Deciding What to Paint

The last several weeks I’ve been printing out pictures of Italy like crazy, blowing some up to catch all details, while others just printing to decide if I really do want to paint them. Some things I just have to paint as soon as I see them, of course the pictures don’t always capture what I see. That’s when Photoshop jumps to the rescue. Then I can add the contrast, or light that my eye saw. Sometimes though, I have no idea what I thought was so exciting about a scene. Other times, my camera catches something I didn’t. That happened more than once with the pictures I took in Rome, on the rainy day we spent walking from the Villa Borghese, to the Piazza Popolo, to the Trevi Fountain, and to the Piazza Navona (which by then it was dark and we were too tired to see and the Bernini fountain was covered for repairs anyway).  I guess it’s good we threw our coins in the Trevi so we have to go back.

Trying to capture everything you see with the camera is difficult. Setting up a nice picture isn’t so hard, but capturing the place is, especially if you want to paint it later and recreate the atmosphere of the day. So the things I wanted to get were the buildings, not just the landmarks but the character of the whole architecture of the area, old and colorful and decorative. The sky, which had some great stormy clouds and some nice bits of light where the sun was trying to peek through was also an important part as well as the reflections in the puddles. Then there were the people. The umbrellas were one thing, what is it about paintings of city streets filled with umbrellas that is so appealing? But these umbrellas were of all different colors and patterns which made the dreariness of the day brighter. There were people who looked like they were on their way to a meeting, others shopping and then there were couples lending romance to the scene. So in spite of the weather, this was a lively place, full of activity of all sorts. And clearly, more than any snapshot can show.

The Piazza del Popolo, or “People’s Square” was designed much the way St. Peter’s Square was, as two semi-circles. The churches, Santa Maria in Montesanto (built 1662-75) and Santa Maria dei Miracoli( built 1675-79) stand on ether side of two of the three roads which converge at the square. That view, of the two identical churches while impressive and very beautiful, but it wasn’t what I wanted to paint. It was when I saw the couple sharing a red umbrella in front of the church on the left that I saw a painting. Capturing that picture, without seeming like I was taking a picture of that couple (which I was) was tricky. So, ever so inconspicuously I got them, the church, and a bit of the sky.  The bonus things my camera got were the couple coming along to my right, and all the other folks attending to their business.

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