Vicky Anthony Montemarcello by Anthony Yates RBA RBSA

April 28, 2020

Vicky Anthony Montemarcello by Anthony Yates RBA RBSA

Just bringing you all up to date with Tony’s trip to Italy before COVID-19.

To quote Tony –  it all began like this:

‘Last summer a woman called Henrietta looked at our RBA website and my paintings caught her eye. She sent an email to our secretary, Brenda Davies, who forwarded it to me. The message I received was an incredible offer. How would I like to spend two weeks in Italy painting and drawing in a house provided by Henrietta? Sounds too good to be true? Well, I met her at Chelsea Arts Club and the offer was genuine. Henrietta, (who is half-Italian) simply wants to encourage artists she likes to spend time in the place she grew up and see what we produce. I accepted the offer.

Next step. As this wasn’t to be a family holiday it was decided that I should travel with another artist. Henrietta left the choice to me. And so, talking to the printmaker Vicky Oldfield who has shown at the annual RBA Exhibition for the last nine years and with whom I had become good friends and collaborated with on a book and poster design, I told her of my offer. She thought it ‘amazing’ and immediately jumped at the chance to join me. It turns out every artist I subsequently told also gave me the same reaction, so I would have had no trouble finding someone to accompany me.

Plane tickets were booked and we landed at Pisa Airport on 19th June. We drove along the Autostrada and wound a tortuous, mountainous road to arrive at the unspoilt, un-touristy village of Montemarcello, Liguria. We parked outside the village as no cars allowed, no internet, hardly a phone signal, one small shop with no credit card facility (well, it did have a machine but it didn’t work very well). We lugged our laden cases up steep, narrow streets, met an Italian woman Chiara who opened the door to a little house on the square, gave us the key and disappeared. We were lost’.

We now continue with Blog number two: 

Part 2 Vicky's Knockers

‘I pulled off the heavy hooks securing the wooden shutters and opened them wide; down below Montemarcello Square glittered in the early morning light. The warmth, the peace and quiet, the darting swallows lured me outside and I started to draw. Alexandra, the next door neighbour appeared, introduced herself, took some photographs and went back up the steps to her house. Vicky wandered out, bleary eyed clutching a huge cup of herbal tea, hovered a few seconds and scuttled back inside. I carried on drawing as the day opened itself up. People started strolling through the Square, the café seats were taken up and cyclists propped up their bikes by walls to rest awhile. And soon Vicky came out again, now her usual bright and bubbly self eager to explore. This was our first morning in Liguria.

I was to discover that when Vicky gets going there’s no stopping her as my poor feet were to find out. She loves walking and I was soon dragged through narrow streets, up hills, through forest and climbing down to the sea. One walk was particularly hair-raising, when we tried to follow the wooded path to Bocha di Magra high above the sea. Trails vanished into cul-de-sacs, brambles tore at our bare arms and legs, sheer drops were encountered every few hundred yards, wild-boar tracks criss-crossed the earth and occasional small painted signs pointing the way were soon nowhere to be seen. The tracks we were trying to follow became more impassable and we turned back completely losing our sense of direction and starting to worry. How relieved we were when we emerged from that jungle of trees and undergrowth scratched, dusty and sweaty. We didn’t enter the forest again.

At first days were hot and nights cool, but soon the southern winds brought in the African heat, overpoweringly hot, and now we sweltered day and night. Montemarcello is perched high on top of the Caprione promontory and the wind, it seems, can be a problem. We wondered why there were large rocks placed on many roof tops and found out they were to protect from the Mistral, for when it blows it rips tiles off, sometimes taking a whole roof.

But for now in the sultry heat we determined to work hard and soak in the atmosphere. We drew from the edges of the village looking back up at the colourful buildings, we drew in the streets we drew by the sea, we drew in gardens and fields, the views from high over the Mediterranean, and I drew Vicky. We didn’t travel far from our base, visiting only Bocha de Magra the nearest town, Tellaro with its colourful buildings crowding the sea, Pietrasantra with its many street sculptures and a night out in Forte dei Marmi to attend a Private View. There was more than enough for us to get on with where we were, for drawing takes time, it is absorption in the subject, and for two artists left alone this was ideal – we loved it. And Vicky noticed the ornate door furniture of Montemarcello. Off she’d go getting lost in the labyrinth of streets and come back smiling after recording myriad knockers in drawings and photographs. As hard as we worked we did take breaks though, and visits to the beach were de rigueur in the heatwave to bathe and cool off. Vicky likes swimming and is good at it. I’d sit on the beach drawing while she disappeared for an hour re-appearing from the water looking like Ursula Andress in Dr No.

Our little house was on the upper part of the Square (Piazza XIII Dicembre) looking down to the shop cum café with seats outside under olive trees and parasols. I always made little doodle sketches of the comings and goings in the Square which wasn’t originally intended as a Square but after Allied bombing of the Second World War flattened buildings the space was left and made as we see it today. A plaque declares ‘A ricordo delle vittime dell incursione aerea’ (In memory of the victims of the air raid). The café and shop are run entirely by women, great characters who work tirelessly and not without a little sense of fun. You eat and drink outside and pay inside. One night we were the last to leave and I went in to settle up leaving Vicky at the table outside. The ladies of the café didn’t speak English and I tried my best to say one or two words in Italian much to their amusement. They insisted I pronounce the language properly, trapping me inside giggling hysterically as I flustered my lines. I was in there ages and not allowed to leave until I got it right – poor Vicky wondering where I had got to.

The two weeks we spent in Montemarcello were a wonderful adventure and, as it turned out, the trip couldn’t have come at a better time for me as it gave me the opportunity to collect material for an exhibition I had been asked to participate in…’

Altro nel prossimo blog
(More in next blog)

All drawings reproduced in the blog are the original work of Anthony Yates, with the exception of No. 8 Vicky’s knockers and No. 16 Vicky’s print ‘Hidden Garden’ which are the original work of Vicky Oldfield

Photographic credit for image 2 © Alexandra Schileo. All other images © Vicky Oldfield & Anthony Yates

Blog written by Anthony Yates and edited by Vicky Oldfield

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