Friday, February 26, 2016

Ars longa, vita brevis (art is long, life is short)

Drawing in the shade of the replica of David by Michelangelo in the doorway of Palazzo Vecchio. I filled a lot of pages in my little sketchbook while in Florence.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

what my eyes see

What is this drawing? Not once in describing the shape of that mass did I shift my eyes from the model. Why? Because I wanted to be sure that nothing evaded my grasp of it... My objective is to test to what extent my hands already feel what my eyes see.- Auguste Rodin

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

by bread alone

Non si vive do solo pane.

Man does not live by bread alone.

Monday, February 22, 2016

all flesh is like the grass

All flesh is like the grass, the grass withers and fades away. This being the anthem sung during our season of Lent service yesterday. Earlier that morning we had been to the nursing home to bring my mother-in-law to church with us. As we wheel her down the hallways and I catch glimpses of the other poor souls in the nursing home these images burn into my eyes.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

to see with the eyes of an artist

Today I went on a long hike with my oldest son and my grandson and our two dogs. We marched across semi-frozen prairie grass on an unexpectedly warm February day. The sun was warm on our heads, my one-year-old grandson was cheerful and full of profound exclamations that only a baby can carry off. "Sky!" "Goose!""Run!""Train!"
The landscape we enjoyed was flat and brown and mostly unremarkable for any geographic sights. The sky above was blessedly blue after a long grey winter in the Midwest. We were exploring a huge public land preserve west of the city of Chicago, some bits of forest but mostly empty land. Remains of corn fields perhaps, some marshland and a lonely train track cutting through.
This year I have not posted even once about how much I hate the winter! In years past this has been a theme of mine far too often. I have been focused on trips to museums and sketches from Italy in my blog writing which is a welcome change from my usual winter whining.
As we crunched through the tall prairie grasses both flatttened and mounded by the winter snows, and sloshed through frozen marshland I mused on how the landscape affects me differently now than it would have a few years ago. I have a friend and artist colleague who has spent the past years painting this very same landscape and through his paintings I have come to appreciate the beauty of the flat, brown, grey frozen prairie. I can say that now I will always walk out there on a nature preserve in this Midwestern land and be able to see it through his eyes.
The artist I am talking about is Joel Sheesley, he is Professor of Art at the college where my husband and son now teach. Here is another article about him.
Here is a link to the paintings that I am speaking of. Joel spent a year and more painting every day in the marshland near his home and near the hiking area that I walked today. I will always think of him and his mystical vision of this place we both live in when I view the land around me. Joel had a beautiful exhibit of the work last year which brought all the small moments of his time of daily painting together. I am proud to say that a year before that, my husband and I had purchased this painting for our own home.  It is titled March 10, 2014 and to look at it right now is to see the same view I walked through today again, peaceful, visionary, and beautiful as seen through the eyes of another artist.
March 10, 2014 by Joel Sheesley

Friday, February 19, 2016


Standing out in the huge courtyard in front of the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. Holding my sketchbook, quickly making an impression to save with a marker pen while feeling the hot Italian sun burning my head and arms.
My head is also burning with the beauty of paintings by Giotto that I have seen. Frescoes of the life of St. Francis with so much movement, kindness, love and emotional realism.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

St. Francis

St Francis of Assisi by Cimabue 1272. (During the pontificate of Pope Nicholas IV, the first Franciscan pope, Cimabue worked at Assisi. His call was perhaps due to the fame he gained in Rome in 1272, although no works from his stay there are known. At Assisi, in the transept of the Lower Basilica of San Francesco, he frescoed a Madonna with Child Enthroned, Four Angels and St. Francis) from wikipedia
If that date is true, then Cimabue painted this fresco in the Basilica of Assisi not much more than 50 or 60 years past the time when Francis was alive. (1181-1226)  Perhaps there were people  still about who had known Francis and could give a very accurate description of his appearance?
We visited the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in a one day trip out of Rome. If I could go back, I would make a longer trip out of visiting Assisi. The little medieval city is so interesting and I could spend a couple of days exploring. And the Basilica of St Francis is full of amazing art from Giotto, Cimabue, Lorenzetti, and various medieval masters.
My favorite memory happened when I stood in front of the basilica sketching the outside (see my next post) and a monk approached me. He was wearing the garb of the Franciscans; grey robe and rope belt. He introduced himself and asked if he could pray for me. And I said yes, and he did, I was most deeply moved. He gave me a little prayer card that had a reproduction of this portrait of St. Francis on it. On the back of the card it says:

The Lord bless you
and keep you.
The Lord show His face to
you and have mercy on you.
The Lord turn His countenance to you
and give you peace
...may Our Lord bless you.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

designs of the Creator

"The Creator made Italy from designs by Michelangelo " --Mark Twain

Since we returned from our trip to Italy I have been asked "What was your favorite art, museum or antiquity that you visited?"
I would have to say my favorite work of art out of thousands of the world's greatest achievements to be found in Italy was this one. The statue of Moses in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli in Rome (The name means St Peter in Chains). 
The marble statue is massive, the weight of all of God's love and anger seems to be bursting from the figure. Moses is shown as a powerful yet emotional man.
I stood in the crowd of tourists with my little sketchbook and pen for as long as possible. 
(I was undeterred by the jostling of backpacks, and tourists of all nations, especially the ones who push in close just to get their own photo taken with a masterpiece)

Monday, February 15, 2016


All art forms, including painting and music and poetry, are vehicles for us all to participate in being alive. Whatever adds richness to the experience of being alive is an art.

- Quang Ho

Sketches from a recent visit to the Art Institute of Chicago.
Janice Skivington

Sunday, February 14, 2016

first love

"Italy, and the spring and first love all together should suffice to make the gloomiest person happy." --Bertrand Russell
To be true, it was in the heat of an Italian summer, and my first love is also my old love but the sentiment remains.

Saturday, February 13, 2016


I dream my paintings, then I paint my dreams.-Vincent Van Gogh 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

expats in Italy

Thou Paradise of exiles, Italy! – Percy Bysshe Shelley