I was recently listening to an interview with the musician, Bobby McFerrin where he describes improvisation as movement, as catching song. What does it mean to catch a song? It implies that the song, our creation, is already here– and so part of our work as artists is to listen, to observe, and improvise from our experience. At La Romita, we will develop these skills through drawing, writing and watercolor techniques– and taking daily sketching trips into the small Umbrian hill towns. In the afternoons we return to La Romita for time in the workshop.
La Romita transports us to another time. Enza Quargnali, who grew up in this monastery, tells how her great grandfather purchased it in the 1800’s when the Capuchin monks left. There is a large hand lettered book still open on the altar in the chapel (our workshop) from the 1500’s. When I was last there one of the pieces of wall art was being carefully restored. The olive orchard outside our window has come from trees planted by the monks in the 1600’s.
Travel fosters openness to new experience and a kind of permeability- where our sense of ourselves becomes less solid. Travel is a kind of improvisation– a movement that gets us out of what is familiar and we find ourselves in the midst of another world. The towns are full of the local sounds of language, smells of cappuchino, prosciutto di Parma, Maccheroni pasta, and Montefalco wine. The local experience mingles with the universal sense of timelessness and art. (And often, depending on the time of day, with coffee or wine!)
Each person brings something unique to the experience of drawing, of color. I can teach anyone to draw– the only criterion is having the passion to want to learn.
I am a fan of writing and of poetry– so my work often involves some cross pollination. I just completed an exhibit based on a poem by Galway Kinnell, and sixteen poets were involved in writing poetry that responded to a particular painting. It was such an enlivening experience to have an opening that was not only my paintings, but poets and musicians responding! (Below is a link to the newspaper article on my exhibit):
I am looking forward to teaching some drawing, writing and watercolor techniques that we can do in the moment– and that are accessible to all levels of experience. It is a small enough class to also work individually with students– you can choose what you want your focus to be: drawing, writing or watercolor.
La Romita is a place where we can remember our job as artists: to be receivers, to become porous, so that images can alight and capture us. This is a great metaphor for how our best work comes when we have forgotten ourselves- when we are out of our studios and are simply participating fully with what is presented to us. As Annie Dillard said:
Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail.