It is paint on a surface. Although it’s not on a canvas, it is a collection of marks that form shapes with colour, meaning and a maker. It’s not exhibited as an artwork, but it is viewed and shared in a public space. It doesn’t have a price tag, but it may be tagged and there certainly was a high price to pay if the creator was caught.
So is graffiti art? Can illegal images be aesthetically appreciated? Is there beauty beyond the vandalism?
16.Nov.15 Inside Il Duomo, St Bartholomew flayed is a sculpture that stands with his skin draped over his shoulders and wrapped around his waist. It’s a phenomenal testimony to man and marble, time and talent. I did this little sketch for the woman I’m working for – it’s her favourite sculpture in the cathdral and it was the perfect excuse to spend time in the ribcage of the city.
11.Nov.15 A guy who works for UNICEF sat beside me on a bench and he shared more wisdom than I could capture in words. He loves a Cinderella story, his dream is to be a photographer, but his hope is for his country. “Everybody always complains, but I want to be part of change.” We parted ways promising to improve our spaces and troubled places.
18.Dec.15 As Ali and I climbed the steps of the Bell Tower, we were entertained by an American family consisting of two patient parents and three boys – two of which were especially adventurous and one who seemed more sensitive to the world. At the top of the tower, they asked the questions that only children will ask while I sketched the dome. I had intended to slowly fill the page over the course of the day, but the softer boy came up to me and said, “I also like to draw”. I pulled the page from my book and said that, if he loves something, he must never ever stop doing it. Half the page was still empty, and I hope he explores the space with his own hand.
18.Dec.15 This is the story of how I received a rose from Michelangelo on the Ponte Vecchio bridge. A man in a red beanie was strumming a guitar and singing all the most beautiful songs beneath old archways on the Ponte Vecchio bridge. I’d run out of blank paper, so I at on the pavement and sketched him on the back of an old doodle. While I was shading the bricks, a woman leaned over my shoulder and asked to see the sketch, then to show it to her friend. They were so blown away by the scribbles that I scratched through my pockets and found a little doodle to give them. The three of us started talking; she lived in Florence and her English was affected by a British accent that spoke to the time she spent living in England, he was called Michelangelo and lived in the south of Italy. They were two truly amazing souls, and we hugged while a street musician attracted a growing crowd. “I have two questions for you,” said Michelangelo, “And you must answer honestly.” He asked me how old I was, and what I intended to do with the sketch. After I answered both questions, he gave me a magnificent red rose and some of the kindest words a human could wish to hear. We parted with hugs and kisses, and the hope that each finds magic on their way. I left the musician’s sketch on top of coins that looked like fairy lights, and I crossed that enchanted bridge.
1.Dec.15 I was sitting on a bench sketching a sad sculpture surrounded by colourful flowers. He sat beside me and, in broken English, he started speaking while I started sketching him. “My face, it is not that beautiful.” “Your heart is, and that makes a face beautiful.” “Today my heart is sore. It is broken.” “Why?” “A girl, not family, but very special. She’s gone quiet. She’s not saying anything anymore.”
15.Dec.15 Late night gelato cravings are a real thing. I arrived at the store as the man was packing away the tubs of heavenly treats, but he stopped to serve me something sweet. Moments later, I slipped this sketch under the half closed door (where I saw a mop making its way across the floor) and heard a happy “thank you”.
16.Nov.15 Outside the Basilica of St. Babila there is a man with deep brown eyes, an empty cup and less than ten toes. He smiled at the sketch of San Babila for a while after I walked away, and then quietely slipped it into his pocket.
18.Dec.15 Having run out of blank paper, I sketched the replica of Michelangelo’s David on an old pastry packet. While I was working on the phenomenal figure, two Australian men started chatting to me about my art and adventure in Milan. Their wives then joined the conversation – both were dressed in fur and wore sparkly smiles, and one was an artist. Her name was April and she said she worked with any medium she could get her hands on (“She goes to restaurants and breaks plates to use for her mosaics”). I gave her this little drawing and we kept talking – the one man had hitchhiked from Cape Town to Cairo in 69, and the other has given me an open invitation to the Rocky Mountains anytime I find myself on that side of the world.
If it’s not art, can it still be political or poetic?