Thursday, 15 December 2011


I have learnt and I'm learning a lot about things lately, how we surround ourselves with things to feel secure and how things actually fail to do that function -  they instead often stunt our creativity, fill precious space, and keep us where we were, stopping us from moving forward. One of the reasons why I like travelling is that I leave all my things behind. I now pack a tiny bag and rely on the masses of things accumulated by others. Adapting to what I find, in terms of books to read, accessories, paper, pens, toothpastes and hand creams, is a fantastic exploration of the world and of my relationship to the world. Travelling only with hand luggage makes me feel that I am at home everywhere and nowhere. Even my sketchbooks are becoming smaller. I love this super tiny Moleskine. I brought no art supplies with me to Genoa, thinking that I would find something there. I bought only this fun pen called tratto pen that turns blue if you wet it. Back home the tratto pen is now sitting together with all my other hundreds of pens, and has lost some of the charm it had when it was the only one. Possessing things or being possessed by them is a funny, delicate balance. Travelling is a great way to test what is and what isn't important.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

What to do and how to do it

While I was barricated in the bedroom waiting for the floor to be finished in the sitting room, I read two books, the conversations with David Hockney and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Superficially these two books have nothing in common, but somehow each helped me to understand the other. It's something to do with who you are, who you want to be, who you think you want to be or do, who and what other people want you to be or do. Indecision on what to portray and how to portray it are often the main reason for inertia in creative people. Most often this insecurity is a struggle between who we are and who we think we should be in order to be succesfull, understood, appreciated, loved. This is why at the beginning of my artistic expression I became fascinated by outsider artists, people who follow their muse, be it a god or a need, without worrying about technique, without worrying about pleasing anybody. Just following their call. Outsider artists are incredibly prolific, because they do more and worry less. They also often have the time, but this is another excuse. The moral of these two books, as I interpret it, is: return to your soul, it knows better than anybody else what your destiny is, and your real destiny is always good.

Friday, 25 November 2011

While soundproofing

My first regular contribution for Mixed Media Art magazine is up today. I planned to revive my blog around the same time, writing more about journalling and the techniques I use. Instead I am in the middle of soundproofing the floor in the sitting room and the rest of the flat looks like a place that American Pickers would just love! Piles and piles of stuff everywhere. I spent the day in the bedroom yesterday, feeling like a teenager, one room to study, read, draw, sleep. Having an ipad helped feeling less deprived of tv watching in the evening, and I ended up watching Amos & Andy and other very old, very odd tv programmes. We had dinner in the kitchen upon another pile of junk, listening to a cassette of Los Lobos. It's funny, with all the mp3 players, downloads, etc. the best music we have still seems to be on cassette! Today is the second day of soundproofing and soon I'll go back to the bedroom and find some other way to spend the day. I have a book on interviews with David Hockney... somewhere.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

to sketch (or not)

I love sketching, but I have to get over a wall of inertia ever so high. I don't know what it is. Once I get going, I'm fine, I enjoy it, but I seem to find a lot of excuses: not the right weather, nothing to draw, too many art supplies or not enough. In search for the perfect pen that does all the work... After spending a couple of days at the sea describing in detail to an artist friend all the reasons why I should sketch and all the equally important reasons why I avoid it, I've decided that I should stop being a pain and get on with it. So here it is, today's sketch. A pair of scissors (just about one of the hardest things to draw free-hand). Not just any scissors. These are my grandmother's, with an art nouveau butterfly design. Tomorrow we'll see. There's plenty of horribly difficult things to draw all around us...

Friday, 29 July 2011

Good book bad book

I've always hated the expression 'a good book', as if anyone wanted to relax and enjoy a bad book. Nevertheless, this is a good book. The author takes you on a complete journey of the human nature starting and coming back to maps, and that is pretty clever. He touches on things that I never particularly thought about, like what are the reasons behind collecting, and he quotes authors who've written on the subject. They say that collecting comes from animistic beliefs, it's a way of surrounding yourself with sacred objects that protect you and inspire you. I wonder if this explains why I keep on buying art supplies that I often never use, but revere as if they held the key to my creativity.

