Monday, March 31, 2014

99th Post - My life as a story so far...........

This week I am expecting some international visitors to stop by my house and I am planning to say a few things about my life in Pisticci. I am a little nervous and have prepared so far by painting over the damp patches on my walls and hanging paintings to cover all manner of faults, watering my flowers, rearranging paintings in my little gallery - and contemplated washing the floor. It only remains to consider what I might say- been putting off thinking about that...... However this is my 99th post so it seems like an appropriate time  to look back on life here and think about what it has meant to me.
Lots of people ask why I came to live in Pisticci-  almost every new person I meet in fact- as if somehow I have found this little town on a map and chosen to come and live here because it is beautiful, with kind and generous people and great weather - but actually I had never heard of Pisticci and it was my great good luck that a friend of a friend was selling a house in the country here at the same time as I was looking for an adventure. I had never been to Italy before, spoke no Italian  and apart from assuming that the weather would be better than in scotland knew very little about Italy and nothing at all about Basilicata.
I can still remember the very first time I visited Pisticci with the friend who was selling the house..... I thought it was magical. It was so pretty and so white and so different from any place I had ever seen before. I remember thinking that living in such a place would be amazing. But would I ever be so lucky!
And here I am now nine years later........actually living in Pisticci , in Dirupo in an old house which might be up to 400 years old.
But to go back to when I arrived in the country, knowing nothing and with no driving licence and knowing the Italian for "pizza" and not much else why am I still here?
Over the years which have been a bit challenging financially I have thought about why I am still here and life here has been such a great adventure and pleasure and learning experience. ( Basically I am saying that if I had known how great it would be to live here I would have chosen it for sure.)
I enjoyed living in the country and having a garden full of olive trees and fruit trees, sitting on the veranda watching the sunset with a glass of wine- but even more I enjoyed meeting all my neighbours and getting to know people in Pisticci. People in Scotland are not unfriendly but the people in Pisticci are so welcoming and kind that it changed me. Perhaps Its like if you go in the sun a lot you become tanned and if you spend time being treated in a kind and friendly manner  you become warmer as a person and more confident..
Another reason for staying here  was having learned to ride a scooter I absolutely loved whizzing around in the sunshine - never having driven before it is still a miracle to me that I can get on something mechanical and go where I like. I also had an ape' for several years which I used to carry  my paintings and equipment to sell at local markets.
I have loved learning and speaking Italian. ( any of my Italian friends having heard how poorly I speak Italian are probably surprised that I say this.) But I was so shy when I arrived in Pisticci that the thought of speaking a foreign language was quite frightening- and speaking it badly. even worse.  Every time I go in a cafe, have a conversation,  speak to strangers at bus stops and am understood I cheer inside. The first time I made someone laugh in Italian was a special day. I am gradually learning more and more and I get such a feeling of achievement every  time I can communicate..
Lastly I would not have progressed as an artist in the same way had I not lived in Pisticci. I bought my studio seven years ago and have used it as a workplace until last year when I also started to live here.
I had begun painting in Scotland several years before moving to Italy but only in my spare time as I had a job as well. After arriving here and realising  that I was not going to get any kind of job  I started painting more of the time and then this gradually became all of the time. At first I only painted portraits but after attending an art course in Marconia I did my first town scene. Now I will paint almost anything. I mostly paint people and scenes from and around Pisticci as that is what I like to do and people buy them.
It is such a good feeling to be working at something I love and it feels like I am making a small contribution to the culture of Pisticci by preserving it and its people in paintings.
I started writing my first blog , this one, and called it My Life As A Story, about 2 years ago for several reasons.  I had read in various marketing articles that it might help me sell paintings, I like writing and there were always plenty of things happening to write about, and I wanted to describe how it felt for a foreigner to live in Pisticci and be part of another culture.And the title I chose is because I feel like I am living in a story- its not quite real.
As far as being a marketing tool I have two photos of my paintings in a book called PICNIC IN PISTICCI by Tina Powell,  but other than that I have not sold anything directly related to it, though I did earn 2 euros from google advertising!!
I have enjoyed , very much, writing it. There are so many funny and interesting things to write about. Almost every day there is a small adventure. Even a simple walk into town is strewn with greetings , stops for views, new things happening, small conversations, getting commissions in cafes, meeting new people, being offered houses to sell.
