Harvesting Images


Since I’ve been trying to learn how to paint with acrylics, I’ve learned that just about all painters work from existing images – whether it’s their own sketches or photographs, or images gleaned from all the other sources: books, magazines, Pinterest, etc. & so on.

I find this information extremely permission-giving.

The flowers I opened with are made of some sort of plastic fiber hung like an enormous banner on a fence in Rome. They seem simple enough to use as models for garden posts. I can’t recall if they were part of an ad for an event or exhibit; good grief, I can’t recall what I had for breakfast today.

However, I liked many images on construction fiber seen during our visit; I think I’d forgotten that in some places when a building’s facade is being worked on, say, the entire front of the building is covered with tough fabric that often has an image of what’s underneath the fabric. I also saw it draping the entryway of an historic building undergoing some work. It’s like an acknowledgement that this city of tourists doesn’t want you to miss too much just because construction and maintenance are constants.

Besides, I thought I could transfer these images to garden posts reasonably well. Others I collected will take some practice.


There is something very appealing about having artists come to your palace to paint lovely images on your walls, floors, ceilings, furniture, and gardens. I chose this one because I have very limited visual-spatial skills and I know that re-creating what looks like a very simple ribbonlike coil will be more difficult for me than seems reasonable. But since I’m falling into the rhythm of drawing/painting shapes and not things, I’m looking forward to trying this one out.

It takes some effort to locate and isolate simple images in historical Roman structures when all around you are acres of marble, plaster, depictions of every myth and Bible story ever told, enormous sculpted angels hanging from the ceiling, gilt cupids and reclining well-built naked women, every fruit/grain/vegetable/beverage known to humanity, and at least every animal to be found on Noah’s ark. Not to mention stabbings, beheadings, death by arrow, fire, and torture. All I want are a few images for garden posts!

But then I’d come across a stone honeybee who’s spent many centuries at the foot of a castle staircase, and think that this level of reverence for the honeybee was an idea way ahead of its time. When the Romans were thinking about fertility, it wasn’t all about making new little Romans.


I’d love to be able to tell you exactly where all the following images may be found on your next visit to Rome and Florence, but I forgot to take notes. When I can tell you, I will. Other than that, you’re on your own to get on over there and see how many you can find. I will be glad to accompany you so you don’t waste too much time going to places Mary and I didn’t cover. (You’ll have to buy my ticket, but it will be worth it: our own little scavenger hunt.)

I do know a number of images came from the Borghese. Just as I’ve always liked to have the same stories read to me over and over; just as I like to watch the same movies; I knew I had to get back to the Borghese. New sites in Rome would just have to wait.


Fireplace tiles. Just like your house, I imagine. These were in the Borghese Gallery, which certainly boasts its share of elaborate decorative elements. The straight stalk and curving ribbon appear to be a theme, signifying what I am not sure. I could make something up, but this isn’t an art history exam so I shall refrain. I just think that design on the left will be perfect for a garden post.

Next up a motif from a painted panel:


Although it sounds very dim of me, I can’t think of a time when I set out with the purpose of finding images I might recreate. But designs like these not only suggest a simplicity I might be able to emulate; they also remind me to look around the places where I live all day. After all, we all have some plants and birds running around somewhere.

The Villa Borghese is top to bottom with captivating images and colors that make you want to go home and paint all the things. One table was topped by squares of stone framed in wood:

As it turned out, I would drag Mary into a good many shops devoted to hand-marbled paper; I’ve never seen so many places devoted to paper and pens (more of that later, from Florence). These colors! I’m looking forward to seeing whether I can capture any of them in acrylic.

Even the cafe offered flowers I might be able to paint. We saw statice in many colors: white, purple, pink.


Imagine being able to look out a two-story window and peer down on this garden:


I plan on using the geometrics of the paths for my garden posts; I think they will make nice anchors for painted greenery. May proved once again to be the perfect time to visit Italy, although we had more rain this time than we did on our first visit. Many fragrant roses were in bloom everywhere, and the scent of jasmine filled entire streets.

Meanwhile, on another Borghese table, inlaid stone:


Definitely some harvestable images in there, but wow, that inlay work.

At this point I feel like I’m running from room to room, window to table to garden, hollering Look at this! No, this! Over here! Look at this! But that’s pretty much what the whole trip was like, so at least we have some verisimilitude goin’ on.

In other places, I would grab hold of many images in plain stone, and – as you’ll soon see –  in acres of mosaic. I want to take those places one at a time because harvesting images is one thing, and imprinting them in memory is another; and some images need to be remembered in their contexts, where they have existed for thousands of years.

And then there are those images that will remain in photographs and in my heart. Not for use on garden posts or acrylic paintings or anything other than embodying human evil and unspeakable beauty in what has to be my favorite work of art in all the world.

I hope one day – if you haven’t already, or maybe even if you have – you will see Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Rape of Prosperina. If the definition of the word “masterpiece” disappears from every dictionary and encyclopedia and website on the planet, some time spent walking around this sculpture will be enough to recapture its meaning.

I hope you’ll take a good look.





2 thoughts on “Harvesting Images

  1. Dana says:

    Interesting! Once again, I really enjoyed this blog. This is the closest to Italy I’ll ever be, thus, I am enjoying “the tour”!

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