Teaching and Painting at La Romita – by Fritz Kapraun

January 17th, 2014
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San_Giovanni_di_Butris_sketch


In June 2013, I taught an impromptu 10-day watercolor painting workshop instead of the more traditional 14 day format most often offered at La Romita School. The international group included a professional artist from Canada as well as beginner-to-advanced painters and non-artists from several states. Two of these artists had been to La Romita with us multiple times in the past. This was my 6th workshop, but my first solo teaching experience at La Romita. Previously, I had team-taught with Bob Rankin and Virginia Wright-Frierson who are also from North Carolina.

San Giovanni di Butris

San Giovanni di Butris

It was challenging to devise a program that would be inclusive to such a diverse group and to provide the ‘La Romita experience’ in a condensed 10-day format.  I decided on a theme for our daily field-trips: travel through time on the Via Flaminia. This ancient Roman road can still be identified in many areas of Umbria, including Narni, Carsulae, Spoleto and Bevagna. In fact, the ancient church of San Giovanni de Butris is built on an elevated section of the Via Flaminia near Acquasparta!

I prepared commentary on architecture, archeology and history as we followed this old Roman road. It is my belief that the relationship between human culture and architecture is very strong as we truly design and occupy living spaces that become inseparable from our world-view and life style. For example, the exquisite ruins at Carsulae seem to be the physical manifestation of Roman culture, emphasizing order, strength, piety and practical functionality. The distinct architectural styles in these sites give us such a strong sense of place that we artists become inspired to include the characteristic colors and architectural details in our paintings that make us say “Now that’s Italian!”

We scheduled alternating all day and half day excursions, saving time for studio work and to recover from

Vallo_di_Nera_2

Vallo di Nera

a full day of walking. For example, a visit to Assisi, an all-day trip which requires a long walk down hill to the basilica of St. Francis, was followed by the more leisurely visit to Vallo di Nera, a compact walled village near to LaRomita. Experience gained from previous visits allowed us to carefully select from the more than two dozen destinations offered by LaRomita. While I helped artists set up for plein air instruction and demonstration, John Sakel, an experienced photographer, led the more adventuresome on hikes to photo vantage points and along nature trails.

Lunch in Norcia

Lunch in Norcia

All of the participants had an opportunity to experience local cultural events such as concerts, wine-tasting, medieval festivals, market days and a visit to Europe’s largest waterfall. One of our most memorable experiences was an Italian style, two hour lunch in an agriturismo near Norcia, featuring food and beverages made on the farm. This exciting itinerary was made possible by Edmund Zimmerman and the entire LaRomita staff who are quietly efficient when it comes to logistics, scheduling and making reservations so that we can maximize our experiences in such a short period of time. I never heard them say, “We can’t do it.” Always their response to our requests was “Let’s see how we can make this happen!”

 

In addition to providing experiences for non-artists, workshop instruction was equally challenging because of the wide variation in skill level among artists and the shorter format. I chose to emphasize basic concepts, including composition, perspective, values studies, illusion of depth, color theory and harmonies. Both in the studio and plein air, my approach used ‘art duets’, sketching and painting a subject in common with the students. This permitted instruction appropriate for each student’s skill level and interests.

 My teaching style is characterized by one-on-one instruction and my teaching philosophy is exemplified by a classic Japanese poem:

There was a wealthy merchant from Kyoto

Who had three beautiful daughters

A samurai kills with his sword

But these maidens slay with a glace of their eyes

The poem pattern is: Introduce subject, elaborate and add detail, introduce an element of discord and, finally, unify lines

Vallo di Nera

Vallo di Nera

1-3 with a final statement. Likewise, a successful painting: 1) introduces the subject, 2) elaborates with composition, color and values, 3) introduces an element of discord, often with color, shadow or composition and 4) resolves all of the elements into a harmonious whole. This fluid, dynamic approach is especially challenging with watercolor where painting can proceed so rapidly and there is little time to react to spontaneous developments on the paper!

I look forward to my return to La Romita School for my 7th workshop in June, 2014, when we will offer a scheduled 10-day workshop in response to requests for a shorter, less expensive version of the traditional 14-day format. Once again, we will offer a program of interest to both non-artists and artists of all skill levels. And once again, John Sakel will make a digital photographic journal of our day trips as a record and resource. We will be able to access these images on a lap top computer to support the development of studio compositions while in Italy. In addition, he will prepare a photographic journal of our workshop activities and day trips. These images will be provided to workshop participants on a CD disk after our return to the USA.

For examples of Fritz’s paintings, see http://sites.google.com/site/architecturalportraits/

For examples of John’s digital photographs, see http://sites.google.com/site/johnmsakelphotos/

For workshop details, description of activities and sample itinerary, see:  http://www.laromita.org/art-workshops-in-Italy/fritzkapraun-2/

Fritz Kapraun’s 10 day workshop, Umbrian Scenes and Colors, runs 20-30 June 2014.