My Life as a Street Painter in Florence, Italy is a visual journey (including over 330 images) of one artist's discovery of an art form that dates back to the 16th century.
About the Author:
Kelly Borsheim is an American sculptor who creates stone and bronze figures. Michelangelo's sculpture lured her to Italy originally, but she returned again and again for inspiration and a deeper understanding of classical art. Little did she know that her future would bring her to her knees recreating Renaissance masterpieces in the streets of Florence. Kelly was also chained up in a protest against the taxation of street artists, the subject of a story in an Italian newspaper, and shared the joys of chalk with children visiting from all over the world.
Florence, Italy, birthed the Italian Renaissance. Hundreds of years later, American sculptor Kelly Borsheim traveled to Florence,
fell in love with the city, and found herself immersed in the old art of painting directly on the street.
The book focuses mainly on the large temporary artworks in pastel and chalk, street paintings of famous art masterpieces
created between 2007 and 2010 by Kelly and her colleagues in Florence, as well as in other parts of Italy.
The city began to change during these years and Kelly chronicles the struggles of the street painters for the ability
to continue their form of art for public enjoyment. This visual journey (over 330 images) includes the following chapters:
- Introduction (images of Florence as the setting for this story)
- Who are the Madonnari (a bit of history)
- How I became a Madonnara
- Solo Creations and My Process
- Destruction of an Ephemeral Art
- Protesting the Street Art Tax
- Collaborative Creations
- Sharing the Street
- The People You Meet
- The Kids
- The Parades
- Tributes and Special Occasions
• Nocera 2009
• Nocera 2010
• Mantova / Grazie Di Curtatone 2010
This book will be enjoyable for all that love art, street painting, and Florence, Italy.
Book Product Details:
Publisher : CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (September 9, 2011)
Language : English
Paperback : 150 pages
ISBN-10 : 1463774702
ISBN-13 : 978-1463774707
Item Weight : 13 ounces
Dimensions : 8.5 x 0.36 x 11 inches
Best Sellers Rank: #4,765,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
#15,379 in Art History by Theme
Customer Reviews: 4.9 out of 5 stars 8 ratings [from Amazon]
Buy on Amazon.com in many countries around the world. Over 350 color images!
Order from Amazon by clicking on the links below.
(You may also read some of the inside pages on this site.)
Street Painting: The Art of the MadonnariNo one knows exactly where the art of street painting originated, other than in the Mediterranean region. Devotional drawings, usually of the Madonna, were drawn on the hard flat surfaces outside of the churches and in the open air, perhaps to slow the spread of plagues. This form of art in the street began to gain in popularity in Spain and in Italy. Hence, the Italian word for these street painters is Madonnari. (Madonnaro = one male artist; Madonnara = one female artist)
No streets were harmed in the making of this art. The Madonnari use chalks and pastels, but only pastels without oil. Pastel is pure pigment, which lends to the bright colors typical of these paintings in the streets. Sometimes the street painters will wash away their work of the day with water and a broom. And the next morning the street cleaners will drive their vehicles over the work, wet brushes spinning over the drawing and washing away the night's dirt and the dust. But some of the time, people prefer the pastel paintings to remain as long as Nature and man will allow. Street painters often rely on tips from tourists and locals alike, but for a few events, such as street painting festivals, artists are paid by organizations, businesses, or individuals to create their works.
Artist Kelly Borsheim began street painting in September 2007 while living in Florence, Italy. This page contains some of her works on Via Calimala in central Florence, not far from the famous Ponte Vecchio. You may hire her to do a street painting in your neighborhood for a special event or for no reason at all, save for fun and beauty. Contact the studio for availability and prices. Please note, that any and all of these images can be also painted on paper or canvas. The price will be higher, but the work will also be archival.
Interviews (including video) featuring Kelly and her work as a streetpainter:
- Tuscany Arts: Street Painting in Florence – Kelly Borsheim, “Madonnara”: 30 June 2010 by Alexandra Korey
- EP. #110 Madonnari - Street Painters in Italy: recorded in 2009 (posted 16 June 2010) by Simone Di Santi of www.aroadretraveled.com
Thank you for your support.
I hope you really enjoy the book
filled with street paintings in Italy.
Kelly poses with her broom
during a break in Florence, Italy.
Read more about Kelly's street painting experiences on her blog. [See Search bar on the right and enter 'Street Painting' or any topic of interest and see what comes up.]
Kelly has written a book: "My Life as a Street Painter in Florence, Italy"(over 350 images!)
