31 August 2011

the wow factor

I thought it was going to be just another summer concert, with a bit of nostalgia thrown in. I expected it to be good.

The pianist was Danilo Rea, Italy's top jazz pianist. The setting is the piazza in historic Castello, Roccasecca.

It was fantastic. At times the piano sounded like a full percussion section from an orchestra. At other times it was as sweet as an oboe. I began by listening for the Beatles songs (the theme of the concert) but soon that didn't matter. It became more of "how did he do that?" and "what will he do next?"

My internet is misbehaving and I can't look up links for you, but go to Youtube and look for Danilo Rea. The tantalising glimpses I am getting there as the internet comes and goes are much softer and more romantic. Tonight's performance was a very powerful affair. Fantastic!

Today I am grateful for free concerts and amazing performers.

29 August 2011

something a little different

This has a bright underpainting not so obvious in the photo, and a little texture. It is "evolving" rather than planned beyond the general idea and the techniques. It is to go in a panel over a fireplace, and the client prefers an impressionist style. This is my version of what MIGHT work in the space, but as the task is a rather challenging one I am quite prepared to be wrong about this!

It's time I took a break, so here it is for now.
I am guessing that this is about half-way through the work. However, I could be wrong about that too!

Optimism, Kay, you can finish this tomorrow!

(Worst scenario is that if the client hates it I add some colour and put it in front of my own fireplace...)


Just when I was getting complacent about the temperature going down this week the weather report promises more hot weather, right on time for my Aussified Kiwi visitors who are arriving on Thursday. They are used to such heat so will be going to Pompeii without me!

The so-called "comfort level" on another weather report is about 5 degrees higher than this, and Sicily is heading for more 40+ degrees. Rain is coming though, my trees will survive. (Runs off to move the hose).

Today I am grateful for cotton clothing.

you know you live in italy when

You know you live in Italy when you get art and Verdi - no ticket needed - at the railway station.

At 10am we began another "estemporanea di pittura":I have to admit to being awol a couple of times. Despite a drop of temperature of about 5 degrees it was still well over 30° in the piazza and simply too hot for me!
My contribution to the event is top left:
This artist was a delight, and her darling little son lasted the whole day, declaring, at 11pm as he snuggled into his mum's shoulder, that he was not tired after his 12 hour day!

There really were two trains during the evening...
Imagine coming off the platform and having to negotiate this crowd with your suitcase in tow!
Of course there is always a tenor for my sogni...
and this time he sang with home town favourite, the internationally acclaimed Tania di Giorgio who can be seen here singing Ave Maria in a local church.
Always a star and absolutely charming as well, her solos and duets were outstanding and the somewhat spartan and drab surroundings took nothing away from the quality of her performance.

Today I am grateful for Ibuprofen.

27 August 2011


portrait of youth - updated

(Top photo added later), the finished portrait:
The initial sketch with a part of the photo that I am working from. The photo isn't mine to share, so you will have to trust that I have got a good likeness with the brush :-)
The likeness came easily, and I was pretty content at this stage.

I think that the blending of the colours was too smooth, and the features need forming more. It's not easy working from a full face photograph when the features have been flattened by the flash. The photo is black and white.

It's not obvious in my own photograph below, but here I have used much bolder colour to bring some life to the painting. The colour in the background has sapped it away, and it is better to learn that now, not later. In the last two photographs above it is really easy to see why so many artists leave portraits floating on the white canvas.

I want a dark background to bring her fair hair over, although in blocking in the hair and the background I seem to have lost some of the likeness.
I think that is because she is a sunny person, fresh and innocent at 14 years old, and I need to catch the lightness of her personality in paint. I had the lightness in the sketch, and need to recapture it in the final paint applications.

The portrait is approximately half finished.

Later: progress

I see that I need to balance the hair on the left side, it didn't get the lengthening strokes the right hand side has. The blouse needs a button, even though it doesn't show in the photograph. Time to down-size my brushes for some detail, after contemplating them over a coffee!
The wet paint doesn't photograph well and isn't quite as red-orange as it looks here. The hair is not as grey as the camera suggests - I have that problem myself!

The freckles? Well, they don't show on the original photograph but the gentleman has requested that I paint them in. I researched a few images on line and found these that best matched his description.

I need to soften off the contrast around the eyes, and perhaps modify the tones I have just added. Nearly finished.

Time for another break.

