Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Our Artfully Tasteful Tour of Tuscany Begins!

Our home in Tuscany is San Fedele.  Over 1000 years of prayer permeate these walls and give it a very special atmosphere.

Our first morning begins with some yoga on the deck overlooking the hillsides all around.

This cross was restored by the same man, who as a boy had once helped his father to install it 75 years earlier.

Even the simple things are beautiful here!

The Market at Ponzone is bustling on Sundays

Our chef for the week is Andrea Anichini.  He will be giving us cooking lessons during the week and preparing our meals every evening. 
Our Sunday dinner- a very special BBQ.  Absolutely fabulous!

Another captivating view of the hills surrounding San Fedele. 

Breakfast is on the terrace every morning. 

Renatta makes us a beautiful cake daily to accompany a delicious breakfast. 

Our studio is spacious and allows for us to leave things set up during the week.  

After our first Art lesson in Tuscany we begin our first painting of the week. 

Aperitifs on the deck are something to look forward to in the evenings before dinner. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Bidets: Really? Yes, Really!

When in Rome...you know what they say to do, right?  Well what the heck do the Romans do with a bidet?  It's not your classic bathroom appliance in our country, and yet it's everywhere you look in Europe.  Rome is no different, and our trusty bidet was there for our use...whatever that is.

I know there's a personal cleansing function, and though my momma never got around to teaching me, I think I've pretty much figured it out...kind of like sex.

I have to say, that we found quite a few ways to use our bidet.  My aching feet were soaked in it's cooling waters a number of times during the week.  Perfecto!

Paul found yet another creative use of the bidet's basin, and here you see him doing his first week's laundry in preparation for the next leg of our journey to Tuscany.

It also was very helpful for shaving legs.  When your shower is only about 2 feet wide, it's kind of hard to find enough room to bend over to take care of business.  One of my trip participants laughed and put it this way," The parts that needed it the most were the hardest to get to!"

We are heading for Tuscany and looking forward to the beginning of our Artfully Tasteful Tour of Tuscany.  Enjoy these photos of Rome, and I'll see you next in Tuscany!

Vatican's Swiss guards on duty

Colosseum in the midst of the city

The dome of the Pantheon and the monument to Italy's Independence in the background...fondly referred to by Romans as "The Wedding Cake".  

A beautiful villa across a footbridge over the Tiber River

Rebecca Zdybel
Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor
Art Lessons in all media
Myrtle Beach, SC

Spread Light, Share Love, DO Art!

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Rebecca Zdybel is an artist and instructor in Myrtle Beach, SC.  Follow her and see her work at http://www.artmyrtlebeach.com/

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Colosseum- Colossal Surprises!

Rome is magnificent and the buildings and architecture are incredible.  Both the scale and number of gorgeously intact buildings and ancient ruins boggles the mind.  They are everywhere!  Go around any corner, and you stumble on yet another architectural beauty. Of course, the most notable of these architectural wonders is the Colosseum.  We went on a tour today and found out a few fun facts...

Fact:  The Colosseum was not always called the Colosseum.  It's original name was the 'Flavian Amphitheater'.  The Colosseum derived it's current name from being adjacent to the "Colossus"- a huge bronze statue of Nero that has since been melted down and destroyed.  This is what it may have looked like:  

Did you know that the Colosseum had assigned seating and gates like a modern stadium? There was also fabric sheltering the spectators from above, supported by beams which protected all but the center of the Arena.  Sailors used drums to work together and haul the sailcloth into place. 

Fact:  "Arena" means "sand" and that very substance covered the floor of the Colosseum.  Sand acted as an absorbent surface for all the blood and gore which took place upon the arena floor and gave better footing to the combatants.  

Sand also disguised about 60 trap doors which served as "stage entrances" for actors in the various dramatic battles and events.  Animals and people would make their entrance onto the floor of the arena using elevators raised by slave-powered winches.  A diagram is pictured below. 

