What types of assignments will we be doing? Monday, Jan 7 2013 

A variety of media and techniques will be demonstrated and discussed and can include drawing, photography, watercolor, collage and bookarts.  Assignments will be designed and coordinated with site locations and the works of selected artists who lived in or traveled to Italy and whose own practice was influenced by their experiences.  In many instances, you will be asked to use demonstrated techniques on location to record your impressions and express your ideas.  For example, an assignment might ask you to work in watercolor in the Boboli Gardens (in the method of John Singer Sargent as seen in the image below) or to sketch architectural monuments in the style of Piranesi. You will develop a working knowledge of these processes through hands on experience, small group discussion and large format critiques.


No previous art experience needed? Really? Monday, Jan 7 2013 

Many of the participants may be like you, very excited about spending a month in Italy, looking forward to seeing some amazing art and learning more about the history of the works and the region. They are also excited about the opportunity to spend some time making their own art in response to their experiences, learning a few new processes, and having fun with their peers. Many of the group members may not be art students. Some have past experience but most are just eager to learn and looking forward to trying new things. The demonstrations will be designed for folks with little to no experience so please do not feel intimidated about your technical skill level. Everyone will quickly develop a working method that suits their individual needs and abilities and will hopefully make a few things that they will look back on some day as a document of the beautiful summer they spent in Italy.

This is a 5 credit class. Of course, like any class there will be assignments you’ll need to complete, no different than here at the UW. And your participation with the group is also a factor in the evaluation process. We believe everyone going with us will be there because they want to, will work hard, learn a few new things and do extremely well. Everyone’s work will be unique to them, quite exciting to see develop.

Remember you can only learn what you already don’t know.

Week Two — Scouring the Oltrarno for “treasure.” Monday, Aug 30 2010 

After multiple journeys taken over the weekend by smaller groups (Cinqueterre, Verona and Sachile in the Veneto region), we gathered today after breakfast to view the calendar for the week (including two out-of-town day trips to Lucca/Viareggio and Siena). Museums and sites will include the Accademia, the Museo Marino Marini and the church of Santa Croce.

First activity of the day: an Oltrarno Scavenger Hunt. The group was divided into three teams:

Team San Frediano: Danica, Collin, Charla, Stephanie, Hannah & Lexi

Team Santo Spirito: Whitney, Win, G’iana, Elena, Sunny & Kate

Team San Niccolo’: Ariana, Joan, Kendra, Phillip, Chrissy, Leslie & Ann

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Here was the challenge:

  1. Provided with a map, you will scour your assigned neighborhood, collecting information on the monuments indicated by the icons on your map. Icons include churches, tabernacles, palaces, parks, bridges, towers, museums, etc.
  2. Once you have located a monument, you must document it visually (photograph, quick sketch, etc.) and record any relevant information that you learn from the site.  For example: Tabernacle at the corner of Via S. Giovanni and Via Pisana. Madonna and Infant Jesus with young John the Baptist. Plaque indicates it was painted by Andrea Del Sarto in 1525. Candles and artificial flowers placed at the base.
  3. Points will be assigned both to the quantity of monuments documented and to the quality of the information gathered.  In terms of quantity, points are weighted in the following manner to account for density of monuments and scale of the neighborhood:

Team Santo Spirito – 1 point per monument

Team San Frediano – 1.5 points per monument

Team San Niccolo’ – 2 points per monument

Additional bonus points for locating the signs that are posted around Florence, indicating the water level of the 1966 flood.

The teams assembled, developed their strategy, and set off to inventory our neighborhood.

We gathered again in the studio at 2:00 to let a little color into our lives. Contained in the students’ art packets were a set of water colors and a brush. Curt provided a demonstration of techniques to use water color, water color pencils, and other water-based media. The students worked on color swatches and other experiments to grapple with the new materials.

The clouds opened and a refreshing rain fell, cleansing the air, cleaning the sidewalks, and cooling the temperature to a chilly 71 degrees. Very refreshing. The weather report for the coming days shows the return of the sun and temperatures in the low to mid-80’s.

