Day 1: Rest and Recreation

A Crest of the Vatican from memory

At long last we arrived into Rome. Claiming luggage and proceeding through customs was fairly quick and easy as was finding our driver. He seemed like a pleasant fellow, but it was a shame that there was a language barrier, otherwise we could have made great conversation. The drive from the airport was nothing out of the ordinary until we spotted the first set of ruins. Ruins from the great Roman Empire? Maybe. We saw more and more until we navigated into the city itself.

As we made our way through this great city, I couldn’t help but spot something I recognized when I journeyed here four years back. In the image at the very top, you will see a certain crest that contains what looks like a Papal Tiara and two keys crossed beneath it. This is a crest of the Vatican, and from what I learned as a student, it appears on buildings commissioned by the Vatican.

Go for a HUGE wine. Because Wine Not? (Featuring my Mom)

After finding our Hotel, we caught up on some much needed rest and recuperated. And after that, we explored our surroundings a bit, soaking in the gentle life around what is considered one of the largest cities in the world. We got a little lost, but we took time to indulge on authentic leather purses (much to my mother’s content), tasted gelato along our stroll, and finally settled for dinner. The owner was very kind and helpful. Even though he didn’t know much English, we were able to somehow converse using Spanish since the languages are very similar.

Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore

To finish the night, we continued our stroll around the area. We were both content that evening, with no one to rush us, and no places to be.

Day 0 – Overture

So, folks, today is the day we hop on a plane and sail across the skies to Italy, where our first stop will be Rome. Ah, yes. The shining capital that once used to be the seat of history’s greatest empire… But today is a mere day of anticipation. The long journey between gates, checking bags in, and awaiting to board a ship that will sail into the night, leading us to our destination the next morning.

In the mean time, I would like to share something special for you the audience. Something that will set the course for this journey.

Observation Sketch of the David

As I stated in my previous post, I studied for a month in Florence. What was I studying, you ask? One course was photography. The second? Drawing. Throughout the drawing course we carried around a sketchbook and drawing tools. Our task was to fill the sketchbook by the end of the course. It was this course that helped me mature in technique as an artist/drawer. The first example, you will note in the image above, is one of my earlier sketches of Michelangelo’s David, Florence’s most iconic statue. In earlier drawings in this book, I stuck to my graphite pencils and basic shedding, as it was the most familiar to me. As a novice, I steered clear of inks, pastels, chalks, and absolutely hated charcoal (and to this day still do). Thus most of my graphite drawings tended to smear and lack contrast. Looking at my sketch of the David, I can see the naivety I possessed at this stage. Moving forward, my professor suggested that I give ink a try.

Observation sketch of Dante Alighieri’s Statue in front of Santa Croce

I struggle a bit with pen at first, because once a line is down, it can’t be reversed, but it made things much cleaner, and when I got to experimenting with shading, I could get a variety of tones that I struggled with in graphite.

Magpie Taxidermy in La Specola
Wax replica of muscular anatomy in La Specola

After plenty of practice, ink became one of my favorite mediums for observation sketching and drawing. In a way, I have to thank that professor and my classmates for encouraging me to take a step away from something I was familiar with, as it helped bring a new energy to the latter parts of my sketch journal.

Rape of the Sabine Women in Piazza Vecchio
The Leaning Tower of Pisa

So, now that I’ve shown the work I had done four years ago, will I be filling another sketchbook upon my return? You bet!

However, I mostly want to focus on a particular theme.


Specifically, religious motifs.

Italy is as much a grounds for the early foundations of the Church as it was a grounds for Art. Thus, there is plenty of religious icons and symbolism scattered throughout the country. In the picture below was the beginning of a sketch that I started while waiting to climb up a tower in Sienna. It is of course from the earlier part of my sketchbook when I still embrace graphite as my “go to”.

Sketch of The Virgin Mary Crowned by Jesus

I hope to find and record more motifs like this one. Perhaps I can even make a complete version of this one as well. So with that being said, I’m going to leave this post off on this last image/note. I typically do something that I like to call “church doodles”, where when I have spare time while serving, I make a small drawing of whatever comes to mind. So this weekend, I made one that reflects a common image of Christ Jesus that we commonly see here in the good old USA. A simple image of Jesus looking upward and peaceful. At what in particular? Most likely the Father. Who knows. But it is a simple image no less.


Orchestra in Piazza Vecchio

I was once a bright eyed university student, wandering back and forth from the Art Department to the Library, laboring away into the wee hours of the night finishing projects in the studios of said department, and occasionally glimpsing a simple flyer that would start me on an unexpected journey.

“Study Abroad in Florence”, it would entice. “Earn credits while exploring a new culture”. I scoffed, of course. An art student going to Florence. Ha! Cliché. There was no way I was going to go there. But that autumn of Junior year, I felt a sharp nudge by a certain Someone who always has my best interest in mind. That conversation became one with my family, then with my professors, then with the school sponsoring the program. Next thing I knew, I was off and away, sailing through the sky, across the pond and into the lovely country known as Italy.

And to this day, it has been one of the most immersive, enlightening, and life changing experiences of my life.

While I’d love tell that tale beat for beat, it is not why we are here. We are here because after Four years, I am finally returning, and this time I plan on not only returning to familiar places, but traveling to new ones as well, and sharing this journey with my family and friends.

Sunset over Florence, Italy

So with that being said, here is what to expect from this contemporary journal:

  • Every single day, I will post about what I have seen on my journey, as well as personal reflections
  • I will also be carrying an Art Journal. So I will be recording a lot of aspects from this trip via drawing and sketching for future projects
  • This may be a bit risky, but I’m carrying a polaroid camera. I will be doing ONE polaroid a day (because film is expensive)
  • I will be doing a devotional throughout this trip, and some of my thoughts on it may be included in my reflections
  • Discussion is encouraged. Just make sure you are respectful and courteous of whomever you are discussing with

Alright! Now that we got those points out of the way, who is ready for an Amazing adventure?

Hang tight everybody! Emily R Ward sails across the pond this Sunday/Monday (yay! overnight flights) Stay tuned.

It’s the Isle of Capri. But you know… we be sailing… er flying… we’re going somewhere