Friday, December 27, 2013


Here is a WIP of a little pet triceratops for Bella.
She is head over hills for dinosaurs. We have  a funny pop up book about them and her favorite are triceratops and the T.Rex (lurking in the back). She likes the T. Rex, because of its sharp teeth that chomp chomp chomp...but she does not realize (because we are not telling her yet) that he would sooner dine on triceratops than with it. Ah, blessed ignorance....

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas. We were plague by the flu, but we managed to still have fun... 

Have a great end of the year and may 2014 bring you joy, love, and lots of happy moments!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Happy Holidays

I like to roam in Home Goods looking for pans, rugs and toys or books for Bella. Sometimes they have interesting frames. The other day I found one that is cute. It's square and powder blue and has a nice ribbon of the same color to hang it. For once, I decided to make a drawing to fit the frame, rather than go crazy  looking for frames that would fit my irregular drawings. It's been snowing and the holidays approach, so I though to make a festive little thing to share here and then add to our Christmas decorations.

It's a 2.5x2.5 inches drawing on my beloved Fabriano watercolor paper done with Copic Markers, watercolor pencils for the tiniest details (like the tree needles), and white gel pen for the highlights.

Of course, the Northern Europe celebration of St. Lucia (December 13) with a procession of children holding candles lead by a girl with a crown of candles is my inspiration for this piece. I have always been fascinated by this tradition. I must have seen it for the first time in some movie long ago. The image of the tiny lights in the darkness and the white little figures walking among pines and firs in the cold winter night has a dream quality that vividly impressed my imagination. That's maybe because in Genova we rarely had snow and Christmas was a rather grey-rainy day most of the times...not vey romantic or magical, really. So, the idea of snow landscapes was very appealing to me.
Needless to say, now that I have plenty of snow here in Illinois, I think longingly of the comparatively warm Decembers of my hometown. It's all a matter of perspective! ;)

I wish you all the sweetest, happiest holidays. May the love of your family and friends keep you warm and cozy this December!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Sub Rosa

It's done! I've been working hard during the holidays to finish it is finally.

For once, there was no drama and everything went pretty smoothly: I added layer after layer of color, fixing things here and there as I went without stressing out too much. True enjoyment!

 Now I have a couple of small drawings in mind for Bella's room plus a new big project work related that I will not probably going to show here, at least at the beginning...but I'll come back to this series as soon as I can (taking advantage of the days off around Christmas).
Talk to you soon!

I hope you all had a fun Thanksgiving (or, for those outside the States a restful weekend ;)).

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Weekend update

Getting there!

By the way, with all this painting of ordered gardens and roses, I suddenly felt the need to clean up the backyard rose shrub. It was a mess. It had not been pruned in years, so I snipped my way to the core of the plant. Now I am crossing my fingers in hope I did not exceed what's good for next year's blooming. The rose branches look rather neat, now, but my husband expressed a certain level of skepticism at my zealous clipping. I am more optimistic, though. This year we had very few flowers, so I figure next year can only get better.  Let's hope so! :)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Ok, here is the promised update. It's not much, but I am proceeding cautiously. To give you an idea, it took me a couple of hours (while watching Iron Man 3 with my husband...not very poetic or attuned to the theme of the drawing, but time is precious...;)) colored the central  more prominent rose. Now I am getting a bit faster with the other roses, because I figured out the technique I need to use.

I like my roses very much, for once. I liked the fairies very much too at the beginning, but I am not so sure of it anymore. Their skin color is quite flat and I believe I need to work more on it to bring the little creatures to life. BTW, notice that this time I started from the main characters! ;)

Have a great rest of the week!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Winter is coming...

Hi there!

The weather has been rather wintery these past days. Yesterday morning I realized that the magnolia tree that was still splendidly green a couple of days earlier had profoundly felt the change in temperature. Two images came to of a lady decked in jewels and the other, much more somber, of a very famous Italian poem about the fragility of life...

Si sta come d'autunno sugli alberi le foglie. Here we are like the leaves, in Autumns. So wrote the poet Giuseppe Ungaretti  referring to the condition of the soldiers in the trenches during WWI. They are really just barely hanging in there...

My in-laws have departed and returned to the warmer shores of Italy, we have had to take care of a few things in the house, and I am cautiously coloring my Sub Rosa drawing.
Soon I'll post what I have been doing so far...

Have a warm weekend everybody!

PS: I just realized I had the wrong title on for a while...I changed my mind half way through about what I wanted to talk about and then forgot to modify the title! ;)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Inking the roses

Little by little the secret of the garden emerges....