Did you know that Jewish Slaves built the Colosseum?  Rome destroyed the Jewish Temple and defeated the Jews in 70AD and then brought back 50,000 Jewish slaves and plunder from the Temple in order to construct the Colosseum?  It was begun in 72 AD finished in 8 years.  This Triumphal Arch of Titus commemorates the Roman victory and shows the plunder of Jerusalem being brought back to Rome by the slaves and soldiers. 

Triumphal Arch of Titus in the Forum which depicts the victory over the Jews in 70 AD. 

Did you know that most gladiatorial battles were man to man?  They did not always end in death, and there was quite a bit of incentive not to kill them, since their training and skill was very expensive to cultivate.  They trained just across the street in a private arena which was connected to the Colosseum by underground tunnel.  During games at the Colosseum, the gladiators generally fought in the afternoons, animals fought in the mornings, and executions took place around the noon hour.  A couple of tour guides maintain that it is unlikely that Christians were ever tortured there...but I haven't checked that fact out for historical truth. I know the Pope makes a pilgrimage there as a holy site every Lent, and I doubt he would do that because animals were killed there. 

Fact:  The exterior of the Colosseum is made of white Travertine?  It's a local stone which was very durable and easily available. Though it's original color was white, and it has only become the terra-cotta color we associate with it due to weather and age.  Can you imagine?  It's currently undergoing a 60 million Euro restoration, thanks to donations by a wealthy Italian businessman who owns Tods shoe company.  Its already partially restored to its original color.  

The Colosseum was decorated with painted statues and may have looked something like this in it's heyday (except it would have been white, right?).  Other amphitheaters were in operation throughout the empire, but in Rome, the Colosseum continued to function as a major center for these Roman games for around 500 years. 

Fact:  The Grand Opening Games of the Colosseum involved 100 days of games and overall they were responsible for the slaughter of over 10,000 animals?   Any small animals which were left, were often given to the people.  Every kind of animal was included in the games, because the goal was to thrill and entertain.  The Roman people did not have zoos or the ability to travel with ease, so bringing exotic animals out for display provided that shock and awe experience which the Emperors wished to provide.  Animals included everything from Tigers, lions, Elephants and Bulls, to Crocodiles, snakes, and small animals.    So many lions were killed during the games of the Roman Empire, that some believe these types of spectacles contributed to the eventual extinction of the European Lion.  

Were you surprised by any of these facts? We were fascinated.  If you're wondering which tour of Rome to take:  Our City Wonders tour was great, but 4 hours of climbing and walking on the rough stone surfaces of the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Palatine Hill were quite demanding in the heat.  If you go, be sure to drink water, dress for the weather and wear good walking shoes! 

Let me hear from you! I read every comment and it means a lot to know you are out there traveling along with me.

Rebecca Zdybel
Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor
Art Lessons in all media
Myrtle Beach, SC

Spread Light, Share Love, DO Art!

Feel free to share any of this blog post on your own blog or website, but I ask that you you include:
Rebecca Zdybel is an artist and instructor in Myrtle Beach, SC.  Follow her and see her work at http://www.artmyrtlebeach.com/

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Arriving in Rome- How to Travel From Airport to City Center

I arrived today for a few days in Rome prior to hosting my Artfully Tasteful Tour of Tuscany.  I was reminded again that getting off the plane in Europe can be disorienting. Interpreting foreign signs and languages while sleep deprived and groggy can be a challenge. If you're not with a group, here are a few things I have learned which might help you navigate your way to town from the Rome Airport.   

Passport Control and Customs: 

Wherever your first point of entry into the EU happens to be, it is there you must go through passport control.  If you fly direct and enter the EU by landing in Rome, then you must to through passport control there.  From there you follow the "Bagliali" Signs to claim your luggage.  There is essentially no luggage inspection after that, so you merely need to follow signs to the "Uscita" or exit.  
Car Service:
It can be a real convenience to be met by a car, rather than look for a Train.  If you want to plan ahead, you can think about calling a car service to take you one way from the airport into town.  Just check the price ahead of time in order to avoid surprises.  You may want to try this Car service which is well rated by Trip Advisor: 

Taking the Train into Rome: 

Once you claim your luggage, you can hop on the train into Rome's Termini Station (for central Rome).  Finding your way to the train gets a little confusing at the airport.  Once you exit the baggage claim, you will need to go UP to the train departure area.  The elevators are not clear on this point.  Today we witnessed many a tourist walking around in a jet-lagged daze, riding the elevators up and down, trying to figure out where to go to get to the trains. 

