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Book:  My Life as a Street Painter in Florence, Italy

by Kelly Borsheim

     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.

     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. 


Buy on 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 Madonnari

No 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:


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.)


Book Reviews

Here is an independent book review of my book! Thank you, Andrew Everett.


from Amazon UK:


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, likeminded 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.


Other Amazon Reviews:

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,



Reviewed in the United States on November 22, 2011

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Reviewed in the United States on October 10, 2015

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