Montisi, Tuesday, September 11
My single supplement status appears to have been reinstated. My bedfellows have moved out. I did awake with a couple of large mosquito bites (I guess they would form red giants in my astronomical analogy) but mosquitoes are easy to cope with. They don’t move in; they’re transients and as such have much less of an ick factor than creatures who take up residence in ones bed. Anyway, now that the bugs have moved on, so can I.
Yesterday, we stayed in Montisi. Barbara gave a lesson on various techniques for the beginners of which I am one.
Even if I still can’t do them, I at least know what “wet on wet,” “wet on dry,” “follow the bead,” “glaze” and a few other terms mean.* After the lesson, we wandered around the village looking for things of interest to sketch and paint or to sketch to paint later. I ambitiously decided to try a landscape and also decided to use my watercolor pencils. The results were mixed.
Apparently there is a stage in painting when you look at what you have done and just say “yuk.” Now, supposedly, you can work past that stage and add a variety of “values” and other painterly things and achieve a result that you like. However, as with many things in life, one can go too far if one isn’t careful in which case you are back to yuk but maybe in upper case letters. So, you have to apply another painter rule, which is: Stop before you are done.
Well, I got to the just say “yuk” stage fairly quickly. I left the painting for a while, came back and took up my (fancy shmancy) brush and began to dab away again. Values were being developed, perspective was being tightened up and then, all of a sudden, what was supposed to look like a lacy, fluffy, deciduous tree in the foreground metamorphosed into a Douglas fir . . . the shadows of the cypress trees popped up on the wrong side of the trees . . . I scrubbed away trying to “lift” my mistakes from the paper. When I noticed that I was trying to apply paint to the table top, having rubbed a hole in the paper, I realized that I had very definitely violated the stop before you are done rule.**
Today, we visited the weekly market at Sinalunga where I got some nice photos for possible paintings and others got some nice bargains on clothing. We also spent a few hours in Siena where we were charged with finding something to sketch that would allow us to use burnt sienna paint . . . not a very difficult task in this neck of the woods. Siena for all of its amazing things proved to be almost too large and most certainly too busy to be particularly inspiring. I was overwhelmed with all of the many angles: Alleyways going down hill; arches bending overhead; tiled rooflines shooting off every which way; niches pushed into walls; balconies sticking out of walls. All very higgle dee piggle dee to my poor, untrained eyes.
“Where is the horizon,” kept repeating in my brain like some weird mantra. “Where is/are the vanishing point(s),” I kept muttering to myself. As crowded as it was, people began giving me a wide berth. After a few, mostly, futile attempts, I decided to stop before I was done. As a reward for remembering the rule, I treated myself to a green apple gelato. It was every bit as wonderful as the first one I had ten years ago when I first visited Siena with my mother and my aunt.
*I also know what it means when someone says that your palette looks like it has a bunch of bird droppings on it . . . because mine does. When Barbara said to put “a small amount” of paint in the trays of our palettes, that’s what I thought I did. I guess my “small amount” was too small because I have the dubious distinction of having a bird dropping palette. Live and learn.
**I did the same thing tonight at dinner: Proscuitto and an individual carrot pudding with pecorino sauce; guinea fowl sauteed/braised in a luscious deep red wine sauce; caramelized onions; mixed salad; and, a gorgeous blueberry cake with warm custard.