Drawing at Villa La Pietra

In Florence, The Art of Travel Spring 2018, 13. Free topic by AnnieLeave a Comment

Each Wednesday morning at 9AM, I grab my pencils, eraser and portfolio filled with crisp, white papers. I get ready for class, and head to the 25 bus to La Pietra. Why? Because I have drawing class! When I first told my friends and family I was taking a drawing class, they seemed a bit shocked. My dad chuckled and thought he understood my motive. “You’re really having an easy courseload in Florence, aren’t you? Why don’t you take some more challenging courses next semester?” I knew that my choice may have seemed a bit lazy being that art is not so central a part of my Gallatin concentration. In an effort to prove that I am not taking the easy way out, I’ve decided since I first went to drawing class, I would really make the effort to become a stronger artist and improve my drawing skills.

Each class, we draw from the collection at Villa La Pietra, a personal collection of artwork and items that the Acton family, (the family who once owned NYU Florence’s campus,) owned during a time in their lives. It is so exciting to walk through the rooms or gardens we are drawing from that day and just taking it what it once must have been like years ago. We have a sketchbook where we draw rough sketches of whatever sculpture, painting or fountain we are observing from. Often, we will use pencils but we have also learned to use other mediums like sanguine and charcoal. My least favorite is charcoal because everything is blurred and it gets all over my hands and does NOT come off. I’ve drawn everything not at the collection that I could ever want to draw. People, ballerinas, my bulldog, Ginger, food, buildings etc.

Even though my goal when I first started drawing was to gain better drawing skills, I’ve realized that drawing has many other uses for me. When you draw, you put all of your focus into mirroring an image in the way in which your brain projects that image. Basically, the way you see the image and copy it through your own sketches is very differently interpreted by someone else who may be exposed to that same initial image. I’ve noticed that when I draw, I shut everyone else out because I focus so intensely on that one image and how accurately I am putting it onto the paper. My roommates have joked that they could say anything and I would not move my eyes from my drawing. The positive side to this, for me, is that it is also like a form of meditation or relaxation. When you no longer focus on major stressors, you immediately do better. So in order to improve your drawing, you have to learn how to control your mind.

As soon as I learned this, I have noticed major improvements in my drawing. My marks aren’t so rigid, my shading has improved, and I no longer see things so rigidly when I draw. I’m more comfortable trying new techniques that I may not have before, and I’m not afraid to make mistakes and move past them. I’ve never done meditation, although I have done some yoga, but I think drawing is almost a zen. You are so at peace and fully focused beyond any kind of focus you have had before. My mom even mentioned to me that I should continue drawing at home. Even though drawing has no connection to my major, I’ve enjoyed it so much and can look to take classes not through NYU. But no drawing class I ever take will compare to one I took at La Pietra.

(Image: Villa La Pietra Gardens; Source: Transatlantic Modernities)

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