Once you get to the train station, you need to purchase a ticket.  After purchasing a ticket, you run it through the ticket stamper at the edge of the entrance to the train platforms.  You slide it in order to stamp it, and then get on your train.  This is important, as we found out later that you can be fined if you don't stamp your ticket prior to getting on the train. 

If you have a lot of luggage, riding the trains can be a challenge, but not impossible.  You may need to leave your large bags near the entrance to the car, and then take your seat.  As much as possible, you will want to make it difficult to run off easily with your baggage.  I might suggest placing a locked bike safety cord through the handles of your luggage.  That way they are secured as a group and not easily moved.  

Once you arrive at Rome's Termini station, make sure you are prepared to be on your toes for opportunistic crime.  

Here are a few hints:
  • Don't leave your phone or wallet on the tabletop while you have a cappuccino.  
  • Put your purse or your pack over your head and across the front of your body.  
  • Have your money and passport in your money belt.  
  • Don't hang your purse on the back of your chair.

Catching a Cab at Termini Station:  Official Taxi Stands at the Termini are clearly marked with a sign and details of fare stipulations.  If you don't see a line and a sign with detailed fare information, then look for another official taxi location.  

We learned this the hard way. After wandering up to an official looking Taxi sign, we spoke to a man who represented himself as the taxi director, and he sent us to a small white SUV.  Once he began loading our luggage, we noted that he did not have a "TAXI" sign on the top of his car.  We asked him "Quanta costo?" or "How Much?" and his quote was an outrageous 35 Euros for a 5 minute cab ride.  We declined the ride and found the real taxi line across the Termini Train Platform and outside another exit door.  In the end, we paid 13 Euros, plus 3 Euros for extra bags.  This story is reminiscent of NYC, and so just be aware that unofficial taxis are a potential rip-off. 

Even real taxis, may try to pull a fast one...possibly starting the meter or not starting the meter.  Be cautious, and your radar should probably go off if the cabbie doesn't want to bring you to the door of your hotel, or flips the seat forward to cover the meter.  Watch out for funny business, and make sure they are official taxi's with a lit white sign on the top of the car.  

If you come to Rome, I hope these suggestions make it a bit easier for you to get into town and avoid getting into trouble along the way.  If you have any other ideas that might be helpful to travelers coming into Rome, feel free to leave your comments here.  

 Tomorrow we visit the Colosseum with a private guide! Stay tuned!

Rebecca Zdybel
Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor
Art Lessons in all media
Myrtle Beach, SC

Spread Light, Share Love, DO Art!

Feel free to share any of this blog post on your own blog or website, but I ask that you you include:
Rebecca Zdybel is an artist and instructor in Myrtle Beach, SC.  Follow her and see her work at http://www.artmyrtlebeach.com/

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Monday, September 15, 2014

On Location Lesson 3: International Travel Tips and Karlyn Holman Workshop Announcement

Tuscany Here We Come!!!!!!

 Sunlit Tuscan Hillside

Dreams really do come true!  Thanks to help and encouragement from my friend and mentor Karlyn Holman, my home away from home will very soon be a beautiful and modernized medieval monastery in the heart of the Chianti wine region in Tuscany.  The name of this Tuscan retreat is Borgo San Fedele.  It's location is a short day trip away from some of the most charming towns I've ever visited in the region of Tuscany.  We will have chef/sommellier Andrea Anichini, giving us cooking lessons and preparing our meals all week.  In addition, I will be giving pointers and art lessons to those who are interested.  We will have the opportunity to paint and sketch on location and in the studio at San Fedele.  Under the Tuscan Sun, we will tour, photograph, and taste our way around the area's towns and vineyards during the harvest season.  In the evenings, I'm hoping that our resident minstrels will serenade us on guitar after dinner on the terrace "Under the Tuscan Stars".  Sounds dreamy,  right?