Order from Amazon by clicking on the links below.
(You may also read some of the inside pages on this site.)
Here is an independent book review of my book! Thank you, Andrew Everett.
Reviews copied from Amazon UK and USA:
Top review from United Kingdom
TOP 1000 REVIEWER
5.0 out of 5 stars A look beyond the artwork to the life of the madonnari
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 13 May 2014
There are very few books about madonnari, and even fewer about what it means to be an artist producing madonnari - street art. This book follows the life of Kelly Borsheim, an American sculptor and artist who has spent a good deal of time producing artworks in, or rather on, the streets of Florence.
In 146 pages, Kelly demonstrates the skill required to produce the artwork, shows us the tools of the trade, and shares a few tips and tricks for surviving a life spent working on the ground. Yet this is not really a book about technique. While it does show how to plan, construct and create a piece of work, it won’t make an artist of you. That’s not its purpose. If you want that then look elsewhere.
This is a book about something else entirely. The spectators – the tourists and locals who pause to watch the artist at work – see only a part of a bigger picture. They likely miss that which is the life of the madonnaro (male) or madonnara (female). As this book reveals, it turns out to be a life about people, like-minded fellow artists, children fascinated by the creative process, and sometimes folks who just happen by. It is a life about sharing art with the people, which has evolved as the purpose of madonnari since it began to move away from its renaissance origins of putting Christian images before the people.
The ephemeral nature of street art made in chalk makes it something that is perpetually new and changing. That it disappears under the feet of pedestrians, is washed away by the rain, or sometimes swept away by indifferent street cleaners, gives it a transient charm that could be captured only in part by photographing it. This extra “something” about madonnari is what this book tries to capture. And for me it does.
Top reviews from the United States
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightfully pleasing!
Reviewed in the United States on October 10, 2015
Kelly Borsheim’s stunning book, “My Life as a Street Painter in Florence, Italy,” gives a small glimpse of her talents and passion for creating when she decided to move to Florence, Italy. The book lives up to its title and then some. The texts are short and appropriate, with just enough information to complement the images. More importantly, the images themselves, both chalk and photographic, reveal her talents and her vision, including relating to people around her.
I met Kelly some years ago when she was still in Texas, preparing to start this grand adventure. We have kept in touch thanks to frequent emails with news about her projects: oils, pastels, bronze, marble & stone sculptures. When she returned briefly to Austin in September I was fascinated to see first-hand a sampling of her paintings and other works: engrossing content and quality technique are riveting.
I wonder at the reasons one reviewer rates only 4, of 5 possible stars; the review gives no hint what is lacking -- perhaps the brevity of the texts? the limited scope which only skims the surface of her talents? Personally, I find it amazing that she has produced this enjoyable book at the same time as she continues to create, produce and relate.
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome
Reviewed in the United States on November 22, 2011
Incredible!! What a wonderful book about art and life! I love the way this book was put togehter, it is full of personal observation, history and beautiful artwork! For those of us who may never be able to see or experience art in this way it is an awesome adventure. THANK YOU!! This book is written with all art and education levels in mind and will make a great gift for students and adults alike. Not to mention it is great to bring out to share with friends...makes for some great conversation.
4.0 out of 5 stars An Adventure Into Art As Street Theater
Reviewed in the United States on April 20, 2012
Have you ever had a dream of doing something adventurous and important to you and sharing that dream with others? Have you lived your dream? Most people have their dreams... and a popular one voiced by many - and actualized by few - is to go and live and work in a foreign country, a romantic country, a friendly place with deep roots into the past. Italy is a favorite destination for such dreamers. Kelly Borsheim, the author of this most interesting book - she is foremost a sculptor, but also an artist who works in various mediums and she is a photographer - decided in mid-life to pack up and leave her Austin, Texas home and to travel to Italy to make her way as a street painter. So, from Austin to Florence (Firenze in Italian), our author Kelly took herself on an arts adventure - and as a result - met interesting artists from all over the world who also converge on the streets of Firenze and other cities to create art on the pavement in full view of passersby and to be an integral part of the street theater scene. This is a rough type of life and requires an open heart, ease of meeting new people, a desire to share one's talent with others, to work hard with little expectation of financial reward, to be ever performing in front of an audience, to work long hours, sleep in harsh conditions and to take life as it comes. Sometimes hard and fast on the streets.
