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By Constance Grayson
The setting was tranquil for a marvelously rewarding art retreat in Italy. The light in the Umbria region of Italy has excited artists for centuries. The distant snow-capped mountains were gorgeous. Most important of all, the energy being created within the studio was radioactive. Artists from different geographic homes, worked in different media, reacted differently to the serenity of the setting-the energy created was palpable. Brenda from Arkansas was working mainly in acrylic and collage. Phyllis from Tennessee was working with monoprints. I from Kentucky was experimenting with various mediums and scribbling furiously in a journal in a stream-of-consciousness attempt to create a written record of what she was seeing and feeling.
As the week-long retreat continued, the fellowship increased. Each artist began to teach the other. Unused art supplies were given their virgin trip across the paper or canvas. The time raced furiously by, yet was unusually slow. The agenda was flexible and informal. This art retreat could not have been easier for the artists. They needed only to arrive at the Rome airport on the Friday morning of their session-paintbrushes in hand. The other art supplies were already on hand in the studio. The inspiration was amply provided by the scenery that was breathtakingly all around.
The group made collective decisions as to scheduling. Some days, the artists painted all day-taking only a break for lunch served al fresco, weather permitting. The lunch was simple, true to the beauty of the Italian cuisine. Meats, salads, vegetables, fruits, sweets, and coffee. The artists could either eat collectively or when their creative muse needed the break. In the late afternoons, when the Italian light is still good, easels and paintbrushes were put away and the group went exploring.
One day, we drove to Gubbio, a charming medieval hill town with Roman amphitheater ruins, a museum with the tablets bearing the earliest known written form of the Umbrian language, shops of leather bookbinders and ceramists, and a great restaurant called "Il Picchio Verde"-the Green Woodpecker. There we ate dinner and what may well be the best lasagna on the planet.
Another day found us on the road to Montone-an exquisite hill town virtually untouched by time. We set up field easels and painted plein air, sketched, photographed and simply enjoyed a gelato or glass of wine. The group opted to give up painting for a day long trip to Cortona, the city made famous in "Under the Tuscan Sun" or to Assisi, the birthplace of Saint Francis, patron saint of Italy. Often we returned from these day trips to paint in the studio late into the night, emerging from the studio when the black Umbrian sky was alight with the diamond-like stars. The absence of ambient light in the area made the stars ever so more brilliant than usual and it seemed as if you could literally "catch a falling star and put it in your pocket".
To learn about other experiences at our art retreats, vi us at http://www.experiencemyitaly.com.
Constance G. Grayson
Experience My Italy, Inc.
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