"Parlano Con Il Cuoco" - They Speak with the Cook

Just a few days left! Enter to win a signed, limited edition photo from Jed!

There’s still time! I’m counting on you all to enter by submitting your ideas for blog posts you think would be compelling. It’s easy, just follow this link to learn more and to enter! You, my readers and followers, can help me make Italywise.com an even more valuable and creative resource.

Win an signed, limited-edition Jed Smith photograph!

Originally from Sardegna, this shepherd now tends his flock in the Maremma.

Originally from Sardegna, this shepherd now tends his flock in the Maremma.

I’m hosting a contest to solicit creative ideas for future blog posts!

Today officially launches the contest. I’m looking for the two most innovative and creative ideas for future posts. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I love writing, and story-telling….almost as much as I love telling stories through my photography and through my paintings. While I still have a long list of blog post ideas, I’d love to hear from my audience as to what you might deem to be a creative and compelling topic. Topics can be about the practicalities of living here in Italy, or they can be about the musings and philosophies of major life change. Of course I love writing about being an artist, too. The two most unique ideas will win a signed, limited-edition, archival photo* (printed on 17″ x 22″), shipped to your home. If you’re a winner, you’ll be able to choose from any photograph (color or black and white) in the gallery section of my blog.

And, if you want direct notice of future blog posts, and if you’re not already a subscriber, I encourage you to subscribe in the column to the right of this post!

Here are the logistics:

• Submit your idea (one entry per person) in the comments section below this post**.

• Contest ends midnight EST, Monday, August 31, 2015.

• The two winning entries will be chosen Tuesday, September 1, 2015. Winning submissions will be posted, after you have been contacted (only your first name will be identified, or your identity can be kept confidential, if you so desire).

*Framing not included.

**Entries/ideas submitted through email, or other channels will not qualify.

Mysteries abound in this fountain.

Mysteries abound in this fountain.

Saying “I do” in Italy.

Last October, I was honored to be the wedding photographer for the marriage of the daughter of some very dear friends from North Carolina. I had an amazing time being in “artist mode”, constantly on the move to capture key moments (often furtively). I also felt incredibly privileged to be included in a ceremony and celebration of love between two radiant, loving souls. The wedding itself was an intimate affair with maybe two dozen people – mostly family and close friends who had made the journey from the States to be part of this important event.

The wedding ceremony and the reception and dinner afterwards was held at my favorite restaurant and agriturismo, Calagrana, here in Umbria, in the Niccone Valley. They are masters at orchestrating events and delivering some of the most amazing wines and foods you’ll find in Umbria. The bride and groom were married under a verdant gazebo with graceful wrought-iron swirls. The bride’s father, a minister, officiated.

After the ceremony, prosecco and appetizers were served on the terrace overlooking the valley. A long sit-down dinner came next. Nothing was hurried or orchestrated on a strict time schedule. For me, it was almost as if Italy’s “Slow Food” movement had extended to the wedding venue.

As the photographer, I loved witnessing the many wonderful emotions flowing through the course of the afternoon and evening. At times I felt guilty – like I was some kind of voyeur or intruder into very personal and intimate moments. One of my favorite images is of the embrace between the new husband and wife when they slipped out on the terrace to have a moment alone.

I have attended two other weddings here in Umbria. Both were Italian weddings and they were much larger affairs (hundreds of guests). I’ll write about them in another posts. But, whether it is a wedding of Americans or of Italians, tying the knot in Italy is a magical experience.

 

The Faces and Doors of Venice

Venice may very well be my favorite city in Italy. I am certain countless other undiscovered gems are waiting to vie for top-tier status, but for now Venice remains firmly entrenched in first place. Even though I have visited Venice at least a dozen times, I still marvel at how much of the city remains shrouded in mystery. I am convinced this city never will completely reveal herself to me, which probably makes me love her even more. Secrets lurk in the labyrinth of alleyways throughout the city.

When I visit Venice I do my best to avoid the main tourist thoroughfares, especially areas like Piazza San Marco and the Rialto –even though those areas have much to offer. Instead, I steer directly into the less frequented, residential areas of Venice, Often, the most foreboding alleyways are the ones that draw me in the most. It’s probably a good thing that I haven’t watched the classic movie Don’t Look Now for several years, otherwise I wouldn’t be so bold.

What I have discovered in my wanderings through the more shadowy areas of Venice is a wealth of faces and motifs adorning the doors of Venice. On my most recent trip I endeavored to begin capturing these beautifully rendered door knockers, door pulls, and bells. I would love to build a catalog of these and research the symbolism, history and philosophy behind their creation. Even more, I would love to see the dwellings and people behind these doors, to see how they might correlate – or not.

Take this as Chapter One in a story that is just beginning to unfold for me…

 

 

Lei aspetta – She Waits – Painting by Jed

Lei aspetta - She Waits

Lei aspetta – She Waits

I am always fascinated with life at the bar/cafes of Italy, as represented by this smaller watercolor that I recently completed. This painting was inspired by a cafe that was my regular hangout for a month, just around the corner from my intensive language classes in Rome at Torre di Babele. Everyday, during the “pausa” (the 30-minute break), I would head to this wonderful little cafe, where they roast their own beans, and where they make a mean espresso. I inevitably would linger to watch the locals coming and going. This woman in particular caught my eye with her protective and watchful body language. Who knows what her story is…

For this and other paintings and photography, check out my online gallery.

Let Life Happen

Giallo - A Study of Love, in Yellow

Giallo – A Study of Love, in Yellow

Let life happen. Be present. These two important lessons keep presenting themselves. When I trust these two mantras, I’m amazed at what happens.