My shelves full of art supplies

Now here's a bad book: it is not really a bad book, just sad for me, as I tend to read every book as if it held a piece of a truth higher than mine, as if it was right and I were wrong. It's just the opinions and samples of various artists' sketchbooks and most of the artists seem to see sketches as means to an end. Yet, in my opinion, the means are way more interesting and alive than the ends. Also I seem to be attracted like a magnet to the pencils/charcoal/marker isles of art shops. Those art supplies are my idols, and yet I seem to be told here that they're just ephemeral, that only oil paints or acrylics are the real thing that makes finite, complete artworks. 
It makes me cry on my printer, who (sic) is working hard with me to preserve those marks created using transitorial, short lived instruments of unfinished creations.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Leaving the past behind

A little doodle I did on the back of an envelope with a biro and a dried-up marker sparked all sorts of thoughts in me. I wasn't thinking of anything in particular when I was drawing but I was wondering why this guy looked sad, because all of my images are usually jolly. But then, still for no logical reason, I started sketching the house that I see from my kitchen window. And the thought occurred to me that this guy, who is young in age or in spirit, is leaving his childhood home and is not ready to be happy yet. But butterflies are showing him the way and the sun is shining.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

to rescue a felt tip pen

Landing in Genoa
The pen
It was a daunting trip, going back to that flat, to a piece of distorted history, distorted by distance, time and many inexplicable events. It was difficult from here, so many miles away and with such a wide gap between my me and other people's me, my version and other people's, it was difficult to face such a potential flood of feelings. What would I want to rescue from my past? Nothing really, some memories, perhaps, the essence of me, the thread that we call conscious life, but nothing physical, no weight of objects to pull me down... except for one pen, that I never got to use. I knew it was in the drawer, next to my bed and I wanted it, and I thought of nothing else, for days, for weeks. Now it's here on my desk, in my present life. Here, to share with me some magical moments in the future, create sketches and look forward to harmony and joy.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

cheap but not so nasty

My take on one of Liu Haisu's paintings
Sometimes I like giving myself silly challenges, and experiment with things. So today I did two paintings. The first is a panda that I copied from the great artist Liu Haisu. I used a Chinese brush and... soot. Yes, you heard me right. I put a spoon on top of a candle and... voilĂ  (Don't burn yourselves or singe the brush like I did.) The second is even sillier. It's a flamingo from a photo I took a while ago. And the paint used is... the ink of dried gel pens. Snip the tubes (they do tend to fly and splatter on your walls when you do that), put them in a little jar with a little water, shake, and off you go. 
flamingo painted with gel pens

Thursday, 9 June 2011

High expectations

Being free with Blendypens
My art may look quite diverse, but it all stems from two desires - of living the creative and carefree childhood I never quite had and, on the other hand, the desire that I had so strong as a child, of being skilled at reproducing images that I saw in my head or on art supply boxes. I often get children's art supplies and see how far they can extend into the adult world of expression. I was amused when I read negative reviews of the Blendypens from unhappy mothers who said that their child could not reproduce the pictures on the package. Of course not, those pictures are done by very capable illustrators, not by children. But my frustration as a child turned out to be one of the strongest incentives to my creativity. I love my new invented childhood. You may not be able to change your past, but you can always create images and settings and feelings and stories in your head where you can be any age, any place, doing what you like best.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Medium format

Last week I went out with a group of photographers shooting medium format. I was kindly lent a Mamyia RZ and fell in love with it. It was my first experience with medium format cameras and looking into that 3d viewfinder was fascinating. Of course, it's not as easy as it seems, the focus and depth of field are not exactly what you see in the viewfinder, but still, with a bit of practice...
Now that I think of it, what is this fascination I have with bicycles lately? I don't even know how to ride one.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Throwing or keeping

All the creative people I talked to have very different opinions on the throwing or keeping of what doesn't entirely satisfy them. Do you paint over the same canvas ten times, do you hide the works that upset you at the bottom of a drawer, or do you rip them and recycle them into a collage? I tell myself that there are no mistakes in art, that everything is ultimately good. But this approach sometimes stops me from doing as much art as I would like to, lest I discover that I am wrong and that some drawings and paintings are just plain rubbish and should leave the planet quickly and quietly. So, this bycicle should have been my first sacrificial victim, but then it just broke my heart, and I couldn't get myself to kill it. Not just that, I am even sharing it with you! I drew it using my grandfather's old stack of wax crayons and coloured pencils from the 1950s. Ultimately, there is nothing right about this drawing, and yet, this poor bycicle, whose handles are so far away from the saddle that only a monkey could possibly ride it, is still somehow sweet looking, in its humble way, and begged me not to bin it. Next time, I will get tougher, though, I will learn to throw. Or not?