Our chef and cooking instructor
Andrea Anichini

Want to Join Me Next Year?  

If you're interested in joining me for my next visit to Tuscany, it's time to get on board!  I have another trip in the works tentatively set for October 2015.  I hope to combine this lovely location with an added excursion to Venice!  I am going on a scouting mission to Venice in a few weeks. I will check out locations and begin to make the plans for next year.  If you'd like to come along, then please contact me and send me your information!  As details come available, I will be sure to keep you posted.



Borgo San Fedele
Our "Home away from Home" 
In case you're traveling to Europe anytime soon, here's a few travel hints you may enjoy reading...

Cell phones:  I have an iPhone with Verizon on a business account.
  • The rate for calling or receiving calls in France and Spain is currently $.99 cents/minute for a business account.  Non-business accounts have rates available of about $1.25/minute.  Call 611 from your phone to set up an international plan for yourself or check if there are better rates available to you on your account.
  • I plan to disable my Data services while abroad.  This will prevent charges from texts or unwanted push notifications while I'm there.  You disable this by going following this path-  "Settings"-"Cellular"-"Roaming"-"Data Roaming"- "Off".
  • Verizon doesn't charge for WiFi usage overseas...it simply charges if you receive texts or calls using their Verizon data plan.  If you have apps like Viber, Whatsapp, Skype, or Tango, you can use the apps to communicate free of data charges whenever you access WiFi on your trip.  These apps allow calling and texting, so long as whoever you are calling or texting also has that app.  It's a reason to get your frequent callers, family and friends to download the app before you leave.   
  • Charging: Don't forget your charger!  My iPhone is capable of converting the voltage from European outlets to charge the phone. All that is needed is a plug adaptor- something that changes the shape of the plug on your charger so that it can mate with the wall outlet wherever you are traveling.  A converter is not needed for the iPhone.
Camera/ iPad
Watercolor Painting- Borgo San Fedele
11 X 15 Rebecca Zdybel 
  • Taking photos from my new iPad mini gives me great shots and allows me to paint or sketch from the screen with ease.  This way I avoid dealing with my photo card and the need to download the photos to my computer in order to edit or view them.  The iPad mini does not work well in bright light...the screen is hard to visualize outdoors with glare being the problem.  It also is cumbersome to carry and shoot with
  • Getting photos from my camera to my iPad is a different matter.  It requires a lightning adaptor for an SD card.  In researching the options, it seems to me that the Apple brand is only a few dollars more than some of the off-brands, so I purchased the Apple brand SDadaptor.  
Credit cards/Insurance card /passport/precautions:
Bubble Boys- Tuscany
11 X 15 Rebecca Zdybel
  • I make a photocopy of my cards, passport  and ID and put them in my carry-on.  When I arrive at the hotel, I put them in the safe.  Just in case
  • Contact your credit card company to tell them you'll be traveling abroad.  It avoids fraud protection issues that can impact your ability to access the card while traveling.  
  • Check to see if your card charges foreign transaction fees.  Ask your credit card representative.  If you will be charged fees,  think about getting a card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees.  I have one from Barclay and also Bank of America. 
  • I always bring my medical insurance card and my healthcare savings credit card.  
  • Always keep your passport in your hand...do not set it down or let it go out of your sight with employees of any restaurant or rental companies.  Hotels sometimes keep your passport on tours, and though this really bothers me, I will cooperate if they insist. 
  • There is a new scam around being run at security checkpoints in airports.  It involves theft of unsupervised bags...While you go through the X-ray scanners separated from your bag, someone grabs your bag and goes.   Wait to put your bags into the scanner until just as you go through your body scan.  It will help to minimize your time of separation from your bags.  
  • Another new way to steal is on trains.  Baggage is often stored at the entrance to the train car that you occupy.  I've been told that stealing bags is becoming common when they are out of sight.  The suggestion is to buy a lightweight bike lock and secure your bags together and to the luggage rack.  
  • Consider money belts or bra-wallets to increase the safety of your cash, cards and identification. 
  • I generally make a manila envelope my travel file.  I keep my boarding pass there, and I put copies of my itinerary there and any travel emails sent to me by my carriers or travel companions.  That way I have one place to look when I want to refer to travel arrangements.  I keep this with me while I travel in my carry-on.  I also make a copy for my husband to keep at home if he's not traveling with me. 
New Painting- New Lesson for Tuscany!
Watercolor and Ink on Paper Rebecca Zdybel 11X15 $177

