Category Archives: Italy

A ten day extravaganza in Tuscany, Italy

It was a pleasure to be back at Abbondanza, once again working with the wonderful Paula and Karolina.
We had a great group, total of 19 people with several non-painters, or ‘civilians’ as they liked to call themselves!
Paula’s is one of the best workshop venues when it comes to European painting trips. It is hard to top this experience. There is a chef on location and a driver for the daily excursions, done in a luxurious bus that can hold up to 20 people.
Some of my students who took the workshop two years ago are still raving about the culinary experience they had at Abbondanza!

One of the highlights this year was painting in the Villa Reale gardens near Lucca where John
Singer Sargent painted a long time ago. We found the exact locations he picked. Out of respect and reverence, we decided to paint a different view, from the opposite site Sargent had picked.
Unfortunately, it was a rainy day and we ended up working with umbrellas in one hand, paint brush in the other. That didn’t stop us, however. It may be a once in a lifetime opportunity so nobody was deterred from trying. Nice light would’ve been a treat but the weather is what it is!

Villa Fiori, our accommodations, were located about a 20 minute drive from the city center of Lucca, high up in the hills. The location couldn’t have been better! There was an olive garden and medieval church right outside, which we painted multiple times in different light.
My workshop was well received and I got many positive reviews. Students really like my teaching style and emphasis on sound painting principles.

As a fun side-note: the week we were there, the Rolling Stones were also scheduled to play a concert in the moat next to the city walls of Lucca. So the town of only 10000 grew to more than 60000 on the day of the concert. We made sure we stayed far away from Lucca that day!

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Florence (Firenze), Italy

During my recent workshop in Italy, we were able to do the three-day add-on in Florence which turned out to be our favorite time of the entire trip.

Florence (Italian: Firenze) is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area.

The statue of three intertwined figures that is the center of my painting is called The Rape of the Sabine Women (Latin: Sabinae raptae). It depicts an episode in the legendary history of Rome, traditionally dated to 750 BC, in which the first generation of Roman men acquired wives for themselves from the neighboring Sabine families. The English word rape is a conventional translation of the Latin “raptio”, which in this context means “abduction” rather than its prevalent modern meaning in English language of sexual violation.

I was just as captivated with this beautiful sculpture as the figures I made up for my painting! This is not the original. Just like the statue of David on the Piazza della Signoria, this Rape of the Sabine Women is a replica of the real thing, the real sculpture being situated in the Galleria degli Uffizi, safely away from the elements and pollution.

Upon closer inspection, you will see that I kept the background to a minimum, really just focusing on the shape of the statue and the young men passing by. I love how they all look up while passing by! Almost like all conversation has temporary been halted while they’ve been near this magnificent sculpture. You may ask, “Did it really happen like this?” …Well, it may have happened just like that; I like to think that even young people could be captivated by the power of this eternal piece of art.

Workshop: The Watermill, Posara, Italy

Last week I taught a watercolor painting workshop The Watermill in Tuscany.

We had a wonderful week and many plein air painting excursions! A heartfelt Thank You to Lois and Bill for taking care of us and making this a memorable trip! I hope these pictures give a bit of an impression of this beautiful part of the world! Lois and Bill have a great location and provide ample Tuscan cuisine with many local specialties. They are well organized and we had the luxury of being dropped off and picked up at painting locations by the father-son duo Paolo and Lucca.

Thank you so much! We just have to do it all over again next year!

Canal in Venice

Quiet morning, Venice by frank eber 2010 Another one from Venice! This one was done early in the morning with that typical haze lingering in the air. I tried to paint as quickly as possible, letting the paints bleed.  I feel I overworked the water a bit. It’s so easy to be overwhelmed when painting on location. There are so many things you see at once and the longer you look, the more you start seeing. But like the master painter Joseph Zbukvic says, “You mustn’t put it all in”! I have also found that you cannot put in all the colors your eyes perceive. There’s so much to learn still…

Speaking of the Mr. Z: I am very happy to announce that I signed up for his workshop at Fallbrook, California next spring. I can hardly wait and I am sure it will be an eye-opener in many ways.

My next post will be from CA as I am heading home!

Santa Maria della Salute

Santa Maria della Salute, by frank eberThis view was probably painted a million times before.  The Basilica of Saint Mary of Health, as it is called in English, was built after a particularly devastating outbreak of the plague in 1630. It quickly became an emblematic  part of the skyline of Venice and inspired many big-name artists like Canaletto, Turner, Sargent and Guardi.

As always, it was important for me to get the mood of the place and I tried not to put any details into the building itself. Just the shapes and letting the paint do the work. The only details are the boats and the poles on the left hand side, but I tried to keep those vague as well.

This one is pretty small, only about 9″ x 11″.

St. Mark’s Plaza

St. Mark's plaza by frank eberThis was one of those lucky shots! I definitely got my tones and values right without fiddling around too much. I am no longer in Venice, but all my work is based on sketches I did on location there. This piece was done with a very limited palette, mostly just ultrablue, magenta and the siennas. I tried to capture the energy of the place, the complete chaos: people moving about, street vendors, some pigeons. Speaking of pigeons: they seem to have gotten rid of lots of them.I remember being in Venice when I was a kid, there were so many pigeons everywhere you could hardly get away from them.

In the background you can see San Giorgio Maggiore,  a 16th century Benedictine church on the island of the same name.

It is true that there is a special light in Venice. It’s very soft and milky, perfect for watercolor! It was great fun to visit, I just wish I’d have had more time. I guess I’ll just have to come back again soon…