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Flotsam and jetsam

The private beaches in Venice Lido open for the season in mid-May. During the rest of the year there is public access and there are only a handful of people dipping their feet into the water or walking up the piers. There are great amounts of driftwood and all sorts of things brought on shore by the sea during the winter months. I am fascinated by this kind of findings, sometimes mysterious treasures, other times, just plain rubbish. As I was rummaging through the debris, looking for bits of brick and glass pebbles, chips of boulders and other fun stuff to decorate my garden with, I saw a guy looking around the same area, even lifting and observing a broken buoy. I wondered what he was up to, but then he vanished and I continued my search on my own. About an hour later, I walked back to the main exit and saw more jetsam and flotsam, but when I stopped to look at it more carefully, I realised that it was an installation, a sculpture, a piece of artwork, and I had no doubt as to who the artist was.
A wonderful piece of land art made with debris from the sea

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Sketching in Southbank

I went to Southbank yesterday with a group of sketchers. The sun was out (sort of) and there were thousands of people. I hadn't done any outdoors sketching in a long time, and never in a group, and I really enjoyed it. I've also been doing a bit of street photography lately, and I'm amazed by how your relationship with the world changes, when you take the time to observe it. How many interesting things you can discover about places and people. It really is an adventure. I wonder why we open up to things only when we travel abroad and we seem to ignore what is around us in our everyday life.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Museums and reverie

phone-doodled portraits of 4 famous artists
Mostly, people talk about one thing (at a time), but I'd like to talk about two and see whether they can be connected. It's like a game of logic. I want to continue with my fascination with collecting and with museums. One of my favourite museums is the Meir Agassi Museum. Among other things, Agassi collected invented artists, the biography of whom he would write in great detail. Like Hokusai, he hid his versatility by choosing different pseudonyms. I thought about doing that myself, and decided against it, embracing all the facets of me under the umbrella of me. I chose to be, in a way, my own museum. Now, for theme number two: a few months ago I read an article in Psychologies mourning the end of reverie. It claimed that through the constant fidgeting with mobile phones, social networks, etc., boredom is now officially dead - the downside of it being the disappearance of reverie (daydreaming instead of fidgeting) that is so necessary for our creativity. I think that whether you want to reverie or not is entirely up to you and that fidgeting could be catalogued and displayed in your own museum, becoming material for inspiration and further thought. Of course, it could also be a mandala, swept away by background noise.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

The art of looking sideways

I have been wandering, if not aimlessly, rather soullessly, through meanders and mazes of little sense, searching for that inspiration, or even for that desire for inspiration, that makes my journey through life an exciting and adventurous one. So, in this state of depletion, I entered the library yesterday and found a huge tome, called The Art of Looking Sideways. It is a most irritating piece of work, as it is written in all directions, weighs a ton, tells stories that are too long, and has quotations. But. It suddenly woke me up from my torpor. I can do this too, I thought, play with images, words, type, aimlessly, but now in a positive way, wandering through the same or different meanders, randomly collecting flowers, pebbles, ideas, dreams, obsessions, distortions. And then put it all in a book, a big irritating book that weighs a ton, for my own benefit, or yours or nobody's. But doing it. Perhaps I'll call it The art of doing.
I discussed this with Diana drinking cappuccino.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Goodbye, Dad

On January 25th my Dad passed away. He was buried in Venice, on the island of San Michele, in his in-laws' family tomb. My granny used to take me to that cemetary as a child to visit grandad. There were toy cans that you would fill at the fountains to water the flowers on the tombs, and tall cypresses, so somber, they looked like arrows pointing at the heavens above. I remember that place as peaceful and dreamy. I hope my Dad has found there the peace he so much deserved. Goodbye, Dad, you will be missed.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Pause for reflection... sort of

