Florence, Italy 1981-2

In my most recent post, I shared some sketches that I’d done in Cinqueterre, the famous five villages on the west coast of Italy. While in Florence for an academic year, I drew and painted outdoors as much as possible. As a fifth year student, I wasn’t compelled to attend studio classes and I enjoyed my independence, learning a lot about the city and environs as I wandered around with my kit.

It rained from time to time. It was winter, after all. The first time it rained, I reluctantly headed for the Uffizi. I loved to visit the Uffizi to appreciate the Masters but I really wanted to draw so I found a room with a bench and some paintings that interested me and got out my sketchbook. I selected one or two figures from the painting and started with pencil. It didn’t take long for me to realize how much I was learning from the experience. I was hooked.

Florence Sketch 1 by Barry Coombs

You’re probably noticing that this sketch was developed with pen and ink. As I mentioned, I began the drawing with pencil but when my ‘planning’ lines were completed, I looked around carefully and reached into my bag. I brought out my bottle of Sepia ink and a nib holder. I fitted a nib to the holder, made sure I had paper towel in the event of a disaster, and started to cross-hatch.

Florence Sketch 2 by Barry Coombs

I got away with it for months before a friendly guard quietly informed me that his supervisor didn’t want to see my ink bottle again. His solution? Don’t let him see it! I love Italy. I continued to draw with my ink bottle poorly concealed in a bag but, eventually, my luck ran out. It was pencil only from then on. Pens were allowed but decent quality sketching pens weren’t readily available back then.

Studying the Masters through drawing was a tremendously rewarding experience. My first choice was to work from figures in paintings but I also drew from sculptures and studied objects from museum collections such as musical instruments.

The next one is a sketch from a sculpture. I was emboldened by all the drawing I’d been doing and skipped the pencil stage, going straight to the ink.

Florence Sketch 3 by Barry Coombs

Some of you readers are planning for our trip to Lucca next week. Don’t forget to pack a compact sketching kit! A rainy day in a museum may turn into a very positive learning experience.


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5 Responses to “Florence, Italy 1981-2”

  1. William Brisland Says:

    Have a great trip to Lucca. I look forward to seeing your critiques on your blog as the trip progresses

  2. Joan Wolfe Says:

    Always enjoy your emails. Interesting, inspiring, and instructional. Have a fantastic trip. Looking forward to reading about it.

  3. Dottie Says:

    I think I may have said this already, but I love seeing your sketches from back in the day! Love the stories too. I can really “see” you there as a young man! Your ink story reminds me of the time I took 3rd graders to the old one-room schoolhouse at Greenfield Village. We were allowed to use quill pens (made by the students themselves) and ink pots. We had a lovely day playing school. When packing up to leave, we found that the ink had leaked through the desk coverings on several desks, and we could clearly read the lessons the students had been practicing. Oops.

  4. Carol King Says:

    Wow, your work in Florence was fantastic and I can’t wait to see upcoming work from your trip. I always learn from your blog posts. Thanks, Barry

  5. Lois Says:

    Thanks for sharing, your sketches, very nice.
    Enjoy your trip,, look forward to seeing more, since I’ll never get
    to Italy!, so appreciate what I see, from an Artist view..

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