August 7th, 2010

Walking on Art in Portugal

While pouring back over honeymoon photos to create a slideshow for our wedding reception (yes, I know, VERY backwards!) I came back across my lovely Portuguese pavement pictures, and thought they would be nice to share…Calcada Portuguesa is the art of combining small chiseled and polished pieces of white limestone and black basalt to create beautiful mosaic patterns on wide sidewalks and in stately piazzas. It began in Lisbon in 1849 with a wave design in Rossio Square (4th picture shown below) and soon spread throughout the other major cities of Portugal and even to the colonies. There are literally MILES of this amazing, hand crafted treatment throughout Portugal, and I wish I had shot photos of every one.  Here are but a few…






As you might imagine, this is a painstaking process and a dying art form, but just one of the many delightful things about this small and special country.

May 7th, 2007

Scratching the Surface

Sgraffito is a decorative technique that involves layering contrasting colors of lime plaster. While still wet, the design is scratched into the top layer of the lighter colored plaster and then the negative spaces of the design are removed to reveal the darker layer underneath. You can imagine the time and skill involved in managing this type of artform, particularly as it was accomplished across the entire facade of a building. There are still buildings in Florence that bear this beautiful and intricate artform, dating as far back as the 15th century. It was at that time that many fanciful frescoed examples from ancient Rome were found, now buried in underground cavelike rooms (‘grottoes’) after thousands of years of development. The discovery of these stuccowork motifs of flora, fauna and monstrous figures inspired many decorative artists at the time, who began incorporating these motifs into their work on a large scale and referred to them as ‘grotesques”.


The 16th century artist who is credited with the invention of the grotesque compositions in black and white sgraffito is Andrea di Cosimo Feltrini, who directed a flourishing workshop that specialized in the decoration of furniture, textiles, coats of arms, interiors and was particularly renowned for its scraffito facade grotesques. I snapped the photo above on a street in Oltrarno, but there is a lovely book available on the subject, The Painted Facades of Florence, that is filled with the history and motifs of this classic Florentine artform.


I particularly enjoy the photo shown just above as you can clearly see where the artist either forgot or ran out of time or daylight to carve out the final small details of the egg and dart molding. We will be attempting to create a faux sgraffito finish in the bathrooms at Alison’s studio. By that I mean that we will create the look not by using a removal technique, but rather applying the plaster in layers using stencils and Modellos. The silvery-black and white coloration should look really handsome with the blue tile already on the walls!

March 7th, 2007

Visiting Livias Villa

Absolutely one of the many wonders of the decorative painting world, and should be be on anyone’s “must see!” list anytime you have the fortune to get to Rome is the National Museum of Rome. It’s completely confusing when you read about it in the guidebooks as it is actually housed in three different locations. My friend and I went to all three before we found the Holy Grail at the Palazzo Massimo location across from Termini Station.  Amazing mosaics and the beautiful frescoes from the Domus Livia, Domus Farnesina and the Villa of Nero at Nettuna.


I had lost my camera by the time I arrived in Rome last year, but I found some other nice people’s photos on Flickr. I’ll be travelling with my son to Rome and Florence Italy in a few weeks and I CAN’T WAIT to see these again in person!!!

January 31st, 2007

Oh, the Wonders

I’m sure you’ve heard that someone is running a contest for people to vote online for the new and improved, updated 7 Wonders of The World, (since man and time and destroyed all but one of the originals), and that Egypt is really, REALLY PO’d that they are asking people to vote if the Pyramids of Giza still deserve a spot. As if!!! OK this has nothing to do with that (interesting to take a look at the site though because these places are all pretty marvelous and worth learning more about) BUT it did start me to thinking….

What would the wonders of the decorative painting/surfaces world be? Of course there would have to be more than 7. Hundreds, thousands, maybe jillions. Just in Italy alone. I think that the last thing that I created in my studio that I really, really love is a wonder, SO, I’ve narrowed down my criteria-loosely. If some one offered you a trip around the world to see all of the most inspiring sites and buildings that feature surface decoration, where would you go? These sites must be visitable, or someone needs to have some really good pictures! This is the ultimate artist’s road trip.


The other thing that got me going on this was looking up information on the Caves of Lascaux, as I was referencing that as one of the first possible examples of stenciled art that we have in something I was writing. SOOO the Palaeolithic art at the caves of Lascoux, France is the beginning of the list. Discovered in 1940 by 4 teenage boys, it was actually open for tours until 1963, when they had to stop because the carbon dioxide produced from all that talking and breathing was destroying the caves. They have reproduced the two most significant spaces, the Painted Gallery and the Great Hall of the Bulls, EXACTLY as they really are. A “Faux” cave. Very appropriate, and in such a beatiful area of France.

I have already thought of many other sites that I want to list, and want to go, of course. I can certainly use some help though. If you have ideas, please email me at . Photos greatly appreciated!