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A Different Set of Mini Doors

Wow, do people love doors!

At my shows this summer, there were so many people who declared their love of doors… and then quickly added “I know it’s strange and maybe I’m an oddball”. Actually the people who said nothing about doors were in the small minority.

The doors they were referring to were my Mini pieces of Italian and French doors, mostly rustic with some type of greenery around them. Charming doors. Romantic doors. Historical doors that piqued the curiosity of who might have passed through them over time.

Yet, I’ve been long interested in another type of door. But rather than charming and romantic, it’s usually urban and often controversial – doors marked with graffiti.  They pique my curiosity with many questions too – what’s the motivation behind making these marks, who are these people, and as an artist I wonder about the techniques. I’ve been exposed to a lot of it in Toronto. However, graffiti is quite polarizing, especially the type called “tagging” (words, signatures) – to some it’s vandalism and to others it’s creative, political or social expression. And in Rome, where I found these next doors, this heated debate rages on, even as Rome’s relationship to graffiti goes back to the days of the Roman Empire.

I’ve wanted to paint some of these doors for months now, from photos I’ve taken over the years. And this summer, my husband took many more door photos when he visited the Trastevere neighbourhood. So the universe was telling me it was time. I’ve chosen 3 of our photos to make some new Mini’s doors – all with a similar colour palette and some type of upper lunette/window. And as an experiment, I painted them first without any of the graffiti and scanned them. I wanted to see how I felt about them “before and after”. The “Before” version:

Before Roman Doors

Then, I painted on the tagging graffiti with a mixture of gouache added to (or painted over) a thick opaque white paint and sometimes with a white ink pen.

#51 - Roman Door 1

#51 – Roman Door 1 – sold

#52 - Roman Door 2

#52 – Roman Door 2 – sold

#53 - Roman Door 3

#53 – Roman Door 3 – sold

The “Before and After” side by side:


Before/After Roman Doors

(2.5″ x 3.5″, permanent ink, watercolour, gouache on 140 lb watercolour paper)

In researching Rome’s graffiti, I came across some phrases from journalist-blogger Amanda Ruggeri that helped me articulate how I feel about these pieces – “the old palaces and ancient ruins can make the city feel more like a living museum” rather than “an organic metropolis”. I arrived in Rome in 2005 ready for the pretty calendar version of Rome, and the graffiti quickly snapped me out of this Disney dream, reminding me it’s also a big city with lots of big city issues and it’s very much alive in the present. That’s what the Before and After said to me.

I’m curious what you feel and think! What are your impressions and thoughts as you see these doors, before and after? 

99 replies »

  1. Haha, well I love DOORS too 😉 (and also The Doors) Your art is amazing, LOVE it! but I like the Before shots more than the after. I am sure Trastevere was full of beautiful doors.

  2. These are interesting, especially the far left one with it’s quirky door surround, unusual. Interestingly, I’m feeling more attracted to the graffited doors; kinda like an extension/addition to their already creative design. Door styles say a lot about their owners, that’s what fascinates me about doors.

  3. I too love doors 💙 My native is Chettinad in Tamil Nadu, which is known for ancient palaces and buildings shows heritage of ancient builders. Those doors have extraordinary art works with minute hand works. Those looks lovely and beautiful 👌

  4. Conservationists would probably frown upon real doors being defaced with grafitti, but honestly I loved the after ones more. They suggest existence of life around the door. The story behind closed doors is unknown but they seem happy with it anyway. Did I say too much? 😛

    • I’m leaning your way on those doors too, Varsh. Someone today told me he thinks the tagging/writing is a physical way of saying “I am here, please notice”. And it led to a great discussion about presence on the Internet and presence in the flesh. Hmmm…I like talkers!

      • It is like when kids start their painting lessons on the walls of our home. It irks us, but since they cannot be stopped we might as well see the joy in it. The world is a canvas, isn’t it?

  5. Your painting is fantastic, both before and after. However, I’m lead to wonder about the elegance of the doors, homes, neighborhoods and people before the vandalism. I have seen graffiti I would call great art, but the markings on your doors seems more like vandalism to me.

  6. I’ve loved doors for as long as I can remember. When people ask me about it, I try and come up with something deep, but actually I just like them for no reason.
    Lovely post, by the way! 😀
    Hope you have a good day!

    • Hi Shatakshi: I know what you mean about not having a good rationale for loving doors. I was talking to an art historian who said she also loved doors “just because”. Good enough for me!

