My Italian Friends and Teachers

This is a reblog from my art website, http://www.sfago.comNow that I’m back home and settled in after my trip to Italy, I’m excited about reliving my  life-changing trip and art experiences in Italy.  My visits with two of my favorite artists, Giovanni Marziano in Catanzaro, Italy, and his son, Alessandro Marziano in Rome were definitely hi-lites of my trip as was my time with Francesco Bulzis in Scalea.  Amazing artists!  They’re all on Facebook -hope you look for them.

When I decided I was really going to Italy for a month, there was no question in my mind that I would take my easel and paints and that it would be the chance of a lifetime to paint with no interruptions or responsibilities.  Woo Hoo!  I have a Soltek easel that is relatively light, compact and quite easy to manage for plein air painting.   Raymar Feather-Lite linen on panels were recommended by a friend and worked well. I packed my Gamblin Fastmatte oils, and a few of my favorite brushes.  After asking for art tips from  everyone I knew who had travelled out of the Country, I printed the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) from the paint manufacturer that gave the exact flash point info needed by TSA, clearly stating that the oils are vegetable based and not considered dangerous.  I packed the sheets in the bag with my tubes of paint. Each manufacturer has this information on their packaging and/or web site.

Now going back several months, on Facebook, I had developed quite a network of artists from all over the world.  When I realized that one of them lived within 2 hours of where I would be living for my month in Italy, I wrote him a note and waited to see if he would respond – and he did!  And with the usual Italian gusto and open arms.  He sent me his telephone number and we agreed that I would call when we were settled in Scalea and ready to make plans for my trip to Catanzaro.

It didn’t take me long to realize that i wouldn’t be able to communicate with him on the phone – he would not be able to see the pointing and gestures that accompany the few words I could speak in Italian.  I studied the language prior to my trip but clearly not enough!  And he was at about the same level with his English skills.   We had communicated using Google Translate – love that app!!  So we continued making our plans by texting and Facebook messaging.  All went well and my 2 sisters, 2 friends and I boarded the train from Scalea to Catanzaro – lovely trip through the Southern Italy countryside.  I won’t rewrite about those details – there’s a link at the bottom of this page to a fun  blog written by my sister, The Wandering Woman, that journals more about our fun – and I mean FUN! adventure, if you’re interested.

We stayed in a wonderful small hotel just steps from Giovanni’s studio  (that he had recommended) in downtown Catanzaro so being available for time with him was easy.  More about that hotel in Lynda’s blog – would highly recommend the hotel if you’re in Catanzaro.

I hadn’t even unpacked when I rang the bell to Giovanni’s studio and received a hearty welcome.  I felt that I already knew him after corresponding and following his work on Facebook for sometime.  He seemed more somber on FB than in person, however.  In person, he’s a very humorous person, laughs a lot.  It was a bit surreal to experience  his paintings in person that I had admired on Facebook.  We decided to continue communicating via Google Translate on his studio desk computer.  It added to the adventure and we had some fun with our method. Giovanni decided to call one of his students who speaks English and she soon arrived.  I immediately really liked Maria, also an artist.  It was about then that reality hit me.  Here I was!  In Italy!  In the studio of a Master Artist that I had greatly admired for months!  And he was open, hospitable, humorous and demonstrating his art for me!  It just doesn’t get any better than that day!  It was the hi-lite of my trip to Italy.  Right there!  Right then!

We spent many hours with Giovanni and Maria.  My two friends, Nancy M and Nancy F, and my sisters, were in and out, enjoying some of Giovanni’s demonstrations with me, making the time even more enjoyable.  I’ll never forget – and want to share some of the things that I learned from Giovanni and my experience of painting in Italy.

I’m always intrigued with watching other artists paint.  I enjoy seeing how we find our own unique ways and methods, experimenting and challenging ourselves to express and communicate through our art.  Giovanni demonstrated and I was fascinated with his methods and his generosity in sharing them with me.  I felt like I was attending a workshop.   It was fascinating to watch images form on his canvas that were so real and convincing that it felt like the metal on a can that he painted with a very few quick strokes of his brush was round and cool, that the walls were textured and ancient and that the curtain would start waving in the breeze. I was in awe of his sure, limited brush strokes.  He was demonstrating the expertise that comes from a life long practice.  He learned from his father and passed his love of art on to his son, Alessandro.  Both are well known artists in Italy and beyond.

I had imagined that it must take him forever to finish a painting because of his details and realism.  Not!  I learned that realism can be fast and loose in a different way than I had imagined.  Giovanni is a master painter and because of his sureness of composition and strokes, I wondered if he ever had a failure, a painting that just did not turn out.   I asked.  He cocked his head, grinned, shrugged his shoulders, indicated with his hands and facial expression, a clear “Oh Yes”!   I laughed and told him that misery loves company – it made me feel better.  More laughter.

I told him that I’m a newbie plein air artist, that I struggle in my studio  and especially plein air alla prima.  He became serious, telling me that when we create, if we concentrate on not only just what we’re seeing – sights and thoughts, but the aromas, the sounds, the flavors and tastes, engage every one of our senses while we’re creating, that our paintings take on life and personality, become multi-dimensional.  That was profound to me!

I treasure that time with Giovanni and will never forget the feeling of the day and a half that I spent there.

Alessandro signing his newly finished painting, “Bondage” – now in my collection.

Giovanni’s son, Alessandro, lives in Rome and I was able to meet him in his studio, watch him demonstrate and had a fun visit with him as well.  He’s also a Master Artist.  Amazing!  Like his father, he’s humorous, open and very giving.  He had a couple of his father’s pieces in his studio that he had won in a bet with Giovanni.  They clearly have a great deal of respect for one another and are very close.  He has been painting since he was 2!  He said he never took actual lessons from his Father but loved art at an early age and absorbed it from living around it his whole life.  It’s his passion as well.   Both he and his father are in multiple galleries in Italy and perhaps other places.  Alessandro spoke English.  Yay!

And now for the feelings that I experienced on my Art Trek in Italy.  Exhilarated…fulfilled…enriched… Grateful!!  There really are no words…

But, I’m doin the Grateful Dance!  Still!

For a fun story  about our trip from a different aspect and more details, here it is – The Wandering Woman!


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