Happy Halloween!

Be spooky, be merry,
load your bags with
candies and berries!

Obviously, I am no poet...but the intention is true...I hope you'll have a great time tonightT My children are watching the clouds crowding the sky and the constant drizzle of rain hoping that tonight the weather will allow an excursion in the neighborhood. Fortunately, our daycare had a small Halloween party a couple of days ago and they have had a chance to celebrate, anyways.

Wherever you are, may the sun (or later the moon) shine on your trick or treating!

Saturday, October 26, 2013 fieri

This is for a personal project, which will take likely years to be completed, but I am not in a hurry...

So far I am working on two fairies. I have a clear idea of where I am going with this but somehow I am stuck with the anatomy of these two little ladies, fighting with myself over hands, arms, and poses in general. I have taken pictures of myself as reference, yet I am still in trouble! The initial sketch is taking me forever....Yesterday night I actually spent one hour just deciding the angle of an arm and a hand (and it's not just a matter of deciding, but of actually getting my pencil to do what my brain clumsily tries to communicate to my fingers!).

Hopefully tonight things will go better...:)

Sunday, October 20, 2013


Just a doodle done in front of the TV, waiting to start the next project.
Have a great Monday (the greatest challenge) and rest of the week!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Home Sweet Home...finished!

Here we go...I made it within the deadline!
Hope you like it (and Anna as well!). :)

Home Sweet Home 9'x12'

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Slowly getting there...

An hour each evening...that's the time I can give myself to draw. It seems always such a short time! I can barely get into the "zone" that it's time to wrap things up and going to sleep. So I inch day by day, finishing some parts and realizing other will need to be changed.

Half way through...I did a bit more tonight.
I figured the color of the grass was too bright, despite my grey undertone and I had to use a Mustard yellow to darken in. I am happy with the trees, the sky and the background, but now looking at all the sweets, at the scattered candies, at the cookies and gummy bears, I wander if the children will be properly visible. The witch, with her dark garb, will be neatly cut against the light sky. The young bunch,  instead, has to contend with the crazy garden population, especially the Cookie man, looming just behind Bella...The main thing, I guess, is that I should have started coloring the protagonists first and build the surroundings to match them, not the other way around. That's a basic instinctive rule I have been following since childhood, when I cared nothing or not much for the backgrounds and only focused on getting the main character done properly. Of late, instead, maybe because I put so much effort in building interesting landscapes, I start coloring those and work my way backward to the protagonists. But, to do this successfully, I should either plan better or learn more control over my markers, because now it feels like the garden (particularly the chocolate walkway) is the main subject of the drawing and the children are completely lost in it, almost an afterthought. And that was not the feeling I wanted to convey...

...or maybe I have reached the usual desperation moment, when I think I completely ruined the drawing and wasted a lot of precious time in the process, but I will fix it in the end.

If not, I could flip the coin and rationalize that in this illustration, the children have subverted completely the Hansel and Gretel tale and have found pure delight and not dreadful peril in the garden, that they feel so comfortable, unafraid and in control that are completely part of what supposed to be a deadly trap. Meanwhile the "poor" witch and her crow and broom are sadly left out, displaced from their classical role in the they have become the new protagonists, for which I feel sorry: look at how all their hard baking is being ravaged by the four little monsters!

Well I'll keep working on this and we'll see what happens in the next few sessions....I've learned another lesson, anyways. :)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Botanical Garden and another progress report

On saturday we visited theBotanical Garden. That's one of my favorite place to spend the day. The flowers are always so colorful and inviting, even during fall and there are so many fun activities for children. Bella has started appreciating the hay maze, pumpkin mountain and water fountains too. She had a blast running in the fields and looking at the fruit a vegetable gardens, laden with yummy produce. We took many pictures, as always...I am always scouting for references. I have a good library now and I should start using it for some art.

Meanwhile, I progressed a bit more in the coloring of the Gingerbread house. Here is a balance of Brick white, Barely beige, Tan, Dull Ivory for the walls of the building. All of these are Copic markers. While large areas turn our rather better in Prismacolors than in Copics, when it comes to details and front/prominent characters/elements, I still trust more Copics, possibly because I have more experience using them. I need to do something to make the cream of the cannoli fluffier...probably in post-production with pastels..

