An Italian Dream

“An Italian Dream” a drawing of Vernazza. 41 x 29 cm. December 2020

Six weeks ago I sent my middle daughter, Alicia, a text. It was a photo of Vernazza, a fishing village on the north west Ligurian coast of Italy. Vernazza is one of five towns of Cinque Terre. I wrote, “This Saturday 24 months ago“. I was remembering that two years ago, in a time before COVID-19 was even a glint in someone’s eye, we had stayed in Vernazza. Alicia’s reply was, “Wow what a beautiful photo!!! I almost didn’t recognize it as a place we’d been!!!”.

Alicia’s enthusiasm for the beauty of the photo I’d sent planted a seed in my brain. Why hadn’t I drawn Vernazza yet? I looked through the photo files on my computer and found the photo source which I would use for this drawing. For some reason I’d never even printed it out! It was hiding, waiting for the right moment to reveal itself.

I looked up to see what I’d written in my journal on 17 November 2018. “I have had a spectacular day. I walked +++, in fact 9.6 km up and down steep hills. First I went up one side of the town and then up the other side (the latter on two different paths – both UP!) So I’ve worked extremely hard physically. It was peaceful, quiet and stunningly beautiful. What a perfect antidote to noisy Rome. It is very cold and quite windy, though sunny too. Today has been one of the highlights of the trip. I did so love exploring and being rewarded for my climbs with views, birdsong, the sound of the sea and utter peace.”

And then, “We learned today about an enormous disaster which happened to the Cinque Terre on October 25 2011. 20 inches of rain (accompanied by a tornado) hit the area. They had that much rain in three to four hours that it brought down rivers, landslides, rocks, mud, cars – everything – upon Vernazza and her neighbours. Mud and water were metres deep. Three people died. I appear to have been oblivious to it at the time. That was the year of Christchurch’s earthquake on February 22 and Japan’s earthquake and tsunami on March 11. Vernazza was practically destroyed and had to be put back together which took two years and millions of euros.”

11 pm. Little children play soccer in the piazza until very late. They are so cute, looking to be about six years old. An adult or two supervises them. Perhaps it helps the children to sleep well. One never sees such a thing in Australia. Eventually the children are herded home to bed, calling and shrieking all the way.”

How the drawing looked as a work in progress.

A technical note about the drawing: I wanted the colours in the foreground to be the most deeply saturated parts of picture, being closest to the viewer. Hence I put Neocolor wax pastel down as undercoat for this water/boat area. The sky, hills and buildings have no Neocolor underneath. They are rendered with coloured pencil only. Having wax pastels for the pencils to work into and over makes for a finish of delicious intensity. On the page “Perfect Partners: Neocolor and Luminance” where I discuss the collaboration between these two Caran d’Ache mediums, I include this information.

13 thoughts on “An Italian Dream

  1. anna warren portfolio

    I’m so pleased you added the technical note, I find it fascinating how you achieve the intensity that you do, and having read that, I can see why the balance between foreground and the more distant town work so beautifully. It is quite jewel-like in the richness and warmth of the colours. There is something about this one that has me scrabbling for words – suffice to say it is beautiful. (I do love the work in progress too, it is complete in itself.) I enjoy your diary entries too, they add to the atmosphere.

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Hi Anna, I was fascinated to read the journal entry myself. What struck me was how we forget quite recent history. What I mean is, what a disaster year 2011 was – but – totally eclipsed by the 2020 pandemic, when do we ever remember what happened back then?!
      Vernazza is a jewel, that’s for sure. Which shows what people can do when they put their minds to it…rebuilding, healing, fixing up disasters.

      1. anna warren portfolio

        That is so encouraging isn’t it, to know that disaster isn’t necessarily the end, human beings are capable of restoring order, given time. Equally, given free rein, nature will restore damage humans have done too. Keeping a diary is such a useful thing – the only time I do is when I travel, but they are so valuable to look back on. I started keeping one at the beginning of the pandemic, and abandoned it as it seemed very mundane. Now I wish I had continued!

      2. juliepodstolski Post author

        No need to wish, Anna. Just pick it up again. If it helps I only write in mine if I have something to say. So there is no self-imposed pressure. I could write twice a day or twice a month depending on what thoughts/events need recording. Now’s the time for a new year’s resolution…

      3. juliepodstolski Post author

        Here is the practical solution, Anna. Don’t buy a diary with dates on pages. Buy an empty lined notebook. That IS the answer. That’s what I write in. There are beautiful A4 sized notebooks to be had. I often use Moleskins but there are some lovely hard-covered books too. You’ll never worry about dates again other than the ones you choose to put in yourself.

  2. xanderest

    Julie , it is truly remarkable that you can get that wet water feeling so incredibly well with coloured pencils . I find this truly awe inspiring !

    No wonder that you find collage so dull when you can get this magical effect with your little sticks of colour !

    Hooray to you . Judy .

  3. lauraslittlecorner

    Dear Julie, it’s wonderful! How deep and intense is the blue-water-boat in the foreground and how shiny and sunny (in both completed and unfinished versions) is the background fading in the distance. πŸ™‚ Love it. Definitely love it. I was there, but it was rainy all the time, ,years ago. πŸ™‚ It was end of the Year and then January, around my birthday, so grey dull everywhere. So, I am watching “the other side” of this country. I remember well the 2011 flood. We had been at Genova Aquarium, then we were heading to France, and we were stuck there from all this mess of water mixed wth mud along the roads… hours in the car, waiting… So I can appreciate all this lovely light, and colours in your drawing. πŸ™‚

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Hello Laura, goodness me – you were so close to the disaster in October 2011.

      I was in Vernazza for two days and three nights. On the Saturday (when I took the photo for this) I thought I was in heaven. But then it got colder and colder. The next day, on Sunday, it was so cold that I didn’t want to go out of the apartment. Suddenly Vernazza seemed claustrophobic and inhospitable with the freezing wind blowing. By Monday I couldn’t wait to get away. We left in the morning and were in Milan by afternoon – where it was even COLDER – like, 2 degrees and rain. Probably it is a lot like this right now while in Australia we swelter in mid-summer heat.
      Thanks for sharing your memory of Vernazza with me.


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