In my own travels, I have watched street artists, buskers, classical musicians and many types of performers who make the streetscapes of my favorite cities an exciting place to walk. But, this is the first book I have read by a street painter on her motivation and experience. And, what makes this book special is that it tells most of its story through photographs taken by the author. The visual impact of the book is its strength. The author captures the street life that goes on around the horizontal art. The viewers, street performers, parades, festivals, rain, interference by the authorities, allocation of space, visits by her friends, difficulty of working in the rain, the challenges of the different street surfaces (our author being a sculptor comments with authority the science of street surfaces vis a vis applied chalks). I know that I will return to the images again and again because they share a personal experience. The author is not afraid to share her inmost thoughts with the reader while sticking to her main subject - street painting and painters. Her book also benefits from her interest in learning about the renaissance artists of Italy and she share her research and feelings about the artists with the reader. Her writing style is more conversational like you are talking over a cup of coffee.
Perhaps this book will energize your own dream. Perhaps, if you are a street painter, the lessons learned in this book will make your next outing more enjoyable.
Arrivederci e lettura felice,
5.0 out of 5 stars Ephemeral Masterpieces
Reviewed in the United States on July 2, 2015
American sculptor Kelly Borsheim is living her dream, working as an artist in Florence, Italy (or Firenze as the city is called in Italian). She first visited Florence to see the marble sculptures of Michelangelo in person. Once there, she discovered the world of the Madonnari, meaning street painters. (Madonnaro is masculine singular. Madonnara is feminine singular.)
The madonnari work mainly in chalk and pastel. The art form “is believed to have started in the Mediterranean region. It can be found in Italy sometime in the 16th century and began as devotional drawings outside of churches and directly on the streets. The subject was typically the Madonna, hence the name of these artists.”
Today in Florence, the madonnari on Via Calimala mainly draw copies of artworks by old masters such as Botticelli, Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci, and of course, Michelangelo.
Borsheim began street painting in Florence in 2007. “The group had 28 artists when I joined, but only three squares in which they were permitted to draw… Claudio organized a rotation schedule in a way such that the same artist was able to draw in a different square each time his shift came up. The system was fair and worked well, considering the abundant number of artists.” In addition to the native Italians, her colleagues come from a variety of countries, including Ireland, Japan, and Korea.
“Madonnari tend to work from 9:30 or 10:00 a.m. until midnight to complete one large street painting… Because one cannot paint on a wet surface, each artist was responsible for washing his own work at the end of the day, typically midnight. In the morning, the driver of the street sweeper could pass over the work and the square would be somewhat clean and dry by the time the next artist arrived.”
“The question that street painters probably receive the most often is: How can you create such beauty only to have it destroyed shortly thereafter?” As a sculptor, she works with stone and bronze—it doesn’t get more permanent than that. “However, what I discovered for myself is that there is a certain freedom in knowing in advance that the work will not last. Without the pressure of having to create a masterpiece, my brain shifts into a sort of ‘play’ mode that allows for experimentation. And that leads to learning.”
The book explains some challenges experienced in the life of a street painter. “I paid the permit fee for every Monday, late February through June, 2008. Unfortunately, that spring, many of my paintings were never finished. It rained almost every single Monday for months.” Another challenge is how to improvise. “I began to run out of flesh tones while painting the male figure of Bouguereau’s ‘The Abduction of Psyche’… Zecchi and all the other art supply stores were closed by that hour, so I did the best I could with the pigments I had left.”
The book also explains how the madonnari protested changes to the permit system, including a steep increase in fees. Ultimately, city hall decided not to issue any permits. However, they continued to create street art within the rules of ‘manifestazione’ (demonstration) under the Italian Constitution. “This meant, though, that we could only draw ONE artwork per day, although it could legally be slightly larger than our previously defined dimensions… I first resisted this situation because I like working alone… But I came to enjoy working with others. Drawing side by side with another improves your quality time together and I got to know several of my colleagues better than I would have if I had simply been working in a neighboring square.”
Borsheim also documents side trips to street painting festivals in Nocera Superiore, a small town in the mountains north of Italy’s famous Amalfi coast, and Grazie di Curatone, south of Verona.
The book includes 330 color photos of finished street drawings, works in progress, parades and festivals, as well as other sights in Italy.
Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book.
5.0 out of 5 stars It takes you to another place.
Reviewed in the United States on February 11, 2012
I really enjoyed this book. I've never been to Italy but I sure want to now. It gave me a perspective that I haven't seen. Love her explanations, personal accounts, and beautiful photos. She made it so real. My students loved seeing this side of Italy.