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Yard friends and more sweets

Mushrooms are sprouting all over the place, thanks to the humid and warm weather. I so miss the porcini mushrooms my parents brought home from the woods in the hills behind Genova...they are an incredible treat. Last month we ate some porcini at a restaurant around here...I have no idea where the chef bought them, but they had nothing of the incredible perfume and aroma of the ones I am used to...kind of disappointing, actually. Next year we plan to go to Italy in September, so we'll have the chance to indulge...
No porcini around my house, unfortunately. Only interesting looking and probably rather indigestible mushrooms, the kind on which you could expect to find one of Tammie Lee's witches...Bella is intrigued by them, so we keep her under very close watch, in case she decided to take a bite off them..;)

From my front yard, courtesy of my mother in law

In the past couple of days, I have been exploring the internet in search of colorful sweets to put in my Gingerbread home. So many choices...they made me ravenous for dessert while I was drawing! At this point, though, I am done drawing (fortunately) and I started coloring. I used Prismacolor markers (warm and cold grey 10% and brick white) to lay down some grey tones. I like doing this when trying to limit the saturation of my landscapes.

 Now the real fun begins. :)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Hansel, Gretel, etc.

My sister in law is coming to visit with her family (Pit will spend some quality time with Bella!). I am making a drawing to celebrate her birthday and the fact that we are going to have a new addition to the family soon. She asked for a Hansel and Gretel inspired picture, with the ginger bread house and the children, but without the scary witch.
Here is the initial sketch with some inking done...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Taman VanScoy's Landscapes

A couple of weeks ago, Naperville hosted its annual Riverwalk Art Fair. My husband and I have wanted to see it for ages, but typically this time of the year we are away, either in Italy or camping. Now that Isabella is here, we have abandoned camping, at least until she is a bit older, and we went to Italy back in June, so we finally got to visit the Fair.

It was fun, very crowded, and we got to admire works from  local and traveling artists. Bella had a chance to flex her developing artistic muscles at the table of the Naperville Art league. Mommy and Daddy instead planned the decorations of the dining room.

We moved last year to a much bigger house, so of course most of our rooms are empty. Little by little we will buy some furniture to fill them and we decided to start with the dining room. We have a nice big groups of Italian friends we spend the holidays with and now that the family is growing we definitely need  space for eating together comfortably. So we placed an order for a nice extending table at a local carpenter and then we started thinking about what kind of paintings we should hang on the walls.

As soon as we walked in the Fair, we encounter the stand of Taman VanScoy, an artist based in Long Beach, CA, whose fabulous landscapes immediately captured our attention and fancy. We knew his work would be perfect for our home and oh, I wish we could have bought his entire collection then and there: I could envision so many places those beautiful paintings would bring life to. We decided to invest in two paintings and then we started debating which two we should get! It took a while....

We went home, we came back on Sunday, amidst a deluge of rain, we thought and pondered some more. Taman was extremely helpful and patient. He showed us different paintings, even some he had not planned to display at this event. He even offered to let us bring home a few of the paintings to help us decide which one worked best for us. All of them worked wonderfully....and it was very hard to choose. To top this off, he helped us placing them on the wall and hang them securely.
Taman with his two paintings

It was great to meet and work with Taman: we look forward to see him again next year when he will participate to the Lincoln Park Art Fair in Chicago. His art is soothing and dreamy, with vistas of fields inspired by the Wisconsin countryside (where he spent his summers as a child) yet born our of his imagination. Every time I step into my home, now, I smile looking upon the serene beauty of my two new paintings.

My husband holding a diptych we considered as an alternative to the two paintings we ended up buying.

Please go and take a look at his gallery or check our whether he is displaying his art at some art event near you.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Challenge:29 faces (last day, #29 and bonus)

The weekend is almost over, we are sort of settling down in our new rhythms and, after spending an enjoyable afternoon in the sun, we are back home, looking at the pictures we took today and preparing for the new working week.

So, finally I have a little time to spend with the friends of 29 Faces and share my last 2 faces. I'll put this in my daughter's room...

#29 (and bonus) Pure Love

It's been great to play and explore new techniques and it's been especially wonderful to meet so many talented and kind people via the challenge. Thank you Ayala for hosting this initiative and thank you to the participants who shared their art and exchanged suggestions and support. Let's keep in touch!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Challenge: 29 faces (Day 12: # 28)

Yesterday, my mother in law arrived from Italy and we are very excited, but, because of all the cheering and greeting, I haven't had lots of time for drawing and posting.
So, I just quickly made this thank you note for Ayala which will also be my 28th face. I always wanted to make a face made out of words, and this is the perfect moment for trying! Here it is! A big hug to you Ayala!

#28 Thank you Ayala!

I have a little bit more work to do on face # 29 and I am not sure I'll be able to publish it tomorrow. However, I am pretty sure I'll be done by the end of the month. ;)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Challenge: 29 Faces (Day 11: #27)

Good day everybody!

