04 August 2014

Quiet Moments & A Hidden Gem in Rome: Il Cimitero Acattolico

One of my favorite little hidden gems in Rome is called The Cimitero Acattolico (or non-Catholic cemetery). It is a work of art in itself and so well curated and maintained. Each grave stone is unique: some with elaborately carved statues, some with just small markers and is the resting place to many famous intellectuals from all over the world.

24x18cm (9.5x7")
oil on panel
©Kelly Medford

Tucked in behind the ancient Roman Aurelian walls, as soon as you step in the noises of the city just fall away and transport you to another time and place.

The first person to be buried here was in 1734 and a student from Oxford. At that time this was just a wild field with some cypress and pomegranate trees and not the more curated garden that you see today.

The English Cemetery, Piramide

oil on paper (mounted)
©Kelly Medford

click here for purchase details

Some of the most interesting people buried here are the British poets John Keats and Percy Shelley. Keats has by far the most interesting and highly visited grave, his name is not actually on the headstone, but rather the inscription, 

" This grave contains all that was mortal, of a YOUNG ENGLISH POET, who on his death bed, in the bitterness of his heart, at the malicious power of his enemies, desired these words to be engraven on his tombstone: Here lies one whose name was writ in water".

This tombstone was gifted and written by Keats' dear friend Josef Severn (painter) and upon Keats' wishes, did not put his name directly on the tombstone, but this poetic inscription instead.

If you are ever in Rome I hope that you will take the chance to stop off and visit this magical place, you most certainly will not regret it.

You can see other recent paintings from Rome and around Italy here on my website

Thank you for your interest in my work and the stories of Rome!

30 July 2014

Some of Rome's Best Views: Parco degli Aranci

Can you name the 7 hills of Rome? If not don't worry! 

But most of them have spectacular views overlooking parts of the city.

One of my favorite is on the Aventine Hill and called Parco degli Aranci.

24x18 cm (9.5x7")
oil on panel
© Kelly Medford

This park, recently immortalized in one of the gorgeous opening scenes of Paolo Sorrentino's award winning film La Grande Bellezza, this park has the most iconic view of St. Peter's Dome framed perfectly by a corridor of towering pines.

This beautiful clip from the film gives you a small sense of the light and ancient beauty of this place on Rome's Aventine Hill, with the 5th century Santa Sabina Basilica adjacent to the garden and seen here in the film.

The true name of this park is not the orange garden, but rather Parco Savello after the family who built their castle here in 1285 from the preexisting Crescenzi structure from the 10th century.

This wonderful place enjoyed by Romans and tourists alike did not become a public park until 1932, though it was a garden for the Domenican monks living here in the church.

From a painter's perspective, this is a quintessential view, but the light is anything but typical. 

The soft light of the hazy summer morning filtering through the trees and lighting up St. Peter's Dome in the distance (which gives the illusion of being much larger and hence closer than it really is) is truly magical. To attempt to do it justice is an honor. Painting here I have the full sense of appreciation for how wonderful and lucky I am to be able to live my dream and spend my days painting here in Rome.

Thank you for your interest in my work and for following the blog

You can see other recent paintings from Rome and around Italy here

28 July 2014

Workshop Annoucement: Early Bird Special on Rome + Tuscany 2015

I'm very excited to collaborate with Pamela Haack of Off the Beaten Strada for a 10-day plein air workshop which will allow us to paint both in Rome and in the rolling coutryside of Tuscany.

There is an early bird special discount if you register this week. And if it is important for you, there is also a payment plan, which I am grateful for.

We will have 3 days to spend together painting and sketching in Rome, visiting both Tiber Island and be taken by private van to Rome's oldest road The Appian Way.

Corot's Painting of Rome's Tiber Island

After a warm-up in the city, we'll load our gear into our private van and head up to a villa all to ourselves in Tuscany.

There we will have several days to relax and work together painting the surrounding landscapes. We will also visit the ancient wine town of Multipulciano where we will have a vineyard all to ourselves to paint stopping during the day to have a lunch prepared just for us by the winery.

one of many views from our private villa in Tuscany

This is an extraordinary opportunity that I am very excited about since I personally love painting both in the city as well as the countryside of Italy- both have so much to offer.

