No. 19: European Adventure Part I

Studio Sunday by Gianna Andrews

POV: A day in Italy

Gianna  holding a painting of the streets of Italy

I awake in the morning with a tingle in my toes, already sensing adventure before my feet hit the cool tile floor...

I lace up my sneakers and traipse downstairs, the aroma of coffee greeting me “bonjourno.” Sipping a cappuccino slowly I munch on a fresh baked apricot torte, studying the map to find what winding mountain road and alley I’ll run down before the heat of the day creeps up.

A croissant and a cup of coffee

Wiping sweat from my brow I return from a steep hill climb to the hotel. Readying myself for the day I pull on my painter shorts, grab my brushes, and haul my easel to the town square. Today, I will paint this adorable Italian town of Antimonina.

Two photos, one of the narrow street between two buildings, second is of a road on the countryside of Italy

As my brush swishes and the oil paints swirl, locals stop and watch like I am putting on a show. Speaking to me in romantic rapid Italian I smile and nod…why did I not study the language more before my arrival? Silly American.


My painting instructor, Pam Ingalls, walks to the square to check my progress. “More contrast,” she says. “Separate the lights from the darks. Paint the shapes, don’t draw the lines.” I carefully consider her feedback and trust her lead as I fluidly swing brush to pallet, and then brush to canvas. I respect how she meets each student where they are at, and then pushes them to be better. I think she sees my potential so she might be pushing a little extra hard.

Two photos, both of Gianna painting cars and buildings on the Italian street

I reflect back to the first few days of the painting course, how I resisted her feedback with every bone in my body. This style of Russian Impressionism oil painting is completely opposite to the style of my art and current body of work. It’s painterly, not precise. Soft edges instead of bold lines. What was I thinking?!


But today is different, I tell myself. I whisper my intention under my breath: to learn and experience something new. As I continue moving my hands I embrace the beginners’ mind and allow myself to be taught by another, something I haven’t practiced in my art since I established my own style in acrylics years ago.

Three photos, one of a lady painting in the street, second is a painting of a radio, and third is a painting of jar of spagetti and jar of sauce

Finito! I exclaim to my student peers as I clamber back into the air-conditioned painting room. It’s time for lunch and I need a break.


The sweet scent of pomodori and basil drifts from my plate making my mouth water, even though this is the 8th bowl of pasta I’ve been fed since arriving in Italy only 3 days ago. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in Italy so far, it’s that the Italians know how to do their carbs (they must know I ran a marathon just over a week ago!). 

Pasta with basil and eggplant

It’s time for a riposo, so I hit the pool under the nearby mountain summit, tre pitzie. Oh, and lunch isn’t complete in Italy without an espresso!

Gianna by the side of a pool drinking coffee

Okay, back to painting, I can do this. My instructor gives me an assignment: to paint a photograph upside down. The idea is to get me to stop painting the object and to start painting the shape; the lights and the darks. Okay, maybe I can’t do this after all.


Beginners’ mind, I remind myself. Okay, fine. I’ll give it a try. At first my brain feels like it’s trying to do a summersault. But eventually it settles into this upside-down dimension. I finally flip the piece right side up…Wow, I actually kind of like it!

Painting of a building archway, upside down and right side up

After some emails to home and an evening stroll, it’s time for dinner. More pasta, of course. This time with eggplant. Good conversation with friends that were mere strangers days ago.


As I record my thoughts that night in my little Italian room, I recognize how far I’ve already pushed myself out of my comfort zone this week. A million miles from home. A completely different style of painting and a new medium. A group of people I’d never met. Though I am beyond curious to explore all of the edges in this life of being human, I realize how proud I am of the art style I have already developed all alone in my studio. And how I shouldn’t simply gloss over my stylistic success.

Collage of paintings Gianna completed in Italy

It’s expansive to learn something new and it makes me hungry to learn more. More art styles, new languages. But a part of me is excited to return home and integrate everything new I’ve learned with my own personal spin. To me, true creativity comes from a place deep within. It cannot be taught, it can only be discovered in the exploration of self

See you next Sunday!

- Gianna

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