Friday, October 27, 2017

Traveling in Italy - Art, Artist Residencies and Traveling

Art, Artist Residencies and Traveling

While this trip is primarily about an art residency and a painting workshop, it obviously has to be about a whole lot more as this is the first time I’ve been to Italy.  My fear, which was not unfounded, was that I would be far too overwhelmed to produce any art.  That is exactly what has happened. There is just too much to absorb to train my focus on just art.  I’m producing some, but most will have to wait till I return to the studio.  More on this at the end of this blog.

Artists I've spoken to over the years, and leading up to this trip, say a residency is a time for exploring, for reflection, trying out new things, getting feedback, interacting with other artists, time to do your work uninterrupted by life's minutia.  I already have all of these benefits in my studio and groups at home.  I retired to paint full time, and to devote much of this to painting food, and how much time I want to put into it is entirely up to me. I don't need a residency for that. But I do want to explore how art about food can be used to help feed the hungry.  This will be difficult in this residency as the other artists here disappear on their own all day every day - I don't know where they go as they’re out by early morning and I don’t see or hear them return in the evening. How they get there is also a mystery as no one is renting cars and I don't see anyone coming or going although the owner does offer to drive anyone to a bus stop or the local market. It's a mystery, but as for interaction there's been little.  There are no organized communal dinners or cocktail hours. Everyone here is quite friendly, but the mantra for La Macina is freedom and they certainly provide plenty of that. I've enjoyed walking/hiking everywhere, but I would rent a car the next time probably to truly have some freedom.  Since the Italians drive on the same side of the road as we do in the US this might not be so daunting out away from the cities.

A residency is valuable, but I also gain so much diversity in learning at short workshops around the US where I find more value and less hassle from traveling. The airlines delayed my luggage (namely the painting gear) in both directions and even purposely punctured a hole in one tube of paint suspecting, I guess, something hazardous (instead of just unscrewing the cap – too James Bondish!) and it obviously leaked out all over everything as the luggage was thrown around during the return trip.  I’m all for security, but if they’re going to do something like this then a little courtesy and a piece of tape over the hole wouldn’t be beyond reasonable to ask once they realized it wasn’t hazardous.  I included in my checked gear bag going over a printout from the TSA Manual on oil paints as well as my full itinerary.  They delayed this bag but didn’t open it.  On the way back I forgot this sheet and the x-ray machine probably triggered the inspection.  One lesson learned for future trips!

With my luggage back in my possession, and all my painting gear, it felt like too much technology anyway compared to the simplicity of sketching, photography and studying what's in front of me. This also highlighted a common difficulty for many artists - being able to simplify options.  When I see a complex menu in a restaurant, or a complex landscape or still life setup, what I see is every detail in front of me.  I find it difficult to simplify to just the essentials.  Our eyes and brain see everything, much like a camera, but our minds sort out what to pay attention to. I find it difficult to do this sorting to just the essentials when I want to paint.  For some reason the act of sketching is more immediate and gestural while less focused on accuracy and therefore helps me quickly sort things out to the basics. The details can come later in a more finished painting done in the studio backed up with reference photos and notes.