There is the elderly gentleman who when he sees me gives me a sweet, the older lady who lives above my studio who made lunch for me every day for years and lowered it down from her balcony in a plastic bag on the end of a piece of string - and then later coffee (in the pot) or ice-cream in a little dish complete with spoon.  
One day I saw someone repairing their ladder with sellotape. They were standing in the middle of the road and I had to ride round them on my scooter.
I had a personal small concert from a group of musicians and dancers collecting money for the carnevale outside my door. ( I later painted this)
There have been lots of processions,  I was in one inadvertently and was in another briefly in a horse and carriage.
There have been close shaves with fires in the summer,  enough snow one winter to make a snow man, and one summer when it didnt rain for 3 months .
There was the day when I had painted someones father who had died and I saw my painting on the  cafe wall and was so moved to feel that I been able to create something so special.
And the first day I took paintings up several flights of stairs to a local restaurant had them hung all round the restaurant.
One day I took a painting for a walk round Pisticci and photographed it beside the scene that was painted on it  and in various other places - I was delivering it to the bar and bringing another one back.
There were countless transport adventures - one scootering accident and countless fun rides in the country photographing scenery and poppies, many incidents with my ape which constantly broke down - including the time when the window-wipers went on fire, the glass fell out the window, the wheel fell off, the time I fixed it myself and many more.
Times when I was feeling a little down and went out to get a coffee and got another commission as well.
And all my market adventures- especially when I drove myself there with all my stuff in my ape'  of which I was not the most confident driver and always breathed a sigh of relief when I finally arrived home afterwards. I met lots of people when I did markets in Pisticci. It was always a great social occasion.
And all of these time when I have been on the edge of society here and looking in. Feeling accepted as Anne the Scottish artist who is in love with Pisticci.
I have what  I think of as a typical day which happens three or four times a week but is just as likely to change into something completely different. Most things here don't happen quickly so a whole morning passes when I have puncture on my scooter and wait to get it fixed. Or get a commission in a cafe (Much more sales have happened in cafes and in the street than have been connected to my blog!)
On a fairly normal day I would get up and organised and walk up town for a coffee. Greeting lots of people on the way and enjoying the views. That's also when I would pay bills and do small errands.  Then if possible sit outside with a coffee and enjoy the sunshine. I always take my camera with me incase I find something good to paint. Last summer I took my sketch pad once a week and drew scenes of the piazza  from outside a cafe. Then I come back and do some organising and planning on my computer and get ready to paint after lunch. I like to paint until 5pm in the winter and a little later in the summer.  Then depending on whether I am tired or not I might go for a walk .Two times a week  I  get the bus to Marconia to a yoga class.
Winter life is very different from summer when I might paint a lot more and the doors are open  so I don't feel so shut in. There are more people about so I don't always go out for a coffee.
At the weekends , if I don't have a commission to finish then I spend a couple of days in the country. My partner is restoring a house and its a nice change to help out.
Most of my marketing is done in cafes, by word of mouth and meeting people in the street so going out for coffee or a walk is important so I sometimes have to remind myself that I need to go out .
At the minute I am finishing a project where I am drawing 50 people from Pisticci so I need to draw at least one person each day and am also trying to paint more street scenes so that I have enough stock for the summer. I try and write 2 blog posts every two weeks or so and I am always thinking of my next paintings. There never seems enough time in the day and weeks fly past.
I was trying to think of the changes I have seen in Pisticci in the time that I have been here. Being on the edge I am not always aware of what is going on.
Two years ago I became aware of the CIRCUS . (I has painted some of the people from there as they were the carnevale musicians and I was invited in.) I  like what they do there- bring musicians to perform, encourage drama and serve interesting food and drink. There was a book club at one time which I nearly went to but my poor Italian made me feel like it would be too difficult to join in. I loved the pillow fight that was held there one year.
Then for the first few years I didn't realise the film festival was happening as I was always away doing markets, but it has become the best bit of the feste now for me.  I think it it amazing that a small place should have so much going on. and I don't know about the half of it.
Another place which has opened up recently is the Casa Elizia where there have been some brilliant musicians.
The centre (TILT) in Marconia does lots of things other than the yoga class which I attend.
dirupo in pisticci
There are more foreigners buying houses here than when we arrived and  I am still encouraging people through my blog and on twitter to come visit, then stay and make Pisticci an artistic centre where they can experience  their lives and art being enriched by all that Pisticci , this area and the Italian people have to offer.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Ten places to downsize to in Italy - Pisticci is number nine

