Guardians of the Mysteries
Snake Painting Original Still Life Oil Painting
In 2013, my flatmate and I had to move out of a flat we shared with a Florentine man in Florence, Italy. I had lived there for a while and was happy enough there, with a great price,
a private room, and a terrace on which to enjoy some greenery. As it turned out, this man blackmailed our landlady for a ridiculously
cheap rent, all bills included, and in the end, almost everyone in the building had to evacuate except him and a family with a young child. [Children are sacred in Italy.]
Another friend of mine had asked me to share a studio with him and since I was losing my room and could not find another, I ended up
taking over a huge flat that two of my painter friends shared (a married couple) after they moved out of Italy. My friend approved of the large room that would be our studio.
Sadly, while he told me he wanted to work in Firenze for 2-3 years after he finished school, less than a few months into this contract I held on this too-expensive-for-me-alone flat,
he told two of our mutual friends, but not me (and they assumed that of course he had spoken to me first), he decided to leave Firenze without giving me notice.
Being Italian, he had always helped me with my contract and knew that I needed to give three months notice on my housing contract. So,
more money lost, another ex-friend on my list, and I ended up moving into a single room rented out by the Salvation Army in Florence.
Devastated, tired, and angry with myself for not having anticipated either of these situations happening and trusting too much people that
I had known for years, I have no idea how I managed the move. I mean... everyone teases me about the amount of stuff that I have!
I seem to be very lucky in that when a lot of artists leave Italy, they either give me or sell cheaply to me whatever belongings they
feel they cannot take with them. And I can rarely turn down useful things or art supplies.
I should write a book about how to maximize space. haha. Seriously, I was given a room with a trundle bed/day couch and two single beds. And was told that no one could
stay in my room with me... so why the beds? Ok, so I dismantled stuff and rearranged, going vertical as much as possible and using towels or backdrop fabric or anything soft to
place between objects and walls so that I did not damage the paint on the walls and the room looked exactly as I entered if once I moved out much later.
I had about a week after returning from a month in Australia to move and in the end had three hours of sleep from the time I officially
left the large flat to when I woke up to take a train to Bologna, then fly to Bulgaria for a stone-carving symposium.
I was really wiped out by the time I got back in late July to a tiny room full of stuff! My big 5-0 birthday arrived and I decided to
spend it alone and getting my life in order.
I managed to set up two easels at 90 degrees from each other, with just enough space to stand back and view what I was painting from some distance away.
After learning a little something about still life painting, I learned to always keep an eye out for interesting objects to paint.
So, the copy of a Greek vase was a find at an antiques market in Florence. The plastic snakes were a gift from my sister to help me with my
future Halloween costume as Medusa (you know, because I seem to turn men to stone, haha).
Mostly, I like to learn new things with every new project. I had been painting some tenebrism artworks and I tend to like
high contrast, but in this project, I wanted to create something lighter in tone. I also wanted to learn how to paint using cheap models, but
making the object more beautiful and 3-dimensional and maybe learn more about design. I am bored to tears most of the time when looking
at too photo-realistic type of art.
The setup that you see here was started around late November 2014. I am using the Sight-Size Method, but I want to move away a bit
from tight precision. You may also note that I failed to hold the camera at my eye level, which is why the tilt of the wooden object emerging from
under the seat is so popular. However, my student visa ran out by mid-December and after speaking to a woman in the Immigration Office, I moved
to Croatia for 90 days, with a visit to friends in Serbia for four days to make everything legal as far as not over-staying any welcomes.
A friend asked to rent my room from me and use my still life setup (yes, even after staying there a night and SEEING the situation in reality).
So, I dismantled the setup before I left Italy. That was the end of 2014. I returned to Italy for 90 days there before returning to the USA to apply
for a new visa. However, I spent that time seeking a home and figuring out what to do with my things while I was in the US for four months.
In January 2017, I decided to finish this painting using the images of my set up and also reference material of real snakes and plucked leaves.
I doubt that you wanted to know this story, but ... I have been embarrassed and angry with myself for allowing my discombobulated life to
disrupt so much my art-making.
November 2014: My tiny room full of stuff still became a studio with two working easels,
as I went vertical in my storage. Yes, that shadowed area to the right [above] of the
sight-size drawing setup is my bed and office. Florence, Italy
Feb 2017: When my pellet stove got jammed, I set up a little studio
in my kitchen and worked with the warmth of a fire in my
fireplace to the left of the table in this image below.
If it ain't one thing, it is another. :-)