We headed out for a group dinner — another great meal at Il Gatto e’ La Volpe. Prizes were awarded for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners for the Scavenger Hunt. Team San Niccolo’ took home the gold. Everyone did a great job and more than 360 monuments were catalogued.

Fra Angelico, Savanarola and the Monks’ “studioli” Friday, Aug 27 2010 

Our destination today was the religious complex of San Marco, including the church designed for Cosimo de’ Medici by Michelozzo and the attendant monastery that is now a museum. The hand of Beato Angelo (Fra Angelico) is everywhere.

The monks’ cells (“studioli”) each contain an individual fresco intended to inspire their prayers and reflections. Prominent themes were scenes from the Passion of Christ, predominantly the Crucifixion. While Fra Angelico designed all of the paintings, the work was carried out by assistants. The Library is a beautiful room, also designed by Michelozzo, that contains several display cases containing exquisite illumination manuscripts and the materials used to create them.

Our weekend begins at noon on Friday. There are numerous groups making plans to travel to the Cinque Terre over the weekend. For those remaining, the is a mini-day-trip planned for Fiesole on Saturday and a trip to the Ciompe Antique Market near Santa Croce on Sunday.

Examples of Student Work Tuesday, Dec 1 2009 

These are just a few examples of the work that was produced during our time in Tuscany — you can see the variety of media (watercolor, charcoal, graphite, etc.) Each student was provided with a packet of art materials and directed studio time, with demonstrations, allowing everyone the opportunity to try something new and further develop their skills.

Perspective — one point or two? Thursday, Sep 10 2009 

Today, the secret to illusionistic space was revealed, Through a series of drawing exercises, centered around string grids hung on the two windows of our classrooms, we wrapped our heads around the concept of the “Renaissance Window”.

Several hours later, there were a few “ah hah” moments and, at at the very least, a new appreciation for the challenges of creating illusionistic space on a two-dimensional plane.

We began individual student conferences this afternoon, a chance to meet one-on-one with each student to check-in, get some feedback and look at the work she/he has done thus far. The book arts class and the sketchbooks and journals that resulted have been especially popular.

In the evening, we headed out to Il Gatto e’ la Volpe (the Cat and the Fox) for dinner. Substantial portions of bruschetta, pasta and salad. A great end to a great day.

The weekend begins on Thursday afternoon, sometimes… Friday, Sep 4 2009 

Because of a three-day excursion to the Mugello coming up on Sunday, we have declared Thursday the new Friday! Several students are planning to travel to Rome for a few days, so we ended program activities at noon today to give them the opportunity to depart so they could have at least two nights there before coming back Saturday evening…

The morning began with a presentation on the topics of color, color theory, landscape painting and watercolors and pastels. The students then took their materials in hand and had at it — testing color intensities, hues, tints, saturation, etc.

The rest of the day was “libero” — departures for Rome, walking around the city of Florence, enjoying a brief downpour of much-needed rain.

Art show and tell — sharing our work Monday, Sep 8 2008 

Mondays have been established as studio days. Given that many students travel ambitiously over the weekend on their free time, we’ve hit a nice rhythm of keeping close to home/hostel on Monday.

We had our first “critique” together today — more of a show-and-tell than a formal critique. Students were asked to bring their Five Faves (five works created thus far) and to talk about their interests, share their processes, and look forward to what they would still like to accomplish. We learned a lot about each other as well as learning from each other. They all reported later that this was a great activity and that they are looking forward to this again toward the end of our program.

The instructors began individual conferences with the students today — just an opportunity to check-in with everyone and spend some quality time talking about his/her experiences thus far, their work, what they still hope to do/see/experience on the program, and to get some solid feedback on the pace of activities, etc. These conferences will continue through Wednesday.

The program dinner was at Il Gatto e La Volpe (the Cat and the Fox), a restaurant near the Bargello that several students found last week for lunch. Copious amounts of good food, including brushetta, grilled eggplant and zucchini, and a pasta dish of choice. Many plastic containers followed us back to the hostel.