When we moved to Italy, the first few months were spent developing a routine to bring some order to our new situation. My wife found work pretty quick - we were, after all, on her turf - and I was able to search the town for the best cappucino. I also became a daily visitor of the local outdoor markets. Fruits and veggies, fish, clothes, housewares - you name it and it was probably under one of the canopies in one of the squares during the week. My Italian training went from greetings and tenses to food and units of measure. I would spend the morning scouting for the next painting and picking up the ingredients for lunch and dinner. I would buy all sorts of food and get all sorts of advice on how to prepare it - usually not understanding half of the advice because the vendor was from another part of Italy and spoke in dialect. Some days I would just need a quick bite and that was when I would keep things simple and make my favorite dish: aglio e olio con peperoncini.
This dish seems to bring a smile to most Italians faces because anyone can make it (each their own special way I'm sure) and appreciate it for it's no-nonsense quality.
Here's how I make it:
Spaghetti in the pot of salted boiling water for 10 minutes (al dente)
In a skillet or wok (depending on amount of pasta) pour in some olive oil - enough to coat the pasta eventually - turn on the heat when the pasta has 4 minutes left
Prepare garlic (shopped to 1/4" wide chunks), and red pepper (chopped or flakes)
Prepare parsley (chopped fresh)
At the four minute mark heat the oil and begin to add the garlic and red pepper
The garlic will begin to brown - take it as far as you want (I like the garlic crunchy even though it is not so healthy to cook the oil too long...) then turn off the heat
Drain the pasta and throw it in the oil and flip it around
Add the parsley, some fresh parmigiano cheese and buon appetito!
30 April 2011
24 April 2011
Often times while heading out to paint a specific place or subject, something along the way would provide enough distraction to change the plan. In this case, long afternoon shadows express the forms and parts of a bike leaning against the post - too interesting to let it pass by.
17 April 2011
16 April 2011
Thinking about travel makes me think about maps. While they offer guidance on street names and landmarks, rarely will you encounter a map that will offer a bit more depth into the place it is outlining. Modern cities often don't require the added layer of information, as they are more organized and predictable, but ancient towns - such as Siena, Italy - can be mapped in many ways to enhance ones journey through its winding hills.
Apart the scale, contour and materials that make Siena stand out as one of Italy's most beautiful cities, it is it's famous festival Il Palio that makes the city map interesting to me. To over-simplify the event, it is a horse race around the main square - il Campo, and each of the 17 contrade (city wards) enter a horse and rider.
I created this coded map to better understand the division into these contrade and take my own little journey into the history of an amazing tradition.
09 April 2011
More than a basic ingredient in cooking, olive oil is one of my favorite ingredients in life. Homer called it 'liquid gold' - as it has a history of culinary, medicinal and magical uses. Having been fortunate enough to live near Cartoceto, the oil capital of Le Marche, the gridded landscape of olive tree orchards offered both visual interest and constant anticipation of the fall harvest and fesitvals each year. Some of the best bruschetta in the world!!
27 March 2011
Walking through the cities and towns of Italy, it is always a welcome sight to come across one of the popular wooden toy shops with Pinocchio characters of all sizes positioned to make their escape and bring life and adventure to a new home. The shops also carry some amazing hand carved wooden clocks, furniture and even a full scale motorcycle - although Pinocchio is usually enough to make the little ones happy.
20 March 2011
12 March 2011
One thing I learned pretty quick while in Fano was that there is an art to ordering a coffee. 'Un caffe' was , of course, my default order and as I would stir in a sugar packet, the orders that would follow always left me feeling short changed. 'Latte macchiato ben caldo senza schiuma' - my wifes order on our Sunday morning visit to the local breakfast spot always impressed me. Translated as a cup of milk stained by an espresso poured in, heated up but with little foam or steamed milk added. The 'barista' seemed to take it in stride, as orders like these are fairly common.Tall cups, glass cups, American style, and my usual order - the Cappuccino, or Cappuccio (pronounced Kapoocho) to the locals. The sounds, smells and preparation of a Cappuccio is an art form and when it arrives, typically before my wives more involved order, I begin the game of stirring it in a way that allows the colors to bleed into each other - prolonging the first sip as long as possible. While Italians wouldn't be caught dead ordering one after 10 am, I would occasionally enjoy one after lunch too - can you blame me??
23 February 2011
22 February 2011
05 February 2011
09 February 2009
It seems fitting to post a new blog entry that deals with time, having taken so much of it off from this blog recently. Of course, a moving has been know to disrupt a thing or two. Hopefully this can mark a fresh start...
