Sunday, August 28, 2011


People will always question your motives and your decisions, but one thing I’ve learned is that this journey is not about pleasing everybody… it’s about getting more out of life; and one of the best feelings is the ability to surprise yourself one more time (I may have stolen this from the movie ‘America Beauty’ but if it fits perfectly, so sue me!). I’m still here, in the center of a town older than history, grasping… for a second time… what it has to offer me. I’ve learned so many new things in my trip to Florence, and the most important of them had nothing to do with the classes I’ve taken. It’s been a ride all by itself. In a rhythmic dance of emotions I’ve been through hell, purgatory, and paradise (which fits poetically to Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, who was also from Florence). I came to this city based on a rather convenient conclusion in which I needed to take 6 credits (two classes) from art history in order to get my Bachelors in Fine Arts in only 3 years rather than 4. My first time in Florence was 11 years ago, and although I had a great time back then, I couldn’t go through with my plans and ended up returning sooner than expected. For me it was not only incomplete but somehow a failure and I wanted a second chance to try again. It would not be a fair comparison though. The first time I was here, I was just a boy eager to go back to Ecuador and start working a steady job in order to be successful; now I’m a man more interested in culture and who enjoys studying in order to be fulfilled. We are two different people, and probably I’m another man compared to the one that got here three months ago. (This may be a little philosophical but bear with me; this has a simple solution and does not require a time machine).

11 years ago with "Il Porcellino"

Now at the same place

The way I see it, life is a big staircase full of knowledge, but I don’t think you ever go down. No, that is not the way it works! You always learn, even from bad decisions. This was one of the good cases where I learned so much based on a great decision. Yes, I learned a lot from my art history and Italian classes (which by now I could say that I do speak fluently Italian), but what I really learned made me grow up even more. I learned a new culture, to do laundry, to cook for myself, to live with a roommate, to be more outgoing, to be more patient, and tons of minuscule things that added up make me a better and more valuable person now. Granted, I guess I knew all of these things before (not the cooking though, that is completely new) but I may have, for lack of a better word, relearned them. Sometimes I felt lonely, and other times I desperately needed my family and friends, but I understood that there always have to be sacrifices in order to follow your goals. Ok, I’ll stop preaching now, sorry about that, but I just felt the need to express my feelings regarding this second chance and all of these could be simplified by the word “rediscovery”.

Laundry "alla Fiorentina"

I stated in my previous entry that this blog was not going to be about my traveling through Italy, but guess what, It will be, because my involvement in art cannot be dissected from my experience in Italy. I tried, believe me I tried, but at the end I felt it was necessary in order to properly show my artistic evolution. I’ve been in Florence for three months now, but I had a third objective in this trip and it was to get to know as most cities from Italy as I could. I guess that for a sedentary guy such as myself this has been mission accomplished. I’ve been to Prato, Pisa, Rome, Milan, Venice, Padova, Elba Island, Principina a Mare, Cinque Terre and the Chianti region. Just by reading that sentence I’m already exhausted. I have around 1700 pictures (3.20 GB on my hard drive). Of course I won’t be able to show you all the pictures, but at least I’m going to show you the ones I really like. In any case, what I won’t do is tell you about all the places I’ve got to visit in each city. Why not? Because it will take on forever to write a faithful and fair description of my experience, so I’ve decided just to let you know about the things that somehow are more relevant to this blog.

When in Rome I encountered the Trajan’s Column. If that is not a comic I don’t know what is. It definitively is an early example of narrative storytelling of yore. I remember reading about this in Understanding Comics (a MUST READ book for comic fans) by Scott Mccloud, as an early example of graphic storytelling. It was enlightening to see this Roman triumphal column with lots and lots of reliefs depicting chronologically the battles from the Roman emperor Trajan’s victory in the Dacian Wars. He also mentions the Bayeux Tapestry but I will probably cover this in the far future when I go to Normandy (you never know, right?). A friend of mine came to Rome and we had the chance to go to the Vatican museums. It was a very long line, almost 3 hours, but at the end of the museum I saw something magnificent, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo. I ended up wondering if artists from today could surpass this masterpiece.