The best part is is that everything is taken care of for us including housing, food and transportation. All you have to do is come prepared to paint.

We will work together in a relaxed setting, both morning and afternoon painting in plein air. Each day we will focus on a specific principle of painting such as values structure, edges, warm and cool colors, atmospheric perspective to create depth in your paintings, hard and soft edges and composition.

The group will be small with a maximum of 8 people so that we can all get the most of our time working together. 

pool at the villa with amazing views

Non painting friends and companions are also welcome on this trip and can easily take day trips, have private tours or transportation arrangements made for them.

For any questions you can email Pamela Haack directly at pamela@pamelahaack.com

I'm looking forward to painting with you next year here in Italy!

24 July 2014

Capturing Slivers of Light in the Narrow Streets of Florence

Last week while in Florence to visit and pick up an order of frames (Florence has the best frame makers!) I had the lucky chance to spend a few hours painting.

Though the city is hustling and bustling this time of year with eager visitors, there are a few side streets that do not get much traffic.

oil on gesso board

Across the river near the neighborhood of Santo Spirito is one of my favorite places and where I lived for several years. These narrow views are characteristically Florence to me and so to paint one of them is a joy.

The real challenge of a view like this is that the sun passes through the narrow window of sky between the rooftops, leaving me such a short window to try and capture the light and shadow that even in a rush with a smaller canvas, I was unable to capture it in one shot.

I returned here the following morning, waiting poised for the right moment to capture the one building on the right casting its shadow on the building on the left mostly in sun.

The people who live in this street enjoy only and hour or maybe two of sunlight, which must get very dark in the winter.

But when the sun does come through, it changes the feel of the place completely and I feel lucky to have caught this sunny and silent street.

22 July 2014

The Many Faces of Vesuvius: Painting Views in Naples

 I recently had the opportunity to collaborate with Napoli Unplugged to paint a series of paintings for their upcoming comprehensive guide to the city on the bay.

The idea was first and foremost to get a sweeping view of the bay, Vesuvius, the color of the houses and luckily I was able to include Castel dell'Ovo and some boats in this spectacular view.

View to The Bay of Naples and Vesuvius from Posillipo

oil on linen panel

In the quest for the perfect view, I had the chance to explore the many hills of Naples and paint from all around.

What an incredible city and a total thrill to be out there with my easel painting.

Painting The Bay of Naples from Posillipo
Photo courtesy of Napoli Unplugged

Though this city is jam packed with life, culture and history, I didn't see a soul out there painting it, though I know Naples has a wonderfully active Urban Sketchers group.

Painting drew lots of local attention, which was an added bonus to the trip and it is always a pleasure to have the chance to interact with locals who love and are proud of their city.

Rainy Day, View of Via Chiaia

oil on paper


This was a lucky day. We had a rainy afternoon so I headed back to my hotel to dry off and regroup. Luckily I had this perfect balcony overlooking the major shopping street of Naples below called Via Chiaia.

I managed to squeeze myself and easel both out onto the balcony and capture this painting not wasting an afternoon just because of the rain.

Painting this brought back to mind all the French Impressionist paintings painted from balconys looking down into the street. And then I understood why- it's a great vantage point and one a plein air painter does not get everyday.

Vomero, View from San Martino
oil on linen


This view, unbelievable when I first laid eyes on it, was painted from the balcony of the San Martino musuem and looks down to the Vomero neighborhood in Naples.

When I arrived at the museum with the editor of the book and another writer, we were refused entrance with a plein air easel in tow.

Luckily Neopolitans are kind and understanding. It took about 5 min of talking with the director to get permission to go in and paint anywhere I wanted in the gardens behind the museum.

Vesuvius from Il Lungomare on a Cloudy Day
oil on linen mounted


This was a thrilling project and one I had never attempted before. Painting for a book and capturing the best views of the city was exhilirating and a true sense of collaboration that I so enjoyed.

The next time you are in Italy, I highly recommend making Naples and the surrounding area a key part of your travels. You will NOT regret it.