While the painting was not done with 'time' in mind, it seems like a fitting way to view it. The obvious reason - Big Ben front and center - is possibly the worlds most famous clock, although I didn't reference it once for time during my trip to London last year. A second time reference is the inclusion of The Eye in the image - who joined the London skyline just a short time ago (in city years). Finally, the colors in the sky can start to suggest time of day - in this case dusk, my favorite time to capture an image. Thanks for coming to the blog - have a nice time!
26 February 2008
Passing through the main piazza at street level, you enter the narrow passageways that form the organic plan of the historic center. The multiple levels that climb the hill along side the grids of olive trees are linked together by a wide stair that follows the jagged outline of the medieval wall. The stair has one of the longest runs in the area, offering multiple access points into the small center as well as views to the west and south.
21 February 2008
21 December 2007
While they lack the character of the cabins they replaced, the fisherman huts that sit along the pier in Fano do offer a rhythmic break to the flat horizon of the Adriatic. I have never actually seen them in action, so to speak, while the giant mast and system of guide wires suggest it may actually drop to the water and sail off one of these days. My thinking is that these sculptures on the horizon can be equated to tree houses, housing the 'fishermen' who head out for some 'fishing' but really just need to get out of the house and play a little briscola with his pals. The only thing missing is a sign saying "No Girls Allowed!"
16 December 2007
* Repost for Illustration Friday - Cultivate 03/19/11
Waking up to a nice surprise - snow - made me appreciate the fact that I had recently painted the image above. The winter months here offer an amazing range of colors in the surrounding hills, as most have been tilled and seeded in November for the following spring. The dark, freshly ground earth gives way to a lighter, sun-dried beige color - although patches of dark tend to remain. The landscape itself becomes a watercolor image, offering a layers of color on the hills in stark contrast with the light blue winter sky. As I write this, the fresh layer of white is fading away to reveal once more the winter palette underneath.
Prints of this image are now available here: http://shdesign.imagekind.com/
11 November 2007
Urbino sits nestled in the hilly interior of northern Le Marche, a Renaissance gem surrounded by medieval hamlets. The town offers a series of hilly passages, flat squares and is home to the incredible Duke's Palace, a true architectural masterpiece. The human scale found within the palace interior and courtyards seem to extend into the town planning to create one of the most remarkable places in Italy. Bring your walking shoes if you do visit - while the scale of the town is very pedestrian, the Italian word "scale" (which means stair) is also a dominant feature and the climbs add an element of adventure to the walks.
11 October 2007
Passing through some of the smaller towns and villages in the area, it sometimes seems that you are visiting a museum or exhibit on how life was several centuries ago. The streets are often bare, the sounds are often faint and hard to track down - the only signs of life are the peeks into the open windows, into the living spaces behind the historic facades. Depending on both the time of day and time of year, the amount of 'open' will vary as far as the multi-layered wall openings are concerned. The Italian shutter has been refined over the centuries to open just enough to accommodate the need for air and light to please any resident, while providing even more interest to the texture of the streetscape.
30 September 2007
I have created an online gallery of prints available for purchase at Imagekind.com! The images are available in a selection of sizes, paper types (I recommend Somerset Velvet), framed or unframed and even on canvas. You can view the gallery HERE or click the link in the sidebar.
29 September 2007
This view of the beach zone called Lido in Fano offers a nice contrast not typically seen at a beach. The brick facades of the row houses that serve as a backdrop to the sea and sand offer a reminder that the historic fabric of the walled center of town has related fragments stretching to the waterfront - historically an important part of Fano's character. The blues of the sea, sky and umbrellas gain strength against the earth tones of the architecture, sand and rolling hills just a few miles inland.
A recent renovation of the central residence in the historic backdrop has brought 'the blues' to several neighbors, who have taken legal action - extending the misery to the homeowners for choosing yet another shade of blue for their facade. I am a supporter of expressing your creativity in most cases, but this seems to lack any relevance - historically or artistically - perhaps an idea that just came out of the blue!
12 September 2007
With so many small villages tucked in the surrounding hills, it is easy to miss certain elements of the small town we live in. Each day I walk a similar route to drop off my daughter at daycare and stop in for a cafe macchiato downtown, usually as fast as possible in order to get back to the pile of paper on my desk. With my trekking companion now entering her "what's that?" stage, the walks have become more of a journey of discovery. I like to think that I am somewhat observant of my surroundings and can generally see the beauty in the most banal of environments, but these walks have taken this to a new level. The simple act of crossing the old tracks, that once offered commuter service from Fano to Urbino, has turned into stories of history and nature - reminding me of my excursions during my childhood along the abandoned tracks near my home. It was during these walks that I really began to look at this house that sits along the Main Street in town - which is also the Roman road Via Flaminia. The house seems to be one the town elders and has a character that can only come with years of weathering and lack of attention - although it has recently caught my eye.