Trajan's Column

My visit to Milan was fun and very interesting. Obviously I got to visit all the important places but what I really enjoyed over there is that I got the chance to get into my time machine and travel thirteen years back in time. You see, I stayed in a friend’s place, but he is 20 years old and the most important thing that I noticed was that everything changes, but everything also remains the same. Gotta love my contradictions! Anyways, I’ve spent a Saturday afternoon the same way I did when I was in my college years in 1998. We were drinking beer and playing Playstation. That was it! And I had a great time, no worries, just hanging out. Of course back then it was Nintendo 64 and the game was either James Bond Golden Eye, or Mario Kart 64. Now it was Call of Duty World at War in Playstation 3. I spent the whole Saturday killing Nazi zombies and then I remembered why video games are the worst enemy of comic artists! It is impossible to play this type of games and meet a deadline in time. Luckily I already overcame this. Wait, when is it that the new Zelda, Skyward Sword, is coming out? November 20, 2011??? DAMN!!!

Brings back memories...

In the middle of July I got a visit from my dear cousin Nastassia. She stayed with me until the end of my trip. I have enjoyed her company a lot and naturally we’ve got to know each other more through this month and a half. Also she traveled with me to some of the places I mentioned above. It’s been refreshing and I know I will miss her… a lot… when she’s gone. But all good things come to an end I guess. In any case I learned two important things about her, that I love her dearly and that I can’t be chatty when she just wakes up ☺ Miss you already Nats! You can actually see a sketch of her in one of my previous entries.
Me and Nats in Venice

Regarding my classes I can honestly say that I’ve learned plenty of information, especially in my “Hidden Meanings of Renaissance Art”. Doesn’t it sound cool just to say it? It was really fascinating but the lectures were also very very long! We examined some paintings and it is impressive how much information it is hidden as symbolisms. Now I really know how to observe a painting, which I can admit I had no clue before. All the details are there for a reason, and the main thing to consider is that a painting is not a photograph, so all those symbols were put intentionally to communicate something. I enjoyed it a lot, when I could manage to stay awake for the whole lecture of course. I got an A in both of my art history classes ☺ I was so happy with my grades that I ended up thinking this feeling is what successful entrepreneurs feel when a business goes well. The reward cannot be only money, right?… right? I don’t know, maybe no one really appreciates a great grade, but I wear them as medals of honor because they represent my all out effort in this journey. I learned another language but somehow I speak it better when I have 3 or 4 whiskies inside me. This formula also applies to speeches, which I haven’t done for a while. I guess I have to remedy that in the near future. (Stop babbling José!)

I’m also glad to mention that I finish the main lessons on bones and muscles of figure drawing that I was taking. It was hard to listen to these lectures (via my laptop) and draw intensely each muscle and each bone in order to feel more comfortable in drawing the human figure from my mind. Although I feel I still need a lot, the progress is evident and I’m pretty happy for the result. The video is called “The Structure of Man” by Riven Phoenix, and you can get it in I’m uploading five examples from finished lessons from the video. Also you can see two free drawings I made, one was at Piazza Signoria and I decided to draw from life this statue that turned out to be really difficult (or probably I was extremely tired). I did not like the end result but it was time well spent. The other one I did like and it’s a drawing of the mask of Guy Fawkes from the movie V for Vendetta (based on the comic by Alan Moore of course). And no, I’m not associated with Anonymous, but I can’t argue that I kind of dig the concept ;).

This entry was very difficult for me to write because I feel that I’m leaving out a lot of experiences that I’ve found equally important as the ones mentioned, maybe even more. Also I haven’t written for almost 2 months now, and this may be because everything I have experienced has been so overwhelming that it was very hard for me to properly organize these ideas. It is time to go back home though. The race is long, and in the end it’s only with yourself. Perhaps this part of the race felt too long. I guess three months is just about enough. Don’t get me wrong, I love Florence, but I’m way too homesick right now. Can’t wait to go back to New York and start my classes at SVA, to see my family again. Also, right now this weather is just way too hot for me… and I don’t think only one fan is going to cut it anymore ☺. See you in the near future.


José Luis