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Article: Roman Memory

The Sketch Book

Roman Memory


Exciting news, the 2014 calendar is D.O.N.E.

Every year calendar-creating time is a time of creative evolution and a lot of me telling everyone how stressed I am. I'm glad it's over and I can resume my normal life.

This sketch was a reject. Well, not really a reject (I'd hate for her to read this and get offended) but more of an illustration who found a different path in life. I got so excited about the calendar this year that I had too many to fit them all in, and she's one of those ones who didn't quite fit in.

I tried to draw on experiences and memories this year to inspire the scenes. Not like an exact illustration of something I did or saw, but more of an essence of a memory or a collage of snippets of feelings, layered with fashion and places I've loved. So deep right?

This sketch started with that emerald green clutch. Doesn't it look like she folded up a giant tropical leaf and placed her red lipstick inside it and dashed out the door? Somehow it grew into this scene. I wanted to play up the green in her bag and on her nails and was trying to think of lush green places and somehow ended up roughly recreating a pathway in the gardens of Villa Borghese in Rome.

It suddenly connected for me with a strange memory and made me like it more. When I was studying abroad in Rome, one of my art classes involved the lugging of canvas, easel and paint through the city to various cites to paint. It sounded very artsy and cool in theory, painting en plein air. But my actual memories of it are more about near freezing to death while painting with numb hands and occasionally being approached by homeless men exposing themselves to us while we worked.

One afternoon a friend and I trekked to the gardens at Villa Borghese to paint an out door scene of our choosing. It was kind of a big deal, the teacher had assigned the two of us to do this project because he felt we weren't being challenged enough by his regular curriculum. We felt like we were serious artistes, challenged with extra work. We spent the afternoon camped out on a tree-lined pathway in the garden, shaded by the first spring leaves and propping our easels towards a beautiful, iconic scene at the end of the pathway, the pond filled with swans (were there swans? let's say there were swans) surrounding a beautiful stone temple.

When it was time to leave and we deemed our paintings star-student worthy level, we hoisted our unwieldily painting supplies and made our way down towards the street. We were rushing, carrying too many things, and probably distractedly thinking about our next opportunity to eat gelato. So, naturally, at this point in the story I dropped my painting facedown in the dusty roman soil. When I picked it up to survey the damage the oil paint was covered over in a film of sandy dirt. To remove it would be to completely destroy and smear my work.

Such a catastrophe. I don't really remember exactly how I felt about it, except that I knew I wasn't going to go back and paint it again by myself (risk of homeless men). I think I left it in our apartment for a few days, unsure how to proceed. One morning, I woke up surprisingly early and crept into the spare room and opened one of the big windows to let in the early morning smells of cigarette smoke and cat urine. I set up shop and painted a new layer of oil paint over the sandy layer, getting lost for hours in the sunlight streaming through the window and the way the paint built on top of the sand, creating a new painting. One that was dreamy and different, drawing on memory, not on the harsh reality of actually painting in an environment.

That morning may have been the only 3 hours I was truly abroad. I was alone with a canvas, listening to the sounds of the city out my window, feeling very Roman - instead of in a throng of my seventeen college girlfriends hurtling towards a gelato shop, bulldozing past anything culturally enriching.

When I emerged from the spare room, the painting set to dry, my roommates exclaimed in shock. They had no idea I'd been in there all that time! It was like I'd really disappeared, separated and found a moment of tranquil peace in this new place.

Sigh... anyway, that is my story of where this painting took me. Dashing through the garden, only in my memory it was with a ruined painting, not a clutch made from an exotic leaf.

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