It's amazing what coffee and painkillers can do!

And now it's time to say goodnight...
(Photographed at night. The real colour is somewhere between the two versions; the painting is not quite as yellow/gold as this).

Today I am grateful for my work.


Saturday morning:

How many years is it that I have had to be really fussy about which type of pillow I use? How stupid can I be?

Last night I was too hot and tired to go upstairs and retrieve my feather pillow from the studio where I sleep when I have guests here. Going upstairs in the afternoon is like walking into an oven. In fact, this morning I ate a cooked nectarine for breakfast, baked sitting on the benchtop in the studio. (It was delicious!) In the morning, however, upstairs is the perfect work space with a lovely breeze and clear light.

This morning when I woke from a deep sleep in the cooler part of the house I couldn't turn my head. I haven't done this to myself for years. I'd be hopping mad except that I can't hop with this crick in my neck.

I have watered the trees, and slunk back inside.

There's always an up side, though.

The portrait that needs to be finished in about ten days is coming along nicely. It is the only painting that I can work on comfortably at my desk. Compulsory attention to detail while I berate myself and try to straighten out again.

Today I am grateful for feather pillows.

26 August 2011

music, music, music

The festival in memory of Sevorino Gazzelloni. Soprano Katia Ricciarelli wows the audience 

The baritone was Carmine Monaco and he was good. The soprano was fantastic, and there are many clips of her on Youtube. While the videos don't come close to catching the quality, the richness, the warmth of the voices, or the atmosphere of a summer concert, here is a selection for you. In this Katia is singing a lighthearted piece at Covent Garden with Placido Domingo.

Last night (of course) it was the tenor, Francesco Zingariello, who wowed me the most. Here they are singing together, on a different occasion, and here is the tenor singing beautifully on his own (sigh!)

Today I am grateful for free outdoor concerts of such wonderful quality.

summer snippets

Local festival for St Anna earlier in the summer:




The ruins of the walled town once the home of the family of Thomas Aquinas 

Inside the abbey at Monte Cassino, photos in the crypt under the main cathedral. This was not destroyed by the bombing in 1944 


and in the carpark outside the abbey
(see previous post for link to the car) 

A painting and the church dedicated in 1741 in the town of Arce 


A presepe in the grotto at Pastena 

and a general photo inside the caves 

summery scene at Sperlonga

Tempio di Giove (see previous post) at Terracina 

Aquino sunset at the Chiesa S Maria della Libera 


Roccasecca from Castello 

la musica

Filming (they said no photos after I had taken them) at La Reggia, Caserta) you saw it first here...

Modern art in the ancient palace at Caserta, exhibition of Italian art spanning the last 150 years. 

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Today I am grateful for a cool refuge.

23 August 2011


Post office (at least an hour) then coffee.
Upper Arce with the beautiful church from 1700, and a gelato
Lower Arce to the best pastry shop in the region, was it lunch or morning tea?
Falvaterra the beautiful views and the breeze
Pastena the caves
Sperlonga another gelato, but not for me
Terracina, the Tempio di Giove Anxur
Home via Pico, San Giovanni in Carico,
and across the road for dinner.

Yesterday (Monday)
Cassino, battlefield tour, abbey (where we saw an interesting car in the car park, a Donkervoort), views of the Polish cemetery and the obelisk memorial to the Polish,
the road towards Caira (in direction of the start of Cavendish Road) with a view towards the German cemetery
Mt Trocchio, (the Allied observation post),
Rocca Janula (or Castle Hill) and the cliff to scale below it,
"the Nunnery" or "crypt" along the main street, and
Folten's cave where the original Continental Hotel was in wartime.
Then St Angelo and on to the commonwealth cemetery.

Day before (Sunday) was Aquino market, siesta, and two random events in Roccasecca in the evening, wine tasting and smorgasboard then kareoke at the gelato bar.

Before that was Colle San Magno (Saturday) then Roccasecca for a gelato.

Friday my guests arrived by train. A look at the village, a siesta, and dinner at La Magnolia

Tomorrow the local market, then Aquino for via Latina and my equal favourite chiesa, S Maria della Libera, and then we will see if we can make La Reggia at Caserta for Thursday. Thursday evening is the gala performance of opera with orchestra and choir in the main piazza (ie the main street) at upper Roccasecca, a part of the week of master classes and music in memory of Sevorino Gazzelloni.

