Posts Tagged ‘Villa Borghese’

Kelly's Bike

It goes without saying that painters of landscapes love the outdoors, but for one American-turned-Roman resident, plein air painting isn’t only a passion, it’s a way of life. Riding around the Eternal City on her “tricked out” bicycle – two saddlebags swinging in the wind and trusty easel strapped to her back – it’s just another day at the office for artist Kelly Medford.

Kelly laughingI met Kelly outside a book event in Rome last fall. mistaking her for a college student studying abroad. Perhaps it was her fresh face and wide-eyed exuberance that makes Kelly seem much younger than her years. But make no mistake about it, this petite powerhouse of a woman is an accomplished painter with serious credentials.

Kelly grew up in Washington, D.C., the only child of two left-brained scientists. Her emotional, expressive and free-spirited nature set her on a different path with its share of serendipitous forks in the road and twists of fate along the way.

Kelly alley paintingFortunately for us, Kelly’s travels eventually landed her in Italy where she studied at the prestigious Florence Academy of Art. It was in the Renaissance capital that she spent a year of intensive training in classical figurative drawing; honing her skills and developing her techniques. Painting indoors made Kelly feel isolated and itching to spread her wings so, in 2010, she traded the dimly lit, heavy-curtained and controlled environment of Florence for the warm, golden sun-soaked locations of Rome. You’ll most likely find Kelly on a tiny lane or hidden piazza painting evocative canvases of Roman life or its surrounding countryside.

IMG_2478Kelly’s love and enthusiasm for plein air painting developed, naturally, into her business, Sketching Rome Tours. “I created the tour so that people could have a different way of experiencing and remembering Rome. It’s such a beautiful place with so much history, that to take a photograph doesn’t really capture how you feel about a place.”

No Experience Necessary. No Erasers Allowed.

I recently met up with Kelly and her sketch group at her early-morning classroom, the Pincio balcony adjacent to the Villa Borghese gardens. My fellow students were Joanie, a teacher from Palm Springs (paints in her spare time), and daughters Becca (likes art a lot) and Vanessa (an excellent doodler).


Following a brief, but enlightening lesson on technique and tips for using our handmade-by-Kelly sketchbook and kit, we fanned out to draw…rocks, leaves, signposts, statues…I was having so much fun I didn’t want the tour to end. Sadly it did end, but not before gathering as a group for a little show and tell. 

Kelly urged us to continue our visual travel journals after the tour was over. “When you look at those drawings” Kelly explains, “you’ll have a recall about the day, what it was like, who was there, the weather – just the place – and that’s why sketching is important.”

Sketch tour rome

Memories, as I learned from Kelly, are extra special when you can hold them in your hand.

For more information about how you can sketch your own Roman memories, contact Kelly Medford at Sketching Rome Tours 

See Kelly’s artwork at Kelly Medford.com and her Adventures in Painting Blog

by Toni DeBella


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