Rome in a Notebook – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Rome in a Notebook

The city of Rome is a marvel of art and architecture – a landscape lush with St. Peter’s Basilica, the Coliseum, the works of Michelangelo, the Trevi Fountain, and innumerable ancient details adorning every corner of the Italian capital. Throughout the spring semester, students on the Rome abroad program filled dozens of sketchbooks with their own renderings of the city.

Under the guidance of Art and Architecture faculty members Professor Patricia Mathews and Associate Professor Stan Mathews, the students closely studied doors, arches, cathedrals, sculptures, streets and bridges, working to analyze nearly every aspect of each. Sketchbooks provided a means of exploring and solidifying lessons from class, and served as a creative medium to reflect upon themes, observe Rome in an intimate way – and above all – create.

Shani Saul ’15, an architectural studies major, spent her time in Italy exploring the intricate details of the city’s lush architecture. Saul filled the pages of her sketchbooks – rendering details, depicting linear perspective, analyzing proportion, creating abstraction and the deconstructing the composition of sites throughout Rome and Europe.

“All of these exercises furthered my confidence in sketching,” explains Saul, who has already seen a transformation in her work. “Now, I am able to analyze the key elements of a building or site and illustrate them in a composite and unified way.”

One of Saul’s favorite renderings from her time abroad is a piece featuring the Galleria Alberto Sordi in Rome. With the hand of Saul, the popular shopping center and arcade in careful detail, as if one were glancing down the art nouveau corridors. “I particularly like this drawing since I showed a double perspective of the building’s layout,” says Saul. “The colored ceiling highlights the intricate stained glass detailing as well as the linear components of the building’s facade.”

Another of Saul’s drawings captures the well-known Ponte Sant’Angelo with the Vatican looming in the background. Saul explains that she was mindful of combining the many facets of her art and architectural knowledge and skill gained from courses. “This piece has specific meaning to me since we walked across this bridge to get to and from class every day,” recalls Saul.

Bryan Washko ’15, an architecture and music double major, only had drawing and design experience prior to his semester abroad. But his time in Rome opened him up to new worlds, allowing him to work on perspectival and spatial architecture exercises in class and on the pages of his sketchbook.

When flipping through the vibrant pages of his sketchbooks, one drawing in particular stands out to Washko – pale pinks and yellows form buildings that rest on the worn brick foundation of a bridge. “My favorite drawing is one of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence,” says Washko of the watercolor piece. “It was simply a view I saw that I liked very much and wished to render it in perspective – I feel it came out rather nicely.”

Side by side, the sketchbooks create a sprawling Rome that seems impossibly rich. Cathedral ceilings in vivid colors, a whimsical, hand-drawn San Pietro Dome, the Pantheon split in half, and streets lined with buses, mopeds and taxis are evidence of one of the program’s greatest strength – it’s intensive, yet imaginative, coursework that transforms the city into a classroom.

The interdisciplinary Rome program is offered every semester, with a different academic focus, depending on the faculty director. The experience is designed to immerse students fully, while also providing excursions for a wider perspective on the history, culture and daily life of Italy as a whole. Students are affiliated with the Scuola Leonardo da Vinci, one of the leading language and culture schools in Italy.