After months of anticipation, the moment of departure finally arrived—I was jetting to Italy with the purpose of diving into its culture and drawing in my sketchbooks. During the long flight, arcing over Iceland toward Zurich and Rome, I pondered Robert Henri’s advice in his book The Art Spirit:
“The sketch hunter has delightful days of drifting about among people, in and out of the city, going anywhere, everywhere, stopping as long as he likes—no need to reach any point, moving in any direction following the call of interests. He moves through life as he finds it, not passing negligently the things he loves, but stopping to know them, and to note them down in the shorthand of his sketchbook.”
That would be me; a sketch hunter for a month-long adventure in Italy.
Sketching Anywhere, Everywhere
I didn’t know what to expect. People told me I’d love traveling in Italy—the food, the wine, the spectacular sights. But as a sketch hunter, how would I know what to draw in these daunting historical locations? Where would I start? How would my drawing skills prevail while navigating the birthplace of Western drawing?
Artist Robert Henri’s advice for sketching in public is to trust your drawing instincts and have fun making mistakes. “Like any hunter he hits or misses. He is looking for what he loves, he tries to capture it. It’s found anywhere, everywhere. Those who are not hunters do not see these things. The hunter is learning to see and to understand—to enjoy.”
When In Rome…Draw!
Adjusting to the frenetic pace of Rome took a day or two. But I was able to stray off the tourist-beaten path to discover sanctuaries of pure sketching bliss.
From Urban Rooftops to Rural Hilltops
A pleasant bus ride through the Italian countryside transported us back to a place in time when bell towers and fortress walls overlooked lush farm valleys. Ripatransone, in the Le Marche region, is an ancient town where you can imagine strolling with sketchbook in hand, chatting about drawing techniques with Michelangelo’s biographer, Ascanio Condivi (who was born there).
Bob and Gina are friends who have a wonderful vineyard in Ripatransone called Tutto Doppio (translates to Everything Twice). The moment we exchanged greetings began a cherished adventure in harvesting grapes and drawing to my heart’s content.
Hunting for Composition
Searching for scenes that push my skills and train my eye are my fancy. Ripatransone offered up all sorts of new puzzles to solve—linear and atmospheric perspective, textures, colors, lighting. As I composed pages of sketches of this town, I established sketching strategies that would serve me well at future destinations on the trip.
As our stay in Ripatransone drew to a close, we started mapping our itinerary for Venice, Florence, and Siena. The rich cultural experiences and graciousness of our hosts in Ripatransone better prepared us for the journey ahead.
As I board the train to Northern Italy, I continue to be the sketch hunter, searching for an alluring subject and trying to capture it. Robert Henri’s words echo in the railway tunnels, “It’s found anywhere, everywhere.”
Special thanks to Rhonda for taking pics and being the force that held this trip together.