Friday back to the train... how quickly a week can fly!

Today I am grateful for safe travel on the roads.

hot hot hot

There are so many places that I would like to take my guests but it is just "too darned hot!"

Today I am grateful for
cold showers.

19 August 2011

yes but

Soooo frustrating when you choose the wrong materials. I started this in oil thinking that there was no deadline. It then became a purchased work with a tight deadline, and I can't get the oil dry fast enough (even though it is drying at record speed) and delivery day is tomorrow!

If I had painted it in acrylic I could have had much tighter detail and the work would be more in line with what I originally envisaged. If I didn't have in my mind what I really wanted I'd probably be quite happy with this. The two don't quite match, purely because of the time frame. Let's hope that the clients and recipient are happy :-)

Now to find a box to wrap it in and buy some glamorous paper as it is to be a gift and must be kept under wraps for a day.


from NZ, safely in Italy, enjoying a real siesta after a lunch of fabulous, organically grown, tasty Italian tomatoes, basil leaves picked from the plant, a dousing of my olive oil on yummy crusty local bread, ice cubes clinking in cold peach tea...

and probably dreaming of tonight's gelati :-)

Today I am grateful for old friends.


It is 1.15am. My alarm is set for 5am. I had just got to sleep... and the pilgrims heading towards Canneto went past. Loudly. Calling out, creating as much noise as they could to wake any who had been lucky enough to fall asleep now that the air is cooling.

If they weren't wearing backpacks and carrying walking sticks cut from branches, (they have a long way to go), and a wooden cross, I would have assumed that they had come from the pub and had imbibed more than was good for them. They were pushing and shoving and generally having a thoroughly good time. I think (from their energy levels) that they probably set out from a neighbouring village at midnight. The prilgrimage from here advertised outside my house is due to start at 6am.

I know that I have chosen to live in a country that has many many many religious festivals and rituals, but please, give me a break. I need to SLEEP! It's enough that there are fireworks and festas every night, no point in trying to get to sleep before midnight or the loud bangs will wake you. That the only time to achieve anything that takes effort is between 5am and 8.30am has little to do with bed time.

Scary though, is that shortly before the pilgrims two vehicles went through at huge speeds (that's what really woke me). Had they been heading in the opposite direction I shudder to think what might have happened, as the pilgrims (about 50 of them) were spread across the entire road, not walking in an orderly, peaceful, reverent procession as one might imagine.

OK, gripe over. I'll go back to bed for the third or fourth time and see if I can catch some zzzzzs before the alarm goes off in three and a half hours time.

Today I am grateful for obedient and tolerant dogs.

18 August 2011

another festa...

I couldn't help myself. It's summer holidays, and my favourite group was playing in the next village. How can a groupie stay home? So, telling myself that I was completely mad, I tried to contact friends who might like to go. Two turned me down, and two didn't reply. So off I went, in my trusty Polo, knowing that really winding road pretty well these days.

The music was good, as always, but perhaps I was a little too tired to really "get into it". Each time I watch MBL I marvel at the skills of the individual musicians. The young man on the tambourine makes that instrument do things I never imagined it could. He is so fit, and produces a very physical performance. I am spellbound if I manage to get a position with him in my direct line of vision. My other favourite to watch is the drummer, the son of good friends and a very talented musician. It's a little like watching sport or any other type of event; you don't have to be an expert or a participant yourself. When you are watching the very best you appreciate the dedication, passion and skill level as well as the result.

The highlight for me tonight was being pulled into the dancing by a young 17 year old friend. I can hardly imagine that happening in dear old New Zealand. I didn't exactly acquit myself well (those cobblestones are sharp in thin-soled sandals) but she taught me enough steps for me to be confident that I could join in again some time.

And now it's time to put my screaming feet into some cold water. The temperature outside has dropped to a comfortable 20 something degrees, but my feet are still feeling the cobblestones. Another reason to lose weight!

Today I am grateful for beautiful festival lights.

17 August 2011

nearly there...

I think the payment for this will all go on a fan and a blind for at least one studio window...


boy am I slow! I couldn't work out why it was so hard to envisage the blinds (versus shutters) in the studio. The windows in Italy all seem to open inwards. I hadn't registered that fact! It's no wonder my poor brain was having trouble... how can I have an internal blind to control the light and still have the breeze?

I love my light and airy studio, but at times there is actually too much light, especially when painting in shiny oil paint.