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"The Terrace of the Infinite,"  which perhaps I
could subtitle "A self-portrait," was painted in
pastel, based on quick sketches that I made while
visiting one of Ravello's villas in Amalfi recently.
The image on the left shows the underpainting
phase of the final pastel, early on.
In this overlook in Ravello, I was particularly
taken by the busts of noble or heroic figures along
the promenade -- and by the poetic solitude of the
place. But this painting is very much an evocation
of space and infinity -- as the terrace's name
implies. And so, even in spite of its dreamy, poetic
nature, it falls into a general preoccupation of mine
these days with memory, time, and space, and of
how to represent these.
This painting, then, reflects some personal meditations (for example, in the vast emptiness
of the sea, or in the particular poses and attitudes of the statues). But the final image came
as well from the initial, quick travel scribbles I did on site and from the more meditative
layerings of color -- done in my Rome studio -- meticulously and, yes, ever so slowly.
In fact,
for me painting is in essence a color drawing, and truly successful color layering follows
patterns and laws about space and  time, just as line drawings do.
This is why I devote much of my time in Rome to line drawing of the kind illustrated below.
The studies on this page, conducted on site during my drawing lessons in the center of
Rome, were executed in Francesco Borromini's church of Sant Ivo alla Sapienza, not only a
challenging exercise in geometries and perspective but also an opportunity to see how the
rationality and right ordering of the arches and parallels in this facade produce what one
may also call the gracefulness of its design. It is my hope to gradually understand
gracefulness of line and of color as two sides of the same thing.
In my drawing classes here in Rome, I find myself implementing more and more the
sorts of lessons that are taught to the freshmen, especially, at the University of Miami
School of Architecture, where I taught freehand and mechanical drawing for about 10
years. These lessons were invaluable to me!
As I tell my Roman students now, one must draw to UNDERSTAND, and the best
drawings consist of lines drawn with intention and understanding, and not simply
because they "look good."
While issues of right proportion and
perspective are important in the process of
drawing a subject like Sant Ivo, I find that
AXONOMETRIC analysis is one of the most
helpful means of understanding a
3-dimensional form in space. Axonometry
involves the mental "setting up" of a form or
subject on the X-Y-and-Z coordinates in
order to make sense of the form and how it is
built -- of how its volume fits together.
At the same time, a slow and deliberate
axonometric approach to drawing can and
should emphasize the importance of line
weights and their ability or duty, almost, to
describe the weights and positions of the
various surfaces of a volume to each other
and to the viewer.
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