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Sketching From A Room With A View


A few weeks ago, I took a short vacation to my favourite city, Florence Italy, to recharge my batteries, to take a break from the steady drawing and painting I’ve been doing since January. And like the characters in EM Forster’s book, I went looking for a “room with a view”… and a washer/dryer and heat and…

I found it! A small one-bedroom near Ponte Carraia with large corner windows looking towards the city. As soon as I saw the views from those windows, my mind immediately started composing paintings and drawings. Whoa, girl! This isn’t supposed to be a 2-week painting odyssey! Piano, piano!


But the itch to draw was already ignited! I restrained myself from instantly painting the view, and took to the streets. I got as far as Santa Croce Church and the little sketchbook always in my bag, came out. I sat outside in a very cold, rainy cloister and sketched the Santa Croce bell tower peaking over the Brunelleschi Cloister roof. Fingers shaking, teeth-chattering! When I couldn’t take any more of the cold, I headed back to the apartment for tea, only to be met with THAT VIEW again saying “Draw me, too’!


Sketching Santa Croce Bell Tower in the rain

Maybe it was the bone-chilling memory of that outdoor sketch or filling the next days with non-drawing activity, but I lasted 5 days until I pulled out my little sketchbook to draw some of the view. First up, a simple sketch of the red-tiled roof of the Medici Chapel at San Lorenzo and a few surrounding rooftops.

Apartment View of Medici Chapel at San Lorenzo

Apartment View of Medici Chapel at San Lorenzo

Then a standing sketch of the Ognissanti church bell tower out my western windows, where I was close enough to watch the bell ring back and forth several times a day. I wondered if someone was on the other end of the rope or was it some kind of computerized mechanism (the former, I hope). On the opposite page, I sketched a pink rooftop terrace where every morning a woman came up to survey her plants, check on her greenhouse, and do a little watering.

Random Sketches from the apartment, Florence

Random Sketches from the apartment, Florence

Then I got more ambitious with the view, and moved on to my bigger sketchbook for a panoramic rooftop sketch towards Santa Maria Novella’s bell tower under restoration. The little greenhouse terrace made it into this sketch, too. It took me a cloudy, cold afternoon to get the sketch down, and I had to leave out the rooftop tile detail because I was getting hungry. Aperitivo time!

Santa Maria Novella Rooftops (work in progess)

Santa Maria Novella Rooftops (work in progess)

With only one day left in Florence, I was determined to tackle the more difficult northern view of the rooftops towards Florence’s famous Duomo, its Campanile and the Church of Santi Michele e Gaetano. Made a lot of coffee, ate up my leftovers in between long sessions of sketching, and finally put down the pen when darkness fell. Again, all that blank space in the foreground are tile roofs – hundreds of tiles and paint to be added a later date. Stay tuned!

Duomo Rooftops in progress

Duomo Rooftops in progress

The next morning I said goodbye to Florence and the view, and boarded a train for Rome. Despite wanting to take a break from drawing, each day THAT VIEW captured more and more of my heart until I couldn’t resist! It’s thankfully also in my muscle memory now!

What views have bewitched you and how have you captured them?

8 replies »

  1. Dear Mimi,
    Thank you so much for capturing the essence of our 30th wedding anniversary trip – the view of Paris from our hotel room. I have observed your talent grow through the years from a young child to now as an accomplished and gifted artist. I am your biggest fan!

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