I wear primarily athletic attire and pack for 1 week.  Then I wash clothes in the sink.  I bring flip flops because floors are cold and sometimes its comfortable to just flip flop around.  Stone buildings tend to retain their sense of cold, so be ready to layer.  For dressier moments, I bring some jewelry that can  take my black top and black pants into evening.  I also bring scarves for pops of color or a dressier look.  Remember that women need to cover their shoulders inside church buildings.  Scarves are good for doubling as a shawl in this instance.  
For a list of Art Materials I plan to bring- see the Travel supply list on my home page.

I wish I could take all my friends and students with me, but if you can't make it, then I hope you'll join me vicariously by subscribing to this blog.  

I'd love to read your travel suggestions.  Post them here and we can all learn from one another =)

Links to my previous On Location Lessons
On Location Lesson 2: "I'm So Dizzy!" Solving Perspective Problems
On Location Lesson 1- Choosing Your Subject

Special Karlyn Holman Workshop

Karlyn and Rebecca in the studio together in France

Watercolor by Karlyn Holman

 Karlyn Holman Watercolor Fun and Free Workshop
Dates: Feb 23-27, 2015 
Beach Cove Resort,  4800 S Ocean Blvd. , North Myrtle Beach, SC 29582
Cost: $500, $100 Deposit reserves your seat

This exciting watercolor workshop will be coming soon with Karlyn Holman!  I wanted to let my friends and students have first crack at registration, and and it's already almost ½ full!  Her workshop at Cheap Joe's has a waiting list of 8 people.  If you might be interested, I encourage you to sign up early before the course fills up.  Karlyn is amazing and we are so fortunate to have her!  Email me and I will gladly send you a brochure.  

Watercolor by Karlyn Holman

Watercolor by Karlyn Holman

Rebecca Zdybel
Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor
Art Lessons in all media
Myrtle Beach, SC

Spread Light, Share Love, DO Art!

Feel free to share this blog post on your own blog or website, but I ask that you you include:
Rebecca Zdybel is an artist and instructor in Myrtle Beach, SC.  Follow her and see her work at http://www.artmyrtlebeach.com/

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Monday, September 1, 2014




Sometimes in city landscapes with narrow streets, you end up shooting the scene and almost feel dizzy looking at the photos.  It's like looking up at a skyscraper from the sidewalk below.  Streets and fences can also move across the frame at crazy angles.  Bottom line: very steep lines of perspective are uncomfortable.  The fence in the image of this barn is a good example.
The angle of perspective is a bit uncomfortable in this photo


When I back away and zoom in on my subject, note how much more comfortable the scene appears.
I have a camera which has a 50X zoom capability.  It's nice in instances where I want to shoot from a distance.  The advantage of doing this, when it comes to street scenes, is that it "flattens" the landscape and helps create less steep angles of recession in your perspective lines.  If you paint severe perspective, the image will feel edgy. Changing your perspective to allow a bit of distance, can flatten those angles, and perhaps make the image more comfortable to look at.  Try it and see if this doesn't help your photos!


I had a different sort of problem in Benajarafe, Spain.  We had come to the beach to paint boats, and the landscape was incredibly level.  No crazy lines or angles here.  I was probably the only dizzy thing on that beach!  This is what I saw...

"Anything but Dull" is a motto of mine.  So something had to be done! If I sat on the beach, my eye (the horizon line) was even with the sides of the boats, and it didn't make for an interesting image.  I needed a different (elevated) perspective.  I tried pointing my camera differently and framing the shots both in landscape and portrait compositions (as I suggested in Lesson 1 of my Painting on Location Series).  That strategy didn't change the fact that my horizon line was not high enough to see anything but the near edge of the boats.  I looked around for a hill.  I thought perhaps I could telephoto the boats from a higher vantage point...but there were no hills nearby. That's when I spotted the stack of pallets on the beach! Ahhh, do you hear the choir of angels singing?? I did!  I'm not sure why these pallets were stacked up on the beach, but they looked as if they might allow me to get a better perspective on my subject.

