Sketching Across Rome – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Sketching Across Rome

rome_sketch_3From the Colosseum to the Vatican, to Roman doorways and streets, a group of HWS art and architecture students are sketching a wide range of Roman structures and landscapes as part of the Colleges’ Rome abroad program. A central component of the study program is a sketching course that allows students to further engage with their surroundings.

“It encourages a critical seeing, which is akin to critical thinking,” explains Associate Professor of Art and Architecture Stan Mathews, who’s leading the trip. “Rather than just looking at something, the students are really seeing. It doesn’t happen the same way if they’re walking around casually snapping photographs.”

The sketching course meets once a week, but requires several days to complete as students sketch buildings, streetscapes and other structures on-site. One assignment required students to sketch a series of Roman doors, while another required students to sketch “twisty” Roman streets. Mathews says the act of sketching helps students understand concepts like structure, proportion and perception.

“It helps sharpen their eye,” Mathews says. “They can see and notice more; it’s very useful for artists, art historians and architects. And we also have media and society students, who will be able to apply their sketching experiences to their film craft.”

rome_sketch_1Rachel Evans ’18, an art history major, says the course has allowed her to make new connections between culture and architecture.

“Having the opportunity to sketch while abroad will advance my art history studies at HWS because it gives me a chance to practice what I study,” says Evans. “This can give me a better understanding of why architects design the way they do.”

As part of the program students are also studying Italian food and culture as they meet with food producers and observe food production. They’re also required to take the course, “Inventing Rome, Inventing Romans,” which explores the roll of mass media in shaping notions of Rome and Italian identity from early modern to modern Rome.

The group has taken excursions to Naples, Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast and Florence, visiting contemporary and historical art museums and absorbing the “incredible sense of design” that Mathews says is present in all aspects of Italian life.

“I think the program will be life-changing for the students,” says Mathews. “They’ll see things differently, they’ll approach food and culture in a different way, and they’ll come back with a heightened sense of confidence in what they can do. I think it’s very empowering for them.”

The sketching component of the Rome program was featured in the summer 2015 edition of the magazine, ArchitectureBoston.