Yesterday night I decided to try something slightly different from my usual coloring technique. I set aside my adored Copics and turned to my Prismacolors. A couple of years ago, I did a small evaluation of how Prismacolors would work for coloring faces, but they seemed way to bright for my already rather saturated palette, so I abandoned the idea of using them for more detailed or delicate projects. Instead, have been using them mainly to cover great surfaces to spare the more expensive Copics

However, since I had made this drawing kind of simple, more catoonish than usual,  I thought I could give Prismacolors another chance.
Because I have been kind of obsessed with the inking dilemma during the past few days, in this case, I limited the inks to the minimum and created the contours of the face and hair just with colors. I did not completely follow my own intention, though, as I ended up outlining the arm and hand quite too much (even if I used the grey multiliner rather than the black one)...something to watch out for, next time

I wanted her hair to be fluffy and aqua-blue, and I liked how it turned out, but I had no precise idea about how to do the rest,, so I did a couple of trials (on the right). I picked a pretty yellow-green for the wall and chose to keep her dress and balcony neutral. How does it look?

 #27: Cotton Candy

Notice that while I was using watercolor paper for the main drawing, I did my experiments on an old piece of very smooth lower quality paper from my earlier works with Copics. The colors look so different! Also the feel of the ink going on the paper is different (it does not really sink much, it seems to stay mostly on the surface: I never liked it too much).

I'll try and make another attempt today, but I'll use a different watercolor paper and hopefully I will keep my grey outlines really light.

A big hug to you all!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Challenge: 29 Faces (Day 10: #26)

Oh my, another mermaid already?
Yesterday, I found this old sketch and, inspired by Uuna (if you don't know her, have a look at her beautiful collection of diverse works on her blog, BTW)'s suggestion to have a completely mermaids-dedicated gallery, I decided to quickly color and shared it here.

Although the face per se is rather small, the rest of the drawing promises to be more complex and long to finish, with waves, bubbles, rocks etc, which I have to research and will take me much longer to finish. So I did not attempt to color the whole thing and limited myself to the lady of the ocean. This is a direct take on the Little Mermaid, so we will call her Ariel.
Have a lovely afternoon!

#25: Ariel

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Challenge: 29 Faces (Day 9, # 25)

Yesterday evening my daughter and I played with markers. I bought her a small box of Crayola with watersoluble non toxic flat pointed markers. I placed a dark blue bed sheet on the carpet (she loved the waves we made while arranging it on the floor, BTW), we sat with our papers, and we started scribbling and making dots. I am not sure she liked to draw with these markers too much: they are made so that the tip cannot be squashed by too much pressure, but the way Bella holds them in her hands (like hammers but not really perpendicular to the paper, that it) makes it difficult for her to actually get a sign out of them. I'll buy her some with regular pointed tips, next.

Anyways..., while she was having great fun uncapping all of the markers and wearing the caps on her fingers, I started dotting a piece of paper and soon I had this new face popping out of it. I haven't be coloring in pointillism for ages (possibly the late 80's), so that felt like taking a time machine and revisiting my middle school years...also no real outline, pencil or ink made, was required, so that took care of my ongoing dilemma for the night. :)

# 25 Spirit of the forest

Monday, September 23, 2013

Challenge: 29 faces (Day 8, #24)

#24 Just above the surface

Since I finally caught up with the challenge, I felt that today I could just take it easy and spend a bit more time on one piece, coloring it properly. Again, this is a post-it sized drawing of...a mermaid. Notice that I have already two of them in this series....although I cannot say that mermaids are my superfavorite mythological creatures or that I particularly like the sea, they pop up in my works over and over again, at the point that I have a mermaid in the name of my only blog. I really can't tell you why. Maybe it's that I am a terrible swimmer and I wish I could zoom happily in the ocean unafraid and free to roam?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Challenge: 29 Faces (Day 7: #21, 22, 23)

Happy Sunday everybody!
Have very little time today. Bella just went to sleep and I am about to follow her for a quick afternoon nap (my favorite thing in the universe!). Well...with the tiny amount of time that I had today, I made this new tiny faces. These are mainly sketches to try out some effects, but I hope you might still enjoy them. They were definitely useful and fun for me! :)

#21 Graffiti Goddess: A proof of concept for a much bigger project. I am not sure that's a crown or a complicated headdress....
# 22 The way she looks: A girl like many others walking in the city, unnoticed by all, but determine to hold on to her dreams...
# 23 The way she sees herself: ...yet, she is not unnoticeable, she knows to the core of her own been that is unique, strong and unforgettable. She has the power of making her dream come true.

