Saturday, January 7, 2017

Old art from Roma 1971

In 1971 I lived with my parents at the American Academy in Rome, a venerable institution founded in the 1890s as a haven for American artists in the Eternal City. My father was Composer in Residence and presided over many concerts, playing the piano. I was on a "gap year" between high school and college and had lots of self-directed educational work to do, such as reading Roman epic poet Vergil in Latin. I also had not only colored pencils, but a set of colored inks and metal pen points. I had been doing illustrations using these inks for a while, since the late 60s. Instead of precise watercolor brushwork I did a pen-hatching style dipping my carefully cleaned pen into colored inks. 

The image above was done with the colored inks sometime during my stay in Rome in 1971. I favored the surrealistic style which was in vogue in the late 60s early 70s. I can still identify some of the figures I used. To the left is a female action figure who is either Marvel's "Black Widow" (who already existed at that time) or an Italian imitation of her with blonde hair. The panel to the right has a portrait of actor John Gielgud, all done in ink scratching. This was for practice doing faces. I had a photo to work from which is now long-lost. Around Gielgud's face are the Sumerian gods "Ea" (green scales) and "Anu" (at top, red and yellow with black beard). There are costumed heads and a large hand holding a box of cigarettes marked "Reality" out of which pops a headless female torso with winglets. If you go to a Roman antiquities museum you will see dozens of these headless statues. Rome was prime territory for imaginative "pagans" and surrealistic teenagers.

I did several of these colored ink drawings including one of a monastery garden next door, and stopped doing them when I realized that the inks were very fade-able and I wouldn't be able to save the colors. I "graduated" to watercolor which I continue to use to the present day.

Black and colored inks on thick paper, about 12" x 9", 1971. It's a poor photograph, worked in Photoshop as much as I could. The original of this is long gone though the monastery garden drawing has survived.

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