I captured this scene in Trastevere, Rome, when my dear friend Susan was visiting and we leisurely were strolling through the neighborhood after lunch at Grazia & Graziella (always a colorful and delicious experience). Not only do I love how yellow creates a focal point for this image, I also love this moment of tender affection.

This is an example of how life can orchestrate a scene for me, without my attempting to manufacture or control it. I’m learning that, when I open up my personal aperture, instead of maintaining a narrow focus looking for something in particular, life delivers something immensely better than any preconceived idea. My job is to be present and to be aware – and to be quick on the draw with my camera.

Having spent quite a bit of time in Rome, I’ve come to observe countless tourists glued to the their cameras and their smartphones. They seem to be intent on capturing every moment of their experience. In a way, it’s like grasping, striving to hold onto life vs. letting it flow. I see this because I have been the same. When I have been in that mode, life seems to flatten out, losing it rich sense of dimension – all in the pursuit of “holding on” and being afraid of missing out. And, at those times I have ended up not being fully present for the many wonderful people in my life.

I know my conditioning and my predisposition is to try to muscle my way through life. Now, I’m learning a path of relaxing into the flow of life, and trusting in what is and what will be. Because conditioning doesn’t just fall away without time and awareness, I’m certain life will keep bringing me opportunities to build these fledgling muscles. Patience, and more patience.

Relaxing into the moment does not mean being passive and waiting for life to deliver everything to my doorstep. As I have been writing this post, Simone has been downstairs listening to a YouTube interview with Oprah Winfrey. In yet another moment of synchronicity I heard Oprah describing her approach to life as “preparation leaning into the moment of opportunity”. This sums up an important point for me – do the hard work of preparation, and then allow opportunity to present itself.

The hardest thing for me to digest, is that my thinking brain cannot conceive of all that is possible. Becoming untethered from incessant thinking is a new and strange thing. Yet when it happens, I find myself experiencing an alertness that is peaceful and expansive. I’m grateful when these “windows” open up, and I’m also learning not to grasp, or lament when those windows seem to slam shut. All in due time…

Be sure to check out this and other photos and paintings in my online gallery.

 

 

A Study in Blue – Painting by Jed

Watercolor of "A Study in Blue"

A Study in Blue – Private Collection

A Study in Blue is one of my favorite watercolors. I completed this years ago after a wonderfully inspiring trip to the island of Burano, near Venice. If you haven’t been there, do yourself a favor and plan an excursion. I have no idea when and how the people on this island began painting their homes such “happy” colors, but I never tire of going there. In fact, I have a trip planned there in early June. I hope to board an early vaporetto so as to arrive, witness, and capture (with my faithful camera), the village coming to life. I am especially fascinated with what happens in the windows, as is evidenced by this painting.

This particular painting was honored with the prestigious Gold Award (Best in Show) in the Georgia Watercolor Society’s 20th Annual National Exhibition.

For this and other paintings and photography, check out my online gallery.

Lace Making – Watercolor by Jed

Lace Making - Watercolor by Jed

Lace Making – Watercolor by Jed

As many of you already know, I have been working on a series of smaller watercolors capturing scenes of everyday life in Italy. “Lace Making” is one of my most recent, and captures one of the many women from the island of Burano working outside their homes, and along the canals of the village. You reach Burano via a vaporetto ride from Venice. Unfortunately it is often overlooked and overshadowed by the island of Murano, which attracts hordes of visitors in search Murano glass. Burano is one of the “happiest” places I’ve visited. When the vaporetto pulls into port, you are greeted with a spectacular palette of homes painted in the brightest and most unexpected colors. If you come to Venice, be sure to schedule time to visit this wonderful island. While many people characterize it as a colorful fishing village, it also is a haven of lace-making artisans hard at work – like the woman featured in this watercolor “study”.

For this and other paintings and photography, check out my online gallery.

Nella Via – In the Street – Painting by Jed

"Nella Via" - "In the Street"

Nella Via – In the Street

As you may know from a previous post, I’m fascinated with snippets of everyday life in the cities and villages in Italy. I enjoy capturing regular people going about their lives. Here is a fellow I saw just out the front door of his home. Yes, he’s in the street, but he strategically has placed his chair to allow passage for at least one car. If I were him, I’d be worried about getting my left foot “clipped”. But, I’m sure the other people in these small villages know the ways and idiosyncrasies of one another, and respond accordingly.

I am enjoying working on these smaller watercolors, and I’ll continue doing so, while also exploring options for a large oil canvas that is waiting patiently for me here in my Umbrian studio.

For this and other paintings and photography, check out my online gallery.

 

La Vedetta – New painting by Jed

La Vedetta - Painting by Jed

La Vedetta

I recently completed a series of smaller watercolors, which included “La Vedetta”, the painting you see here. In Italian “La Vedetta” refers to a person who is always on watch, and in this case probably a person “in the know” as well.

I have long been fascinated with life as seen from and in the windows of Italy. Wherever I go, I see women and men keeping watch from their windows – often times quite openly, and other times quite furtively. After having completed this painting, I have resolved to take my faithful camera and to head out to both the small villages and large cities to capture the many variations on this theme. I believe this is a subject worthy of extensive exploration. I love bringing the psychology of such scenes to my work.

If you’ve spent any significant time in Italy, or if you plan to be in Italy for an extended stay, be prepared to experience the watchful eyes of your neighbors. You may think houses and windows are closed, but people are more keenly aware of your comings and goings than you can imagine. On one hand this is a very good thing since it provides you with a “neighborhood watch” that can put you more at ease. On the other hand, you might want to be mindful to always be on your best behavior as you could be the subject of later conversation and speculation!

For this and other paintings and photography please visit my online gallery.

 

Page 5 of 7« First...34567