These are mainly sketches to try out some effects, but I hope you might still enjoy them. :)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Challenge: 29 Faces (Day 6; # 18,19, 20)

Today, I have drawn 3 guys. This is pretty unusual for me, given I feel much more comfortable drawing female figures or children (lots of my female artist friends feel the same somehow...). But this is definitely the right time to give it a try!

# 18 Marcus: Completely drawn without references, he's a youngish noble roman man.

# 19 Actor: This one was copied from the same copy of Vogue I used for my previous four faces. Also in this case, I can't say I see a lot of resemblance with the original (hence my living out his name ;)).
#20 Dad? Ok, for this one I started with a random photo from the internet. As I was drawing, though it seemed to me that the subject was coming to resemble more and more one of the actors of Once Upon a Time (Alan Dale, who plans the rather mean King George). When my husband laid eyes on him, though, he said immediately: "Wow, good job, this really looks like your father". I guess there is something about him that could remind of my father, but....well....

This morning is absolutely radiant and it promises a lovely September day: hope you will all enjoy with your dear ones, as I am planning on doing. Have fun!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Challenge: 29 faces (Day 5: #14, 15, 16, 17)

The other day, I found an old copy of Vogue  that has been laying around, waiting to be read. Not sure that's going to happen, given how busy with other stuff I am. However, I decided to use the magazine differently for a quick exercise. I know I could do better when it comes to drawing hair and faces in unusual positions. Especially I find it extremely hard to draw a face viewed from the bottom. I remember spending several hours as a kid, trying to copy a famous Star Wars poster in which Luke Skywalker looks upward holding his light saber above his head (remember it?). I had to give up. My brain could not wrap around the prospective illusion of nostrils almost aligned with eyes: all I got was a sort of flattened snout that looked like a pig...poor Mark Hamill! I tried so hard that I made a hole in the paper with my eraser. After which I desisted...and never really overcame that obstacle.

So I took advantage of this opportunity to practice on difficult head poses and on hair as well.
I started from the cover, went on to draw the face of the models/actresses in the following pages, not paying too much attention to resemblace (too time consuming) and focusing on shiny locks and jaws/neck proportions....I know I still have to work quite e bit on this! :D

#14 Scarlett attempt: Anpther case in which inks did not help with resemblance. I guess I tend to make eyes too big these days. Her head is just slightly tilted backwards, hence the funny shape of the nose...maybe the problem is that her eyes do not follow the perspective of the rest of the face?

# 15 and 16 Kate attempt front and side: She does look nothing like Ms Winslet but I am pretty happy with her hair and hands.

# 17 Oooops...I don't remember the name of this actress, but it does not matter because again any resemblance is lost. This was of course the most difficult subject and makes me think there is still a lot of practice in store for me, if I want to master this pose. I wonder if coloring and giving it dimension with shadows, would improve it....

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Challenge: 29 faces (Day 4, # 10,11,12,13)

Back to pencils. I think there is nothing that brings life to a face like the pencil's sign. Over and over again, when I ink my pencils, faces become stiff, less genuine. The softness of a smile is lost, sometimes the resemblance to the original subject vanishes. And it's not just because I make subtle changes/mistakes while inking. The faces I draw directly in pen- ink, although quite spontaneous, still lack that dynamic spark that pencils have. This is particularly true when working on small drawings like these. What's your experience?

#10 Windswept
# 11 Something on the horizon
#12 Is that so?
#13 Melissa (somehow her ear ended up floating away up her head...I did not realize it because...I've got distracted by the fact that Bella walked over the paper and made that lovely wrinkle right there in the middle of the head...:D)

Have a great afternoon!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Challenge: 29 Faces (Day 3, # 7,8,9)

Three more faces I did yesterday night. This time I took the plunge, let the safety net of penciling the faces first, and went directly to the inks. I just used a regular pen and went with the flow, without thinking too much of the outcome...3 pretty different individual came into being. What are their stories?

#7 Big neck, bad temper
#8 The grudge
#9 The prayer

 See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Challenge: 29 Faces (Day 2: # 4,5,6)

Here come 3 more faces for the challenge (and I am so behind)!

They are simple sketches this time. Again, these are miniatures that could easily fit into a stamp.
One displays how little I know about how to use properly watercolor. Who knows, one day I might end up learning this charming technique!

#4 Blue woman

#5 Regina

#6 Elena the beautiful (a portrait of one of Marina Bychkova's dolls... I have a fixation with them....)

 Thanks for watching!