Learn more about Naples history and current happenings here at Napoli Unplugged

Click here to see other recent Italian paintings

Check out upcoming sketching and plein air painting Italian workshops in 2014 and 2015

Thank you for your interest and continued support

16 July 2014

Learning Something New: The Importance of Growth, Play and Experimentation as an Artist

As an artist there is nothing more essential to our creativity and growth then to continually be learning, experimenting and exploring. But what is the best way to do this when by the nature of what we do is solitary?

My answer to this question is to once a year take a class, workshop or study with an artist whose work I respect and admire and who has a completely different point of view yet finely honed skills.

This past week I spent 5 days in the marvelous hilltop village of Civita di Bagnoregio in Umbria studying with architect Stephanie Bower to focus on sketching, perspective, drawing and improving my watercolor ability.

Porta Santa Maria
Entrance Door to the town of Civita

These 5 days provided multiple lessons, experiments and breakthroughs for my work.

We worked diligently in 1, 2 and 3-point perspective and then added watercolor to the mix, what an intensive week!

Old arches in Tony's garden at the NIAUSI office

I love drawing and sketching, but this took sketching to a whole new and very exciting level for me, as I was able to really study architecture, perspective and the best approach to watercolor for me.

To top it off, we stayed in a village perched high above a valley teetering on the edge of a cliff. Our group of 6 literally doubled the local resident population (yes, the village resident population is 6 people!).

Tony's Ape in an alley at Civita

The history of this town is a long and important one. Civita di Bagnoregio was an Etruscan city strategically located between Orvieto and Viterbo. The Etruscans lived in caves, which currently run up to three levels below all of the current buildings in the village and are fascinating to explore.

Since the village is way up on a hill, there was no running water or electricity until recently, all the water being brought up the hill by donkeys.

This charming and magical place was slowly revitalized by a couple who started by buying a room from a poor farmer who offered to sell it to them when they happened upon the place in 1965 and got caught there in a rainstorm.

From there these architects slowly bought more rooms and ruins and restored a beautiful complex of houses which is now owned by the American not for profit NIAUSI.

The town is revived and alive and well, most all of the houses in the village have been restored.
It has 1 piazza with a dirt floor and is used for the annual donkey race each year.

The main piazza and church San Donato with Etrucan columns

This is a must visit for anyone coming to Umbria or passing through this region. The views alone make the visit worth it, but the charming ancient buildings are something I had never seen.

an end of a street in Civita looking out
to the vast valley below

I was so inspired by this new approach to sketching and with complete freedom to play and experiment I found a real voice, which I had been waiting for, with watercolor.

The 5 days spent with wonderful architect, artist and instructor Stephanie Bower were more than I had hoped for and expected to help me cross over into the next level of my skills and ways of approaching my work.

Learn more about architect Stephanie Bower here
and follow her excellent blog Drawing Perspectves and Civita project here

Learn more about Civita di Bagnoregio here

24 June 2014

Everyone Loves Tuscany!

Who doesn't love Tuscany? And what's not to love?

Living in Rome since 2010, I almost forget sometimes that I lived in Tuscany for 6 years.

But when I go back, I remember instantly! The light, those pinks and blues, only in Tuscany.

oil on linen
Kelly Medford


This steep little road leads from the main square in Fiesole up to the Franciscan Monastery. I have walked it many times.

On the way up you are rewarded with a spectacular panoramic view looking into the valley of The Arno river and can see the entire city of Florence.

Though a tiny city, Fiesole is very well maintained and has quite a few things to see besides the view, this little street and the Franciscan Monastery.

Fiesole was a major Etruscan city from the 9th-8th century BC and was conquered by the Roman in 283 BC, when it is first found in written documentation.

There is also an excellent gelateria here called Il Tucano just up the hill from the main piazza on your right. (Everyone needs to know where to find a good gelato no matter where you go!)

This view was a treat to paint as it is both looking down a steep hill and then straight out to the hills in the background. Having the chance to paint the rooftops from above plus the classic cypress tree (not native to Italy by the way!) is decidedly a Tuscan view.