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2017-08-08 17:18

A Week in Tuscany 

With the Lark Gallery’s Art Lab Residency for Professional Arts

Academia Luciania, Civitella d'Agliano, Italy

By Frederika B. Roeder

Italy, Civitella D'Agliano, LarkGalleryIt is difficult to imagine a more glorious opportunity than to be invited to paint for nearly two weeks in the medieval countryside of Viterbo, Italy.  So, when I was juried into the Academia Luciania Art Lab Residency for Professional Arts by the Lark Gallery in August of 2016, my heart soared.  I looked forward with enormous anticipation to the experience - both to revel in the ancient and majestic beauty of of Alto Lazio region, and to work alongside fellow artists from around the world in an environment rich with creative history and vision. 

The weeks following my notice of acceptance flew by in a flurry of activity and anticipation.  Finally departure day arrived.  I flew from Los Angeles to Rome, which is about 50 miles southeast of Civitella d'Agliano. Ultimately we would be joined by another dozen or so artists from the United States, Germany, Italy, Romania, and elsewhere - some taking part in the Residency program.  

Upon arrival, our group of Los Angeles  artists was greeted by the wonderful Sergio Bardani and Christian Hamsea from Academia Luciania.  Sergio and Christian helped with all of our luggage, playing tag-team with a cool Mercedes van and a miniature vintage Italian open-air lorry, in order to get through what turned out to be a very narrow medieval arch onto the piazza of old Civitella d'Agliano.

It was evening when we arrived, and the ancient cobblestones of the piazza, ramparts and looming tower that watches over Civitella and the surrounding Tiber Valley were all romantically lit.  An Italian barbeque greeted us with clarinet music floating into the night.  As we were the guests of honor, it was a privilege to dine alfresco in the warm summer evening, joined by the local citizenry.  With Sergio as our host, we dined, enjoyed the local wine and got to know one another.

Tired, but happy after the flight from LAX to Rome, we awoke to a walking tour of the medieval village, which is much like a citadel.  We absorbed the narrow passages, old doors and gates, hand-hewn plaster, cobblestones, and overhanging tile roofs - encouraged to take no pictures during this initial walk, in order to develop a visual relationship and affinity in the heart and mind, and a more direct assimilation of the village - without any mechanical intervention. We would return later to photograph. 

The residency program takes place in the medieval castle of Civitella, and our sleeping quarters were just a short walk to the studio, itself once a palace room...its shuttered windows looking down on the original ramparts and piazza. 

After becoming comfortable with our studio, we celebrated again that evening…this time in a local restaurant.  Long picnic tables were arranged alfresco with the tunes of crickets, and a treetop view of the surrounding valley and Calanchi to entertain us. (The Calanchi are clay hills, and are similar to the Badlands in Wyoming. They are very popular with bikers, hikers and naturalists). 

Needless to say, the many courses we had were all about seasonal, homemade ingredients, local wines and cheeses. Our chefs outdid themselves on our behalf and received kudos and cries of “delicioso” from everyone.

The following morning studio work commenced in earnest.  The goal: create two piece of work while there, with one left behind to become part of the Public Collection of Civitella D'Agliano. The pressure mounts!

Inspired by the hand-hewn medieval walls, roofs, doors,windows, beautiful tile floors, ramparts, and tower, I found myself challenged by what to paint in the limited amount of time I had, so I just needed to trust my intuition and paint what spoke to me the most: the magnificent tower and the wonderful, many-hued residential structures.

I set to work with a daily ritual. Morning: an invigoratingly short walk to the local "Bar" where the best cappuccino in the world is served along with had made pastries like Nuovo.  Thus fortified, and enjoying the sound of Italian morning talk, watching the Vespas, the cats and dogs,  I would return to the studio to paint through the afternoon. Later, a group of us might head out to local markets for some homemade salamis, cheeses, lots of pasta, sauces, and vegetables and try some of our own Italian dishes in the kitchen.  The ritual of morning cappuccino, trips to the local markets, and attempts our own Italian cuisine, allowed us to mingle and feel literally at home in this beautiful place.

Daily work in the studio was balanced with side-trips into the local environs, designed to rejuvenate our creativity and provide a respite from daily life. During one luxurious trip to Tarquinia (Tuscany), as far as the Mediterranean Sea, we visited the famous archeological sites of the Etruscan tombs dating VII to VI BC.  We lunched at what is considered to be one of the best seafood restaurants along the Mediterranean. 

That afternoon, we stopped at Niki de St. Phalles’ sculpture garden (the Tarot Garden), an absolutely delightful must-see.

I had actually seen her sculpture in the New York studio, so this was a fabulous treat as an artist.

On another day, we visited La Serpara, another sculpture garden near Civitella d’Agliano with welds, outdoor installations, along a stream, meadow, and  walnut grove.

As the second week came to a close, we looked forward to dinner on the now open-air palace floor with the ramparts acting as walls and the tower looming above - and a spectacular 360 degree view of the surrounding valley with the Tiber in the distance. We celebrated our Residency  with a Gallery exhibit in the upper studio where we were all able to share our  completed work and present the one we would contribute to the Public Works, as we were given a Certificate for the Residency.

Enjoying the night before departure, with new friends from around the globe, we enjoyed our last evening in Umbria, driving through a dramatic summer thunderstorm. It was bittersweet to say goodbye. 

Circles of friendship expanded, as well as a circle of artists; we cherished the shared studio experience in Residency in Civitella d’Agliano.  A heartfelt “Thank You!”  to Sergio Bardani and Christian Hamsea for making this dream come true and sharing so much of Italy with all of us.

