Views from April's Tuscan Drawing Excursions

This spring's drawing session came and went way too fast! Many thanks to my students and teacher/partner-in-crime, Katie Shulman, for making this a great week. Below check out the day-by-day highlights, including drawing trips to Fiesole, the Boboli Gardens, and the incredible countryside of Barberino Val D'Esa with our gracious hosts, Fattoria Le Masse. Looking forward to our next session this November!

DAY1 : Drawing on the Arno
After a quick introduction to our drawing materials (and the strangely fantastic cappuccinos of the San Frediano Gentleman's Sports Club) students explored their relationship to this beautiful riverside view with "Blind" contour mark-making exercises. Here, students were challenged to keep their eyes strictly on their subjects, forcing them to pay attention to how the pencil feels in their hand when it's making a mark on the paper. 

Under the Ponte Trinita bridge.  Photo Credit: Sandrine Delattre

Under the Ponte Trinita bridge.  Photo Credit: Sandrine Delattre

Lunch time at Casa Sandrine after a nice morning of drawing

Lunch time at Casa Sandrine after a nice morning of drawing

DAY 2: Drawing the Santa Maria Novella Church and Cloisters
Students started this day with an excellent city tour with our local expert and art historian, Costanza. We we're so grateful for her insider knowledge and beautiful re-telling of the history of Florence, the Medici dynasty and the artists they supported. She led us to the Santa Maria Novella Church where students were thrown into the challenges of linear perspective. Fortunately we could get some inspiration from Massaccio's legendary painting, La Trinita.

Guided tour of Florence with Costanza, our historian!

Guided tour of Florence with Costanza, our historian!

Some perspective tips

Some perspective tips

The Cloisters of Santa Maria Novella

The Cloisters of Santa Maria Novella

A beautiful drawing of the cloisters by Patricia Kehler

A beautiful drawing of the cloisters by Patricia Kehler

Katie hard at work.

Katie hard at work.

DAY 3: Drawing the Oltrarno
The neighborhood "Oltrarno" or the other side of the Arno river, is the site of the unique Santo Spirito Piazza and Church. Close to student housing, we started our day here, drawing the markets and morning bustle of the square. Students practiced describing space through observing the relationship between organic and architectural matter in this bright and open space. We starting with our Blind Contour exercises, then moved into fast sketches that aimed to capture the "whole" of a complex scene.

Drawing by Manav Malhotra

Drawing by Manav Malhotra

Dinner at Casalinga near Santo Spirito Church. With one epic Tiramisu...

Dinner at Casalinga near Santo Spirito Church. With one epic Tiramisu...

DAY 4: Drawing Fiesole
The suburb on the mountaintop, Fiesole, is a lovely retreat from Florence with some awesome views. We took the bus-ride up to the hilltop to discuss the challenges of drawing atmospheric perspective. Here, students created value studies using charcoal and their erasers, watching how the light and the dramatic shapes of the trees divided the visual plane. Afterwards, we made the trek back to Florence by foot, where we passed a range of olive groves. For dinner, a menu of traditional Tuscan dishes including, Pappa al pomodoro, prepared by our guest chef and local artist, Katia Giuliani.

Patricia sketching the horizon

Patricia sketching the horizon

A quick huddle on our value studies

A quick huddle on our value studies

Drawing by Gayatri Mohan

Drawing by Gayatri Mohan

Drawing by Michelle Stein

Drawing by Michelle Stein

The beautiful (2 hour!) walk back. Long, but worth it for those olive groves...

The beautiful (2 hour!) walk back. Long, but worth it for those olive groves...

We ended the day with a curated meal by Katia Giuliani, local artist and chef!

We ended the day with a curated meal by Katia Giuliani, local artist and chef!

DAY 5: Drawing Tuscany- Barberino Val D'Elsa Vineyards and Village
Ready to make our way into the countryside, we had a very special afternoon in the small medieval village of Barberino Val D'Elsa, and with our gracious hosts, Fattoria Le Masse. Our bus-ride took us through the hills of Tuscany with views of olive groves, vineyards, and some entertaining locals that hopped on and off throughout the ride. We started our morning drawing the small medieval town, particularly its church, the basement of which, Fattoria Le Masse uses to make their incredible olive oil. From here, we wandered through the vineyards for a lunch with featuring food fresh from the garden paired with a tasting of their chiantis. After lunch we were surprised with a guest visit from the star of the Netflix's series, Marco Polo - apparently, a friend of the family! Needless to say, the ladies of the group were excited (see picture below)...

Chiesa of Barberino Val D'Esa

Chiesa of Barberino Val D'Esa

Tour of the grounds and Tuscan vistas

Tour of the grounds and Tuscan vistas

Lunch time!

Lunch time!

Fresh veggies from the garden dressed with homemade olive oil.

Fresh veggies from the garden dressed with homemade olive oil.

Vineyard drawings by Michelle Stein

Vineyard drawings by Michelle Stein

Otto, the farm pup.

Otto, the farm pup.

See if you can spot Marco Polo....

See if you can spot Marco Polo....

DAY 6: Drawing the Boboli Gardens
For our final day in Florence, we visited the Boboli Gardens. The former gardens of the Medici palace, this was a perfect site to practice the drawing techniques we had been developing over the week - playful, expressive marks combined with a strong sense of perspectival space. Maybe it was the wine from Fattoria le Masse, or the fresh air, but the drawings were just plain beautiful today! As a teacher, I couldn't have been more pleased. After some afternoon wandering, we did our send-off dinner at Quattro Leoni, feasting on their delicious pear and ricotta ravioli, and chocolate tart. A great way to end an excellent week!

Our final drawing huddle!

Our final drawing huddle!

Drawing by Patricia Kehler

Drawing by Patricia Kehler

Drawing by Sue Read

Drawing by Sue Read

Blind Contour Drawing by Katie Shulman

Blind Contour Drawing by Katie Shulman

Last desserts at Quatro Leoni!

Last desserts at Quatro Leoni!

Thank you thank you to this lovely group (+ Amy!) It was truly a pleasure...

Thank you thank you to this lovely group (+ Amy!) It was truly a pleasure...