ spirits are high exchanging tips, referrals, and showing off their latest purchases. Perhaps it was overexcitement that did it or maybe it’s due to the early morning departure, on the 9:10am train and a short bus rides taking us to Siena, students were snoozing left and right.

Once we arrive at Siena, we get a tour of the castle and our tour guide give us the history of Siena which was used as a location for relics, prison, and preserved to maintain its characteristics. The compo, the center of the city has the tallest secular medieval tower and the square has a museum and beautiful fountain. We are informed that there are horse races that happen on the edges of the square: the court gets filled, the horses race out the pillars, and the center gets filled with hay. The most stunning and impressive of Siena are perhaps are the different emblems unique to its areas and the floors and stripes that are exquisitely displayed within the cathedral. Siena is beautiful and well preserved in its medieval style from the 1300’s.

Day 9: Tuesday, August 28, 2012 Tuesday, Aug 28 2012 

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Bargello Museum & La Specola

Today we visited the Bargello Museum and La Specola. The Bargello Museum was used for various purposes: a residence for the Medici, a prison, and now holds a major sculpture collection. The sculptures vary from porcelin, invory, and ceramic; and are by many famous artists such as Michelangelo, Giambologne, and Donatello. Students were assigned a sketching assignment of their choice and in between the two field trip we were treated to a group lunch of a chicken kabob wrap or a falafel and were granted free time until our later field trip to La Specola.

La Specola contains 10,000 skeletons or taxidermies of animals, insects, fish, and birds. There are also human bodies in wax from the 1700’s, which Sicilians created in order to better study medicine. The cases themselves, which contain the taxidermy and wax figures, are originals from the 1700’s. Dioramas of waxed figures on the plague and its effect on civilization are also displayed which show the human condition in a devastating state. The experience the students share are far ranged: some moments of shock and disgust, others humorous, and then utter fascination. Much to their delight, the students have no assignment other than finding a spirit animal for oneself and are freed to roam as they please in the evening.

Day 8: Monday, August 27, 2012 Monday, Aug 27 2012 

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Water Color, Color Theory, & No Boboli Gardens

During an early studio meeting, Curt taught us how to watercolor, a water-soluble paint that can either be saturated or more desirably be more transparent. He gave us a demo on how paper can react to watercolor: how to keep it flat, how it can buckle when wet, how the different amount of paint can have different effects when applied thick, thin, and with different layers, and how the paint can change with different amounts of water.  Watercolor while is not very forgiving is an interesting medium as it can reactivate simply by adding water. He proceeded to explain how all paints are basically pigment combined with a binder such as water, egg, plaster, oil, and polymer to achieve different paints such as watercolor, tempera, fresco, oil, and acrylic. We also were taught basic color theory: hues of the color wheel; tints, tones, and shades; and spatial qualities of color.

After students went on their own ways for lunch, the group reunited at the Pitti Palace to visit the Boboli Gardens. Unfortunately the garden was closed due to an unknown reason but hope was not lost. We walked over to San Fredrano Park instead to try out our new watercolor knowledge. Also, on the way over we got to visit a sculpture studio that has been owned by 6 generations of a family which the studio now teaches sculpture; a great unexpected delight!

Day 5: Friday, August 24, 2012 Friday, Aug 24 2012 

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The Weekend is here!

At 9am, students head to San Mineato al Monte. The uphill walk is a challenge but the beauty surrounding us is wonderful and effective distraction. Daniele gives a brief intro and postcard and panoramic landscape drawings are assigned for students.

Later, Cynthia and Elizabeth arrive to join us in Florence and we have a Friday night pizza potluck while other students take weekend trips to locations such as Cinque Terre and Venice. Daniele is to depart on Saturday to tend to his wedding.  Congrats, Daniele!

Spirits are high with anticipation for the weekend!

Day 4: Thursday, August 23, 2012 Thursday, Aug 23 2012 

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Santa Croce, Duomo, & Sketches

Today we visit Santa Croce. Unlike the last few days, today the weather is cooler in the 90’s and is welcomed by students. Santa Croce is a white and green building that is the largest Franciscan church in the world. Students, particularly the females cover up their shoulders and legs with shawls and scarves. Photography is allowed without a flash and students snap away photos of the church: it is beautiful inside and out. We visit the duomo, Museo dell’ Opera di Santa Maria de Fiore and are assigned drawing assignments: one of a figure, one architectural, and one of our choice. After the assignments, students are granted free time to roam and explore Florence.