  7. I love doors too, when you come across some doors, you will end up falling in love with them because you will actually forget where you’re going just because of your overwhelming admiration of the door…

  8. Lovely pics! But I think the before version is nicer. The alter version reminds me of how often beautiful things are destroyed thdough people who are bored. Actually I like Graffiti, but these doors are beautiful enough on their own 🙂
    Nevertheless: keep up the good work 🙂

    • Hi, Dorie: You’re right that these Italian doors have their own beauty, as many of them do. As someone recently told me about this type of graffiti, on doors, it’s easily painted over. Walls not so easy!

  9. I love that you’re following your passion and not caving in to the “beautiful” or more “traditional” styles.
    Absolutely stunning work!!

      • I’m so happy I’ve touched your emotions 🙂 there is no better feeling than knowing you’ve had a positive influence!! But it’s okay to have a little break down as well. In fact a good old cry is quite helpful at times! Great way to release stress and emotions. Sending good vibes your way!!

  10. Hi! I loved the way that showed the before and after pictures, they are painted beautifully and are intriguing! I really like the ones with the graffiti as that shows the rawness of those doors. Great concept 🙂
    Looking forward to seeing more of this series 🙂

  11. The after version makes me feel more “funky” and upbeat :)) It makes doors more lively and vivid, rather than just doors. I guess I should try to make something new to my door. Thanks for inspiring!!

  12. Hello there. I found you doing a tag search for ‘doors’. Yes indeed people really do love doors and these ones are lovely.
    I run a weekly feature on my blog called Thursday Doors where each week people from all over come to share their favorite door posts.
    Please fee free to swing by and add this post to our link-up list for this week.
    Cheers 🙂

  13. I like it very much!
    I like the before as it shows the door’s original beauty. On the other hand, I also like the after especially nos. 1 & 3 as I felt like they were reborn so full of character.
    Door 1 after felt sharp and edgy while Door 3 felt young, happy and brimming with life.

  14. The “before” doors are very nice. As I am from Romania, we have a lot of this kind of graffity on our doors, buildings, fences, etc. and for me it looks a little messy. Thou I think it depeds where you come from, if you don’t see something like that on your daily life it’s something unique and different.

    • Hi, Andreea: You make a very good point. I don’t know if I would be so intrigued by this graffiti if I saw it on my door, on every door on my street, on every street in my neighbourhood. Thanks for offering your thoughts!

  15. Oh you’re so right! I do so love doors. I loved the before. I was taken further by the afters – with graffiti. Yes, ditto the comment above , yours are very special. I most certainly would have photographed those doors and greatly enjoyed seeing them every day. Quite endearing, yes…

    • Hello, Mitchell: Thanks so much for your comments! When I paint pretty doors, I wonder about who lives behind them, the stories they may tell, and who has been caring for them. Surprisingly, I was at no loss of questions either when I painted the graffiti doors but I must admit I was more curious about who made the marks and their stories and less about the door itself. Interesting shift in curiosity and energies! Once again, thank you for stopping in and joining the conversation as one door lover to another!

  16. Love your work, found this blog post via the discover part of WordPress and I’m so glad I did. I love walking round towns and seeing doorways and alleys. Reminds me of a trip to Staithes in North Yorkshire where I found a gorgeous courtyard hidden down an alleyway that had lovely pots of flowers in full summer bloom

    • Hi Heather: I’m a big fan of alleyways, too – ha ha, I’d better clarify that comment – the flower pot kind, not the dark and spooky kind. I’ve painted a number of them that I’ve chanced upon. Thanks for your comments and discovering my work!

  17. Most excellent! I take photos of doors all the time, often in Roma too, and these are spot on. However, since I cannot – and would not – erase graffiti from my photographs since I kinda like realism, I’d never think of adding it. 🙂 It’s true that in reality Roma doors often sport graffiti but I must say that I prefer your doors without it, i.e. before.

    • Hi, Manja: Lovely door photos on your site, too! I usually choose the non-graffiti ones, the pretty ones to photograph and paint, but on a recent trip, I photographed many of these others. But I was surprised when I looked at them later, with time and distance, how they had their own type of energy. I wasn’t expecting it. So it was interesting to paint them. Thanks for your comments!

  18. Wonderful 😍😍I love doors too I have plenty doors pictures and I’ve always wanted to paint them but I couldn’t imagine how it will turn out now that Ive seen your painting in this post and it inspired me,

    Thank you for sharing ❤️❤️

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