San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, Roma: Reduction linocut

Finished at last, with a dark layer just on the buses to bring them to the front of the picture space.

Reduction linocut: Rome

San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, Roma.
Eight stage reduction linocut, 30 x 24cm.

The view is from the Corso Vittoria Emmanuele II in Rome, across the Via Paola, to the front of the San Giovanni dei Fiorentini church. I chose this view because I wanted to make a picture of Rome that avoided the obvious subject matter such as the Colosseum, the Vatican and so on. This particular view summed up what I liked about Rome: the clutter of a modern city crammed up next to a Renaissance masterpiece.

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Printmaking with styrofoam

In preparation for the printmaking course that I am teaching at the South East School of Art, I’ve been experimenting with styrofoam printmaking. Styrofoam is the soft plastic that you find under pizzas sometimes. It’s very easy and quick to work with.

I started with a drawing of a street in Trastevere in Rome. I indented the drawing onto an A4 sheet of styrofoam, inked it, and then printed it by hand. I first printed the block in black; the lines that I indented onto the block appear as white.


Then I printed the block in white ink onto black paper, so this time the lines that I indented show as positive marks.


The ink is a bit blotchy in places where I applied too much.

A quick way of adding colour is to print onto coloured paper. Here’s the block again, printed on red paper.


Finally, I cut away some of the block where I wanted bigger light areas, and printed it in warm brown sienna onto light brown pastel paper.


Roman Holiday VI: Arch of Constantine

Painting in public usually attracts spectators. The good thing about Rome is that there are plenty of other things to distract them. When there’s the Arch of Constantine in front, the Trajan Market behind, the Forum to the right, and the Colosseum to the left, I don’t get much attention.

Arch of Constantine, Rome
Ink and watercolour on paper, 28 x 9 cm. Click the picture for a bigger version.

Roman Holiday IV: Rooftops

View across Rome: Looking east from the Piazzale Giuseppe Garibaldi on the Janiculum Hill.

Rome: Rooftops
Ink and watercolour, 15 x 9 cm. Click the picture for a bigger version

This is a fascinating view to draw. What strikes me is that there are no skyscrapers breaking up the view. The highest buildings are still the domes of the Baroque churches (of which there are many), and the large white building to the right: “Il Vittoriano” (National Monument of Victor Emmanuel II), which is 81m high.

However, everyone else likes this view as well. I could have stayed drawing for much longer, but I was getting too many spectators to feel comfortable.

Roman Holiday III: Pyramid of Cestius

View from the English Cemetery, where Keats and Shelley are buried. The pyramid, which is a mausoleum for a Roman magistrate, dates from 18BC; the city walls were built around it. It’s 37m high (I couldn’t fit it all on the paper), and still covered in white marble.

Pyramid of Cestius

Ink and watercolour on paper, approx 28 x 9 cm. Click the picture for a bigger version.

Roman Holiday II: Via della Minerva

This is a good example of what I was saying about choosing somewhere comfortable to sit before choosing what to draw.

Behind me is the Pantheon: the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome, even after two thousand years. To the left, is a curious Bernini fountain with an elephant carrying an obelisk on its back.

Via della Minerva
Ink and watercolour on paper, 9 x 14 cm. Click the picture for a bigger view.

But the wall I’m sitting on faces a lamppost and a MacDonald’s sign, so that’s what I draw.

Roman Holiday I: The Colosseum

The Colosseum from the north.

The Colosseum
Ink and watercolour on paper, approx 28 x 9 cm. Click the image for a bigger view.

When drawing in a new location, the temptation is to draw the obvious things: the big sites and tourist attractions.

However, the priority has to be somewhere comfortable to sit: away from too many crowds, and preferably where no one can stand behind you watching. Then I draw whatever’s in front of me. This often means that I end up drawing something unexpected, that I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.

But wherever you sit in Rome, you find yourself in front of some important world-famous, jaw-dropping, historical monument.

And as a bonus, the sun shines, even in the middle of November.