Wednesday, 28 September 2011


Madness! We were in Florence for just two weeks with a very busy schedule at the art school but somehow managed to visit 5 galleries, roughly 10 Churches (attending 5 Catholic Mass services), bars, restaurants, vintage shops, cafes, piazzas, gelatorias & the like...but most importantly - SIX MARKETS!
Madness I tell you.

Markets are simply the best places on earth.  My love of them is almost veering on obsession, to be honest. Living 2 minutes from Portobello Market in London has certainly been the ammunition for this obsession, feeding it every Friday & Saturday & even Sunday when I can conjure up something I managed to forget on my last previous two visits that weekend. My market love has always been reaffirmed on trips to Italy - filled with so many random bits & bobs that containing my complete & utter excitment is an impossibility. I'm not going to pretend that these spots provide the essetials in life (although Vini & I did buy some loo paper which was rather handy) & I'd even go so far as to suggest the rows & rows of stalls are filled with things which couldn't be more unnecessary, but the manner in which they are piled high in glorious chaos makes my desire to spend all my life's savings even more rife.

So on arrival in Florence one of my immediate concerns was to discover where & when the markets would be - asking everyone from our landlady to our life models. 'Mercato' was probably my most used Italian word while I was well as 'vestiti' (clothes), 'bellisima!' (beautiful) & 'quanto costa?'  (how much?)...all market related lingo, I'll admit.
Here are a few excited snaps.

On Sunday we were at the bric-a-brac market in Piazza Santa Spirito buy opera glasses & considering many things owl related...

Saturday we were at Saint Ambrogio market buy bread, fish, olives, pasteries, bras & pants...

On Tuesday morning (up at 6.30am! We must get there before college!) I bought about 8 shirts. For ONE EURO each. Unbelievable. All retro & fab. Oh, & some highly pattered trousers which will certainly get me some strange looks when I wear them out & about..

The next Sunday we found an antique market in a park, set up around a large pond...

On Wednesday we were at Mercato San Lorenzo admiring all things leather...purses, bags, belts...

The biggest market let down was Mercato Nuovo which was rather touristy. Bit of a Covent Garden equivalent. But no matter! We'd certainly had our fix... ;)

Sunday, 25 September 2011


My goodness. This Charles Cecil art school business in Florence has been amazing. Such a fab experience. As I explained in my last post - our days were split by 3 hours of life drawing in the morning, followed by 3 hours of cast drawing in the afternoon. For two weeks. Draw draw draw. la la la.

So 3 hours each day for five days spent on one drawing! I quite frankly thought it would not be possible. At City & Guilds art school in London where I did my foundation year we were encouraged to be FREE AND FLUID & produce experimental & peculiar things...the weirder & wackier the better. I'm a bit of a perfectionist but managed to let me hair down & got really into large scale works with lots of colour, lots of ink, lots of paint...lots of fun. I've always loved drawing from life - bit of a bum & a tum is just what I like - so frequently pop to life drawing classes to keep myself happy. Oh, wonderful nudity.
When I told my London arty type chums about going to Charles Cecil they said it wouldn't be for me - but Bella, it's far too structured! Far too disciplined! You'll go crazy! But I am already crazy, so that was of no concern to me. I was very keen to learn the highly disciplined sight-size technique - the way the old masters would go about their work (Rubens, Velasquez, John Singer Sarget. All big fans) & so felt happy to restrain my freedom for a while to see how I'd cope.
I'd say I coped pretty well because by the end I was tearing out my hair - 5 days on one drawing?? It's not enough! I need more time! I could work on this piece for ever! And so my perfectionist habits have been reborn.

Below are some of my quick sketches at a life class in London - free & fluid with a bit of colour. 
Mmm colour. How I love colour.

Here are a few snaps of my Charles Cecil work - as the days progressed. As you will see, it's a far less interesting drawing, but the point of it was not to create something aesthetically pleasing but to create something which communicates the proportions, contours, lines & form of the figure in front of me. To create a drawing as accurate as possible. Showing you these drawing is showing you a process of learning. Sort of like showing you the working of a difficult maths equation. Each careful, calculated step. At each step you realise something new. Something else becomes apparent. Something changes, adjusts. Does that make sense? 

The drawing begun with a line down the centre of the paper. I'd then use a 'plum line' (piece of string with a weight) to plot points along the line & start finding the figure on my page. 
I had to stand at least 6ft away from the paper, only coming up to it briefly to make a mark then retreating back to look & study the form in relation to my paper once more. 

A reborn perfectionist in the studio but kept up with my own bits & bobs in a little diary I carried everywhere to make sure my freedom with all the nudity didn't get too restrained by proportions & too much sight-size business. 
Let's keep that hair down for now.


I could never loose colour for good, but what was lacking in my studio work was certainly made up in my nails...


Saturday, 17 September 2011


Bella Italia! Oh beautiful Italy.

I have been in bella Florence for the past week - staying in a very Italian-y flat with my wonderful friend Lavinia - to spend two weeks at the Charles Cecil drawing school. The school offers training through a naturalistic tradition of painting from life & it has been a dream of mine for years to come here & be taught at the school. I was literally too excited to have the opportunity to pop along for this short summer introductory course. Charles Cecil teaches the 'sight-size' technique which I have to say is quite frankly the most intense & focused way of drawing I have ever done - our days are 9am-4pm in the studio (3 hours life drawing, 1 hour lunch break, 3 hours drawing from plaster casts...with rather a lot of coffee & ice-cream breaks thrown in...I guess it doesn't sound like that much, but the focus required somehow makes it an unbelievable & exhausting experience. I can't quite find the words to describe it except that I blaady love it. OWL-tastic comes reasonable close)

Ending at 4pm each day means we have the afternoons to wander the streets of Florence, soaking up the vibes, watching Italian hunks cruise by on their Vespas & loving every minute. We seem to get lost in awe of the place (as well as actually lost...but that's another story), for example, we took sketch books into the Baptistry of the Duomo to check it out on our way to a gallery & found ourselves still there an hour & a half later...
I spent quite a substantial time drawing Jesus' feet. They were ideal.

Cruising around the city, taking snaps all over the show...strange bits & bobs as always!
Owl spotting too, of course...

  Gorgeous sights at literally every turn...

 Intense time in the studio...A few socks & panties hanging out


I've been carrying around a small journal documenting our time here & as well filling it with sketches of anything & everything...oh being an artist in bella Firenze...what could possibly be better?

We've been having such delicious & appealing Italian food, I had to laugh when I spotted one of the most unappealing looking things - chips on a pizza? Interesting.