03 August 2007
Sales have been pretty good for June, lets hope they continue for August. Here are some of the paintings that have been sold during the 'Fano at Night' program. Planning a visit to Fano? I am displaying along Corso Matteotti adjacent to Piazza Amiani - see you there!
Yesterday was the annual 'painter for a day' contest in Fano - where competitors pick up a sheet of watercolor paper or a canvas at 9:00 am and return at 5:00 pm with a finished painting depicting Fano's coastline of historic center. After a dinner break and jury review, the award ceremony is held and this year my watercolor of the main piazza took top prize! Yahoo!
26 July 2007
This past weekend Fano hosted its annual festival called Fano dei Cesari, a celebration of its Roman roots. The 4 day festival reaches its high point on the final day when the 6 zones of Fano take part in a chariot race. It is amazing to see how a town can be transformed to host an event such as this, an event similar to the famous Palio di Siena. Lawyers, bankers, doctors and even the mayor dig deep into their wardrobes for the festival and dust off the toga or gladiator gear tucked deep inside adding some authenticity to the reenactment - although the true authenticity is the nearly 2000 year old Arch of Augustus acting as the primary backdrop for the event.
07 July 2007
The historic center of Fano began its 2 month stretch of extending the hours of operation of most of the historic center shops and cafes until 11 pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. July and August are the high tourism months and the center is full of energy. As part of the street activity, local artisans are invited to display their work/products along the main route through town. I am taking part this year, displaying some of my watercolors (for the first time) and have just completed the first week of the 8-week stretch. I picked a spot near some veterans of the art fair world to try to pick up some pointers on display tactics and lighting. While the aim is to sell some work, I really enjoy the people watching and Fano is an ideal place for after-dinner walks through the center.
02 July 2007
Stopping by my father-in-law's house over the weekend he had pointed out that the grapes are about a month ahead of schedule this year and should be ready for snacking on in about two weeks. The vine itself, however, caught my attention more than the news of the shifting schedule for maturation - the wild trunk twisting and shifting its way up to the support bars suggesting the trunk itself has little strength and has been deformed by gravity over time. Many summer meals have been shared beneath the foliage, with dessert an arms length away. Driving back through the rolling hills just a few minutes away, the rigid lines of vines seen in the distance, being cultivated for local wine makers, offer a stark contrast to the vines themselves once seen up close.
28 June 2007
Having returned from 2 weeks in the US, back to the 90 degree weather here in Italy, I have finally had a chance to put some images together from the trip. This was a rather busy trip, with time spent in Boston, Cape Cod and Philadelphia.
The major part of the first week was down in the Chestnut Hill area of Philadelphia for my sisters wedding. The section of Philly is beautiful and seems very livable for being so close to a major city. The area has a strong architectural character and a nice balance of green space. The wedding took place at the Valley Green Inn, which sits along an old access road, now a jogging/walking/bike path that seems to be the spot for the locals to fish, exercise and spy a wedding or two each weekend. Near the inn is a beautifully preserved covered bridge that offers a nice contrast with its barn red siding cutting through the green backdrop.
Passing through Boston on the way to Cape Cod allowed for a quick visit to the new ICA museum along the waterfront in the ever-changing Fort Point Channel district. The design is a nice addition to the city and the waterfront - although until the surrounding area is completed it looks a little strange from the land side.
Cape Cod is always nice, especially with Matilde in tow. Seeing her play in the tide pools was a special treat.
One strange thing was that this trip seemed to have an odd theme. Everywhere we went, there seemed to be turtles involved. On our second day back, one strolled into the scene of our cookout to entertain the kids, the bed and breakfast in Philly had several for lawn ornaments and when we arrived at the Cape there was one hanging out in the yard. If turtles symbolize determination, this seemed to be a fitting theme for such a busy 15 days.
07 June 2007
During a visit to Cartoceto over the weekend to enjoy their vincisgrassi (lasagna) festival, I noticed the pathway to the church that I keep passing when I visit - but have never painted. The late afternoon light fighting through the arriving storm clouds brought out the highlights in the trees forming the pathway. Under normal circumstances, I would have found a nice location to sit and draw, but with the idea of them running out of the main ingredient of the evening while I was off doodling made me reconsider. Luckily I had my camera!