When I am busy with long translations, as I am now, by the end of the day I'm too "worded out" to find the energy to blog or start any creative project. So, it's a time for reflection, in which I lazily flick though art books. The one I'm flicking through at the moment is a colossal volume: Mariscal Drawing Life, and I'm finding eeeerie similarities with some of my stuff:

Me (before knowing Mariscal)

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Old pictures

Was this my very first encounter with photography? I'm scanning tons of negatives, restoring pictures to a glory they actually never had, thanks to the power of digital. Old images are fascinating, full of bizarre details that go past the personal sense of history and belonging. Note the star fish next to my foot!

The only visible change in Venice is in children's fashion...

Tuesday, 11 January 2011


Venice was grey and white with fog and drizzly rain. I hadn't been there in winter since I was a little girl. It was strangely deserted, perhaps all the tourists are waiting for the carnival. We had intermittent heating in the flat, wearing heavy coats we searched drawers filled with forgotten histories, including this photographic plate that I managed to scan, a family portrait of some ancestors I know nothing about. Memory lane was sore and sweet, everything slightly or drastically different from how we remembered it, but in a way it didn't matter, as we still belonged, somehow, to it all.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The BIg Sleep

To celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary we went to see The Big Sleep last night. I hadn't seen an old b&w film at the cinema for I don't know how many years. It's fascinating to see how little we've learned about filmaking since! The lighting was incredible and the settings perfect, every single prop had a reason to exist, such attention to detail. Really amazing. The clothes and makeup were beautiful. I've done a lot of period films as a background artist and we were never given clothes of that fit and quality. But then again not many of us have Bacall's waistline. What were women eating in those days to have such perfect bodies? Or were they eating? Of course in Europe there wasn't a great deal of food going around at that time, but I don't know about America. My grandmother kept a piece of bread from the wartime to show it to me and my sister when we were kids. I understood more about war from looking at that black, sad piece of stale bread then from what I was taught in school.

Monday, 3 January 2011

2010 Highlights 2

Before becoming passionate about photography, I had perhaps a couple of film cameras that were strictly used for holiday snapshots. So, after three years of digital photography, I really wanted to go back to basics or, should I say, go to basics for the first time. I got myself a lot of cheap range finders from the 60s, compacts from the 80s, and a few plastic cameras, like a Holga 135 BC and  Holga TIM, and had a lot of fun. I showed the results in a talk called "Plastic Francesca", at my camera club in October. You can see more images on my flickr folder called Holga, plastic and cheap cameras. 35mm is back in my life for good, although I will keep on using digital cameras, phones and what not, as well. Film is warmer and film cameras have all got their own personality. That's what I like about them. I also like the fact that they are usually much lighter and faster. You can take a few with you when you go out and if they break, so be it, they only cost a few pounds (or dollars or euros). I am not in any way a purist, though, I scan the film digitally and do as much or as little manipulation as the image requires.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

2010 Highlights

Originally uploaded by franvisions
2010 was not the best of years for various reasons, some of which, i.e. the gloomy economy, affected everybody to various degrees. Still, there were some very good moments for me, and here are some of the highlights. In February, I was lucky enough to be among the 55 artists who participated in the Regenerator II project. We were all sent an old book discarded from the Bower Ashton Library to alter in any way we wanted. The book I received was about the Chimu culture. The Chimus inhabited the area of Peru now known as Trujillo in 900AD and made the most bizzarre pottery. There were about 100 B&W plates in the volume. I therefore decided to let this guide my inspiration and created an imaginary journey through Peru. I have never been there, but luckily some of my friends, photographers and artists, had, and provided me with various material to play with, including a fascinating diary of a motorbike trip through South America. You can see three pages of my work in the archival pages of Regenerator II, together with the examples of the other artists' work. All of these books are on permanent display, if you happen to go to Bristol. The whole book can be seen on my flickr set entitled My Peru altered book. I worked on this project for a couple of months and it has been an amazing imaginary trip.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, everybody. This is last year's Snowman. This year one had a hat and looked much more handsome, but he melted before I had the time to take his picture. I'm back at blogging after more than a year gap. That's because I was busy thinking!