30 July 2013

One little rock


I spent a few hours at the sea recently, on my way to see my daughter drumming in the end-of-the week concert at CampRock. The train stopped in the town of Cecina, and from there I turned west and headed toward the sea. After about forty-five minutes, the Umbrella Pine-lined road brought me to the water's edge. The beaches in this area are naturally stony (though sand is sometimes brought in to complete the picture of a proper seaside), and where the water meets the land I started noticing little rocks (stones? I am never quite sure just what distinguishes one from the other) traced with intriguing white lines, some straight, others circular. As I continued along the shore, I picked up several to bring home to the studio for further study—each was unique—but it seemed ridiculous (and a bit greedy!) to take so many, so in the end I chose my favorite. It has come around with me quite a bit lately, but finally made it onto the studio table. And then onto my tea tray. And the series of photos that follows could perhaps be called 'Anatomy of a rock'.


Photographing the rock's many faces led to more image-making. The deep gray called to mind that of my collection of new pencils (among them a dozen Palomino Blackwing 602s). Likewise, the Japanese tea pot on the platinum-rimmed 'tray'. And the rippled reflections of the amber glass I've been using as a pencil holder also captured my fancy (below), reminding me of July's reflection in my 'Arno Reflected' calendar (in the image at the top of the post). I love discovering these little connections between things as I go along, and it's been a while since I've had time to play around with the camera like this...


Glancing back through the last few weeks' photos, I then came across this stand of candles in Montepulciano's Cathedral. Their shape echoes the long slender Blackwing pencils, and even the golden flames seem to be mimicking the shiny gold eraser holders.

And yesterday I made a quick watercolor in indigo (still on my mind after this month's ROY G BIV challenge, mentioned in the last post). As an homage to the tradition of Batik, which I associate with the color of indigo, I'd love to explore this idea further using a wax resist technique.


I will continue to turn over the image of my pretty rock & its pattern of crisscrossing white lines in my mind, even as my daughter & I head for a much-looked-forward-to week at the sea. This brings brings me to my word for July: wander. As we began the month, we shall end itwanderingthough this time a little closer to home... 

Here's hoping that, summer or winter, you are finding joy in this season.




Below (as well as the image next to the indigo watercolor) is the sea at Cecina, upon whose shores my little rock came to rest...

19 July 2013

Flying in a blue dream (II)

The last time artists participating in the ROY G BIV photo challenge went searching for the 'I' (indigo), most of us were rather stymied. Thinking that at the very least I could pin down the color using a variety of art supplies labeled as 'indigo', I opted to create a handful of cubes with indigo-colored materials—watercolors, pencils, sequins, marbled paper, string. But I still came away feeling that I didn't really have a true grasp of exactly what indigo is.

It turns out that Isaac Newton is to blame for its inclusion in the rainbow moniker, but I was interested to come across a passage in an 1869 publication that listed a string of people who contested Newton's definition of indigo. While Newton placed indigo beween blue & violet on the color wheel, one of the professors cited believed it to be in the cyan-blue region that sits between blue & green; others compared it to Prussian blue or ultramarine. Perhaps one difficulty in pinpointing/defining indigo stems from the fact that, in its dry lump form, it possesses a violet aspect, yet a greenish one when transformed into a powder or dissolved. Personally, I've always associated it with a warm midnight blue.




Now, as promised, I'll see if I can explain the title from two posts ago. I had originally meant to include a video of Joe Satriani's Flying in a Blue Dream as a sort of footnote to my blues for June's ROY G BIV challenge, but forgot. So then I thought I'd add it to my return journey photos, taken from the plane—more blue, plus the obvious flying theme. But the explanation became such a digression that in the end I decided to simply save the video and make it the centerpiece of 'INDIGO'.

It's one of my favorite songs of Joe's and, though it was first released twenty-four years ago, he still plays it at nearly every concert. I was thrilled that it kicked off the one my daughter & I saw in northern Italy two summers ago, and was played third when he came to Florence this past May. The song is in part inspired by childhood dreams he had about flying over the world. Even though, like nearly all of his music, Flying in a Blue Dream doesn't have lyrics, I think it does a beautiful job of summoning up an ethereal sense of wonder & delight. And surely some of those blues in the video are indigo (whichever version of the color you subscribe to)...




Another exciting—and unexpected (there was no prior publicity)—discovery the night of Joe's appearance in Florence was Oli Brown, whose band played a few songs before Joe took the stage. Oli is a young Brit with a jazzy-bluesy-rock-y sound, and I can't imagine a better opener for Joe Satriani. Here's a video from the European tour he did as the opener for Joe (+ a little more blue)...