Sometimes an Artist's got to do what she's got to do...

Against every common sense instinct, I climbed up onto those pallets and sure enough, I had a much more interesting view of the beach!  My 3-legged stool is not the most secure perch, but  there it was ready for "such a moment as this".  I set up my stool on the stack of pallets, and all of a sudden it looked like a scene with elements I'd like to draw!  Woo hoo!

My great idea was seconded by a fellow artist on the beach.  Wei Lan Lorbor carefully joined me atop the stack of pallets, (thankfully she is petite!) We laughed, but we really didn't think much about it...after all, sometimes an Artist's got to do what she's got to do, right? They seemed like the best seats in the house...so there we sat and enjoyed a gorgeous day on the Costa del Sol of Spain. It doesn't get any better!

Hint: Photograph your subject from wherever you draw it.


I am not a hard-core guerilla painter.  After about an hour in the sunshine on my 3-legged stool, I was no longer comfortable.  My "painting" was just a drawing at that point, but often my body is done before my painting is... even so, I captured an impression of the beach scene and took multiple reference photos in order to paint it later (in the comfort of a studio). Here is my little drawing...

Sketch of Benarafe Beach based on my time on Location that morning

I got off the pallet stack and made my way back to the café, where other (possibly smarter) artists from our group were happily painting in the shade and drinking cappucinos.  I was hot and thirsty and a little stiff.  Though I was happy with my drawing, it was pretty apparent that these smarty-pants in the shade of the café truly had THE best seats in the house.  In fact, they had found inspiration for their paintings in the view of our backsides.  Look what Karen Knutson came up with...isn't it fun?!
"Best Seats in the House"- sketch by Karen Knutson- Tombow markers on paper.  Love it!

I didn't come away with a great painting that day, but I had an experience and a drawing...and a story! Sure it's not always comfortable...and you don't always come away with a masterpiece...but you make a memory.    In some ways painting on location is like camping; not always a simple or comfy, but there's joy to be had in overcoming the obstacles, and some experiences can only be had out in the open and on site. That's what I love about Plein-Air painting...the memories and the experiences.  My drawing and photos from that day allowed me to come up with this little painting once I got home. A happy momento of my visit to Benajarafe on the Costa Del Sol.
Finished painting
All Along the Watchtower- Benjarafe, Spain
Watercolor and Gouache on Paper 11 X 15  $225

The painting above was completed in the studio.  The image is entirely based on elements drawn from the beach.  Their locations and the time of day are "imagineered" by me, but it's still an homage to my time on that beach.  So fun!

If you haven't tried painting like this, I encourage you to give it a go...Take a hat, perhaps a small stool, paper, pen, pencil, eraser, some kleenex, and a camera. Don't worry about doing a finished masterpiece.  My goal is simply to capture elements from the scene which are impressions of my experience there.  Give it a try and report back!

Not sure what to bring?  My complete Supply list for Travel is near the calendar here on the homepage of my website. 

In a few weeks, I will be heading back to Italy with the interesting group I've assembled for my Artfully Tasteful Tour of Tuscany.  We are going to eat, paint, cook, and sip our way around that beautiful region during harvest time...ahhh!  I can only imagine the excellent memories we are about to create!  Interested in going on an international trip of this sort?  Contact me about my next fabulous adventure, and perhaps you can join me...

Let me hear from you! I read every comment and it means a lot to know you are out there reading.

Rebecca Zdybel
Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor
Art Lessons in all media
Myrtle Beach, SC

Spread Light, Share Love, DO Art!

Feel free to share any of this blog post on your own blog or website, but I ask that you you include:
Rebecca Zdybel is an artist and instructor in Myrtle Beach, SC.  Follow her and see her work at http://www.artmyrtlebeach.com/

"Like" my facebook page: Rebecca Zdybel- Artist
Join me on Google+ Rebecca Zdybel Google+ Profile

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