One of my facebook friends found this article today on , what I think is an online magazine associated with Dolce and Gabbana. If I knew how to drag and drop or move stuff I would be able to presumably make it appear here -but as I don't .... you would need to look at SWIDE magazine and search for Pisticci. I have tried this and I found it - so it must be easy.
I am very surprised as although I have always thought that Pisticci was special and very pretty I didn't know that a lot of people knew that.

Monday, March 3, 2014

March already....better get organised for summer then...

It feels like I am waking up from hibernation. Today I opened both windows above my doors - with the aid of a hammer and a screwdriver - and let the air in to my studio. I lasted about 2 hours until I was so cold I was having difficulty feeling my hands. But it's a start. My studio is a bit humid- I have a humidifier which tells me that I am only about 15 somethings above the maximum level of whatever. This is good , as when I bought it I was 35 above. It makes me feel that at least I am not imagining that it is cold.
Outside, despite it being February it has been lovely with temperatures reaching 20C on a regular basis.
It's hard to believe that it is only the beginning of March .
This year my new year's resolution, incase I have not already mentioned it, is to be more expansive.( Only I know what that really means , so no one other than me can really say at the end of the year whether I have achieved it or not!)
However in the spirit of er expansiveness - getting about a bit- I went to florence to cheer myself up in February. It is the second time I have been and it was lovely. I was so inspired by the colours in some of the old cafes and bars that I am half way through adding colour to the walls of my studio. Previously it has been all white- in the er spirit of practicalness!
I am still going to yoga class and enjoying it very much. Now that I get the bus every time there I am thinking (expansiveness) about seeing where else I can go on the bus. It is not as easy as it sounds as there are no timetables. What is on the internet is not neccessarily what is available , so it is only by going to the bus station and asking whoever is hanging around  what times there are buses to wherever that it's possible to make a plan. I am considering visiting Tursi where there is a very interesting old area. It would take me about an hour and a half on my scooter or possibly 3 hours on two buses. (About 35 minutes in a car). So far have not got further than considering it.......
I am looking forward to warmer weather and feeling like going out for strolls round Pisticci. Once I am inside and semi warm I tend to stay in. It didnt help that my door  got about an inch bigger and slightly curved due to all the damp and I could barely open and shut it. It has now had the extra inch removed so there will be plenty of ventilation in the summer when it has shrunk again.
I have been still getting a regular stream of commissions, mostly portraits but also have recently finished painting three washboards which was interesting to do.
I have felt a bit shut in these last few months and it will make a big difference when I start to open my studio door every day.
This week it's Carnevale and tomorrow I think there is a parade. I have to go and take my camera as I promised two girls that I would take their photos and draw them.
This year I am hoping to learn  to speak better Italian - that would definitely help me be more expansive- but am not confident that I will manage to achieve this unless I get out more and spend more time with people. Actually that sounds like quite a good idea- in the spirit of expansiveness............
some of my flowers bloomed all winter

the sea at the weekend

Piazza San Rocco in the sunshine

coffee outside

Pisticci at night

view from hotel roof terrace in florence

I just liked this photo of part of the duomo

me wearing a velvet jacket in february (in florence)

my lovely colourful studio