Day 3: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 Wednesday, Aug 22 2012 

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Uffizi Gallery, Garden of the Foresteria, and Sketchbook Demo

To avoid the lines that can get quite hefty at the Uffizi Gallery, students enjoy an early breakfast and leave the Foresteria by 7:30. Neither photography nor water bottles are allowed and there is security similar to airports that we have to go through to be granted access. The collection within the gallery is impressive and allows students to see famous paintings in person such as the Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli and the Medusa painting by Caravaggio. The collection is extensive and stunning.

We head back to the garden of the Foresteria and meet with Andrea, a staff member, who tells us about the history and current function of the hostel. In the 16th -17th century there was nothing on the grounds the Foresteria is currently standing on today. Then a wealthy family had the building built to provide a home to their big family. The studio, which we hold group meetings, such as our orientation and sketchbook binding demonstration, used to be a dance room; and the fountain out back in the garden was built by the same designer who built the Boboli gardens. Once the children of the wealthy family were grown, the building was gifted in 1871 to a church and the building was used for educational purposes for pastors. It wasn’t until 1922 the building found a new purpose and transformed into the Institute of Gould, the Foresteria, and has been a sanctuary for children without families. Today, about 18 kids reside at the Foresteria and guests including but not limited to congress, universities, biological, and medicinal clients seek temporary housing here.

In the late afternoon, Curt gives us a brief history on paper and a demonstration on how to make your own sketchbook and how depending on the purpose of your book the book would differ in the choice of paper or materials, sewing methods, and choices in bindings, layout, and pages.

Day 2: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 Tuesday, Aug 21 2012 

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Cupola, Rosetti Sandwiches, and Florence

After breakfast at 8, we head to climb the Cupola at 9:30 as it opens at 10am. The Cupola captures the late gothic renaissance style and we are informed by a fellow student’s presentation that the dome, to prevent it from collapsing due to its large size, there is a skeletal structure within that zigzags and is constructed of wood and brick. The climb was not easy but worthwhile as the view was extrodinary.

We then head out to grab lunch, a sandwich shop, at Mercardo Centrale. Students are offered an option of meat or vegetarian sandwiches. Since there are twenty-two sandwiches that need to be made, with twenty students and two instructors, students are granted an appreciated window of time to explore the various shops at the local market. There are many interesting sounds, smells, and scenes to soak in. When our rosetti sandwiches are ready, we scout out a nice shady area at a nearby park and chow away. The vegetarian sandwiches have eggplant in it and students who were craving for fresh produce didn’t hold back their compliments. The sandwiches geared for the carnivores were also full of gratification as the thinly sliced meat was just the right amount of salty and full of flavor. The consensus however was that the bread, the crusty yet soft, luscious bread was the star of the meal.

At 4pm, we were presented a lecture on the brief history of art in Florence by Daniele. We learned about the Renaissance, which means ‘Rebirth’ and refers to the period from the 1300s to 1600s that was a new period of learning and creativity. The lecture focused on the art of ancient Greece and Rome and comparing Renaissance art to Medieval art characteristics. Medieval art, more flat, with little or no perspective, told stories on religion or warfare, and commonly had a gold background with no landscapes because it represented heaven. In contrast, for Renaissance art, the biggest innovation was the use of perspective. Other important characteristics were light, movement, specific color, proportions, and symbolism. For the first time, art and artists became scientific. The common theme still contained worship and idealizing but in a more common scene and sense.

Day 1: Monday, August 20, 2012 Monday, Aug 20 2012 

First Day Orientation & Dinner at Gatto e La Volpe Michael

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The weather is beautiful at a whopping hot 104 degrees. For those of us who are used to Seattle weather it takes some effort to adapt to. One by one, students arrive in Florence and we check in at the Foresteria, our home for the next 15 days, and confidence overflows that our hosts, Marta and Andrea, will take the upmost gracious care of us. Once everyone arrives, we then meet with our instructors, Curt and Daniele, at five o’clock, and a welcoming orientation is offered as well as a feast of grapes, bread, olive oil, nutella, and assorted cheeses to satiate our appetites. The air conditioning in the studio is sweet relief. We go over the basics for the program such as contact information, emergency situations, and our schedule for the upcoming week, then we head out for a group dinner to Gatto e la Volpe Michael, where we start with cold beverages, bruschetta, then entrees of our choice. It is a wonderful meal and great company despite the jetlag and exhaustion from traveling. To top it all off, we are treated to our first dose of gelato at La Carrara and it is a cool delicious way to end the first evening.

Handling Money on Trips Abroad Tuesday, Aug 7 2012

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