Monday, 31 October 2011

Back to school

The summer sun setting at 9.30pm seems a distant dream with the end of daylight savings this weekend. Tonight darkness had fully settled before 6pm. Winter is coming. I knew the seasons were changing when I walked into a department store a few weeks back and came across a whole section devoted to fashion gum boots. I heard that November can be wet, but... ok, clearly they're serious. I went straight home and ordered myself a 'bicycle raincoat' online. It's like a huge poncho with a visor-ed hood with clear panels to the sides for rain-free vision and ample skirtage to cover everything except the hands. Now I can't wait for it to rain so I can try it out. I'm sure the novelty will wear thin rather quickly but it's good to know I'll be able get to school by bike fairly dryly during November.

Other signs of winter are the vast array of coats and woolly accessories now available in the clothing stores and the sudden appearance of street vendors selling roasted chestnuts. I really must try them one of these days. The Boboli Gardens seem to close earlier each week and the town heating has been switched on. This is something I've only just learned about. Many buildings are connected to this government controlled system of heating so that one has to rely completely on the powers-that-be as to whether one is warm or not. We have this at school and it normally goes on at the beginning of November but thankfully it came on last week as we were painting with frozen fingers the week before. Unfortunately the colder weather hasn't made much of a dent in the tourist population although it seems they are sleeping in a bit later as I have a free run to school over the Ponte Vecchio and past the Duomo each day. Getting home is another matter entirely and requires great dodging skills akin to some kind of video game. Tourists do not walk in straight lines, make random movements, stop and start at random and don't watch where they are going ever. Why would they, there are too many interesting things to look at. I sometimes wonder how many snapshots I'm in worldwide zooming past cameras just as they go 'click'.

The lurgy has been making the rounds with the change of weather so I've had a few days in bed the past week but seem to be on the mend now. The cool is a bit of a shock to the system but although the mornings are cold (around 10 degrees), when the sun is shining the afternoons are glorious. After this summer just past I'm officially no longer a summer person, I'm now an autumn/spring person. I'd prefer to be slightly cold even than melting into a summer puddle. Maybe I'm maturing. I celebrated my birthday at the beginning of the month thanks to some lovely friends to help me do so. We went out for an aperitivo during the week at a bar in town called Kitsch where you pay 8 euro for a drink of your choice and a buffet dinner. We also had a picnic at the big park just out of town on my birthday day with some close friends... Unfortunately when I updated the software on my phone I lost all the photos I'd taken in the last month so I have no photographic evidence and hardly any photos to upload for this update. Not happy Jan!

The Russian Academy is very different from Angel and much more challenging in every way. We are learning to understand form and not just copy what we see. For me this is much harder but more exciting. We've also been thrown into the deep end with painting straight away, unlike Angel where the students draw for a whole year before picking up a brush. We paint all day on Mondays, paint in the mornings and draw in the afternoons Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday we have composition all day. We have to come up with 3 of our own designs out of our imaginations... the first, anything out of the bible, the second on the theme of 'waiting', the third is completely free. We do small sketches and work with the teachers to develop our ideas, then later find reference photos or objects to help us to paint it. We have to have something we want to communicate and use design and form and colour to do so. Not easy but something I'm very glad to be developing. We finished our first still life last week:

The school has a positive atmosphere and I love my class of 8. We are all ages (from 20 to 69) and from all different countries; Germany, France, Switzerland, Spain, Chile, America, UK and Australia. All the teachers and staff are Christians which I didn't know until the first day of school. Two of the girls in my class are also Christians so we have started a small bible study at my house with a couple of other girls we know. I haven't been part of a bible study since I've been here as the one at my church is in Italian and starts too late at night for me. I'm amazed by God's grace in all the changes that have happened and how much better this school suits me.

My Italian has fallen by the wayside because I've been BUSY and also realised that I've come here to draw and paint so that has to take priority. Ah well, I get by ok in the street so it has to do for now. It's recently come to my attention that the Italians aren't big on mash potato and I only know this because I've been on the hunt for a potato masher (to mash my winter soups mainly). Interesting... I will continue my search and keep you posted..

You can check out my measly offering of photos here.

Bye for now! =)
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