Technically, I haven't fulfilled the requirements of the ROY G BIV challenge (as the images are supposed to be your own photos), but visiting family & more travels mean that I will likely not have a chance to play around with indigo much this week/end. But who knows? Maybe my fifteen-month-old niece will be interested in hanging out in the studio when she wakes from her nap momentarily...

 ~ Wherever you are, here's hoping the music is good! ~

17 July 2013

Mac 'n cheese memories

In the summer of 1972, as my little sister and I were enjoying a bowl of macaroni and cheese prepared by our visiting aunt, my parents called with the news that our baby brother had arrived. He was every 'big' sister's dream—a live baby doll we could dress up and do all the talking for (to this day, he's more the strong, silent type). He didn't come home from the hospital for another few days, so the memory that marks his birth is actually the ringing of the telephone (probably avocado green) during our mac 'n cheese, and I don't think a birthday has gone by without my sister & me bringing up our scrumptious lunch that day. 

My daughter knows the story by now, too, and it's become a tradition for us to have mac 'n cheese on July seventeenth. Once upon a time, we would make it from a box, but nowadays we experiment with different kinds of fresh cheese. The funny thing is that, in this land of a thousand shapes of pasta, finding the one traditionally known as macaroni in the US (small curved tubes) is not easy...maccheroni is actually a more general term for 'pasta' in Italy. But I suppose each year's winner of Closest-Resemblance-to-Macaroni does add a new twist each time. You can of course also vary the types of both soft & hard cheese (we'd use sharp cheddar if it were easier to get here), or the liquid (milk, buttermilk, a splash of white wine?) or seasoning (a smattering of sage crisped in butter, a shake of Tabasco?). I don't think we've ever made it exactly the same, but last year I did finally record our basic recipe (below).

It's been a long time since we've all been together to celebrate my brother's birthday, but someday I hope to have the chance to make him a nice big bowl of macaroni & cheese...

{Click for a larger view of the ingredients.}

{The quirky 'chalkboard' font was designed by my daughter (with Your Fonts).
If you would like to try our mac 'n cheese recipe but don't find the text to be large enough/sufficiently readable, please click 'Contact' in the sidebar to send an email or leave a comment and I will email you the recipe.}


15 July 2013

Flying in a blue dream

My last entry began with a photo of the wing of our US-bound airplane so I thought this view from the final leg home to Florence would serve as a nice bookend for the trip. The small, noisy plane, with its higher wing/propeller engine design, made for a boisterous, bumpy journey over the Alps, but the constantly changing cloudscape was such fun to watch.

It feels like our first visit back to the US after so much time was a great success. We have returned home rich with new memories & experiences shared with my far-flung family & some of our dearest friends—enough to sustain us until the next time...

The culture shock after a seven-year absence from the US prompted these words upon our arrival (words I will forever associate with this visit):

Surprisingly, I didn't think much about Florence while we were away. At least not at first (too busy, too immersed in the excitement). I might as well have been on another planet for the distance I felt.

But, if anything, the trip only strengthened my belief that, for me, Florence = Home. Once everyone began to disperse—my brother & his family to Australia, my sister & hers to China, my uncle & his to Illinois and my sister-in law's parents to California—the excitement over returning started to build.

Besides the constant camaraderie & commotion (there were seventeen of us during the last week)—and the joy of seeing all of the cousins together for the first time—I will remember with fondness those first quiet, early mornings in my parents' gazebo, the talkative frogs in their little pond, lightening bugs & star-filled skies, the thrill of being able to drive again (windows down, music up), and the happiness of spending time in bookstores full of books in English. But slipping into the beautiful rhythm of the days here has been effortless. These are some of the words that keep running through my mind upon being back in Florence again:
     comfortable (like a favorite sweater or cozy pair of slippers).

When I say 'intimate' I mean in terms of both the human scale of the city and the connection that's possible in the absence of a car (and air conditioning!) in my life here. I really dislike being cut off from what's happening around me.

I would also like to find a word that expresses how much I appreciate the sense of old-ness & history, but neither of those quite captures what I feel. 'Permanence', perhaps? It's just so wonderful to be surrounded by buildings & church bells that have filled & defined the city for centuries.

Yes, it's good to be home... And back to things awaiting me in the studio. Slowly, between more visits with family and little trips here & there, I will be working my way through projects, books & blogs that I have missed over the last month.

Here's hoping things are good in your corner of the world as well...


This last photo is a shot I managed to get on the giddy (bumpy!) arrival into Florence's airport. Whether arriving by train, bus, car—or plane—I always look forward to that first glimpse of the magnificent Cupola...



{A favorite Joe Satriani song inspired the title of this post. More about it in July's ROY G BIV photo challenge later this week.}

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