Yours, Frederika Roeder.

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2017-09-16 23:07

Brilliant Career Advice by a fresh Art Student, Tatiana Savchenko, Immigrant from Russia


by Galina Kovshilovsky


Q1: What’s been your most rewarding moment as art student? Your most challenging?  

Tatiana: It is very useful to be in the creative environment. It can be art students or artists society. They are just like you who are hungry for experiments, discovery, and creativity. This is a beneficial and nutritious environment. You see different styles, drawing techniques, you see how people create what they do, why they do, talk, ask, share your ideas and experiences. Another rewarded moment it is professors. I had the wonderful CSUN professors. One of them is Samantha Fields, who is a professional artist and a very generous person. She graduated from a private university, majored in art and art history. She is a storehouse of knowledge. She moved me forward and shaped me as contemporary artist. Another useful thing, there is summer art program for students for CSU system. I participated in the CSUMB. It was in Monterey Bay. We had 6 professional artists and a delegation of students from the Italian Academy of Arts. Every day we had feedback from professionals, round tables, exchange of experience, and painted 8 hours per day.

Challenge was difficult to read hundreds of pages on the history of art in English and write research papers, since English is my non-native language. However, it helped me to significantly advance my English and understanding the history of art, how everything started and where different ideas and trends came from.


Q2: What do you do to engage your audience?

Tatiana: I have several channels of social media: FB, Instagram, YouTube, etc., where I share my work with my friends and publish my work. Also, university connections work just as well. I often go to galleries, museums, to open exhibitions and get to know people. In May 2017 I won the international contest among international abstract artists on the Artslant site. Now they are advertising and selling my work through Amazon.

Q3: What are some of your productivity hacks or ways that you manage your time?

Tatiana: I need time to accumulate material, to comprehend what I'm doing, to understand the color scheme, to see something beautiful and then I can draw several pictures at once. Be sure to be in a harmonious state. I checked many times, if it is tense, something does not work.

And sometimes I like to stand on the beach and see what the life of the river brings to me. I look at the FB pages, news channels and watch what attracts my attention. I pay more attention to the visual series.

I also like to watch the work of other artists. I noticed that those artists and works that attracted me they have something relative my style. And it's like a puzzle. The same time, it's another way to find yourself and your path, because it's very important to understand what was created before you. Then, you can develop some direction or say your word in art, but before you have to be in the topic of the contemporary conversation

Q4: Any advice for new art students?

Tatiana: My advice is listen carefully to your teachers and perform all that they say. It can be small, obvious things, like walking every week to a museum or a gallery, drawing every day, but they have a huge effect if you start doing it. And you'll never understand why they advise you this, if you do not do it. For those who masters the art independently, you can read interviews with artists, go public conversations with them, ask questions and follow their advices.

Q5: Where do you like create the most?

Tatiana: Interestingly, ideas always come and go. I like to do walking tours in the morning, to notice the beautiful usual things around me. For example, a fallen leaf with beautiful coloring, a spilled paint on the asphalt, a bicycle on the fence. I take a photo, then I look and comprehend what attracted my attention. I do not yet have my own studio, so I feel equally good at drawing houses or studios with other artists. Although, I should be noted that in the studio we have more working atmosphere.

Q6: What is next?

Tatiana: The next stage is to make a series of new paintings every year, show them to the world, conduct a dialogue with people and the art community. I plane exhibited in Los Angeles in other cities of America, then or at the same time to enter European galleries, Asia and the Middle East. I will plane publish my work in magazines, read lectures at different universities around the world. One more idea is to help young artists find their own style. It will be interesting to teach adults and children to abstract art. I want to talking with people through my paintings about what is happening in the world, how we change and grow, as individuals, bring beauty through art to every home. After all, artists are little wizards, they simultaneously feel the past, the present, and the future subtly. Therefore, they can create new future and models more harmoniously in their paintings.

Q6: What was your first art piece?

Tatiana: Although I seriously began to work as an artist in adulthood, I had a craving for art since my childhood. I had a carpet with a picture of Shishkin's painting "In the Forest", on which there are three bears. Then, I loved to look at the walls before falling to sleep and in the cracks my imagination kept drawing me fanciful pictures all the time. At school in drawing lessons, I could not draw well, and my mother helped me to gently shade my work, because the teacher required accuracy, but I all the time created expressive drawings. I drew my own home and the portraits in the pencil were very similar. Then, in my senior classes, there was an attempt to go to an art school. At school, the paper that was given out for drawing was substandard, the watercolor flowed and washed the whole picture. The second attempt was in adulthood and it also failed. I did not like drawing pencils for three hours with cubes and prisms. And much later in a private lesson, one artist drew attention to how I feel the color well. And then I realized that I need to work in color, then I went to oil and acrylic. And here in America, my college teacher helped me notice that I'm strong in abstract art. And the first abstract picture I made, I keep, like the base, as the starting point of my art.

Q7: Are you happy? What makes you joyful and passionate to art?

Tatiana: Drawing for me is always a joy. You create a new and it's beautiful, interesting. You always get joy, because you show others, discuss with them their work, make others happy. Once I dreamed, draw at least one picture for my house. And now my whole house is hung in my paintings. It's just wonderful. Sometimes I outweigh the pictures, create different combinations and exhibitions. When I come to my friend’s houses and my paintings in their homes, this makes me happy twice, because you help to make someone's life happier.


...till next time