her eyes sparkling.
I finally took my first couple stones to Il Ticolotore creating only ten copies, because
that was all I could afford. With great hope and crossed fingers, I signed and numbered
the copies and mailed one of each lithograph to Associated American Artists in New
York. After creating a lithograph, the stone is always destroyed, but I kept and still have
one of the originals.
It took me a while to adapt to the customs and pace of life. Wine was served like
water, not vintage, but varieties suitable for daily drinking at home. Not only was paying
for things in lira rather than dollars confusing, every minute away from my work seemed
to take longer than I had expected. It was difficult to make myself understood and to
understand Italians from every walk of life and with different accents (just as a Texan
might have difficulty understanding the accent of those from Brooklyn or New Jersey and
vice versa). Most talked too fast.
In the meantime, I was continually getting lost in the city, and my beautiful Lancia
Aurelia was misbehaving. I would find myself driving in the middle of traffic and my
supposedly fast and easy-to-operate car would come to an unscheduled stop. I learned to
keep an empty wine bottle in the car in case I needed to run to a fountain for water to
pour water over the radiator. When my horn went out in the middle of a shopping center,
it created a calamity. A horn is an absolute necessity in Italy; almost as much as the
petrol. I learned to shout back at other irritated drivers who were repeatedly honking at
me, “Niente claca . . . no horn!”
I saw all of the famous Seven Hills of Rome several times while being lost. And I
kept parking in bus zones and eventually received a warrant for my arrest unless I paid
my fines. Italians consider your manner of dress important and judge you by your
appearance. I chose my finest hat and fancy dress and went to visit the chief of police.
After I had answered all his questions to the best of my ability and fluttered my eyelashes
a few times, he tore up my tickets and asked if I would like to have lunch with him.
Sometimes it works being a woman in Italy; at least it did for me. Many of the men who
ogled women were married, however, and that knowledge kept me on guard. To my
surprise, I was never pinched on my rear end until I reached New York.
My friends back home assumed I would have a mad and passionate affair while in
Rome, but I didn’t. Aside from constantly itching from some allergen in the air and
always getting lost in translations, I found my life there both intriguing and memorable.
I waited and waited for what seemed like an eon to hear from the New York gallery.
Of course, the mail system in Italy moved slower than the proverbial molasses in spring.
Ordinary mail was expensive and my friends told me it often took two weeks for a letter
to reach its destination in a nearby province, so I should be patient. To collect letters at
A DIVINE ACCIDENT
the local post office, I had to produce proof of identity and I went there daily to see if a
special envelope had arrived.
Notice in the following four examples of lithographs how the use of color and detail
evolved over the decades. Three of them were used as posters to advertise events or
causes and the final one of the baby to create income for the artist. I would have loved to
attain the skill of Charlotte Becker in her lithographs, but I could only produce such detail
on canvas. I was young. I wanted everything to happen yesterday. Becoming really good
at anything often requires years. And persistence. And more of that patience.
I will never forget the example set by Vincent Van Gogh. Recently, one of his
paintings sold for $149.5 million at auction. He created more than 800 works of art in his
lifetime. But here’s the sticker: while he lived, he sold only one painting. One. And that
was to a friend for mere pennies. Despite experiencing no other sales, Van Gogh never
Several of my most memorable experiences in Rome involved visits to the Sistine
Chapel. On my first visit, I was utterly mesmerized. In awe. I had read The Agony and
the Ecstasy about the process involved in painting the ceiling. The Hollywood movie of
the book, starring Charlton Heston as Michelangelo and Rex Harrison as Pope Julius II,
showed Michelangelo spending hours on his back while executing every brushstroke
himself. I was told by artist friends that the design was, in reality, drawn on huge sections
of canvas laid out on the floor and then measured into squares to get the proper
perspective. Only when Michelangelo was satisfied was each piece hauled up a ladder to
reach the floor of wooden scaffolding and positioned in place to see how it looked. Then
the painting began and he spent the next four years of his life perched on this scaffolding
with brush in hand.
According to A&E’s History website, Michelangelo himself designed the wooden
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