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May 29, 2008

Renaissance Man: Bob Ross or Da Vinci? You Judge

I'm a painter
Not too shabby.


Conde Nast Traveler stuntman Mark Schatzker is on a mad quest to make himself into a modern-day Da Vinci during a month's stay in Europe. So far Mark has "mastered" golf in Scotland, "excelled" at gardening in England, "ruled" the kitchens of Paris, and tinkled the ivories in Vienna.  His last task: Painting beside Lake Como.

You see before you "La Villa Clooney." I for one and shocked. I'm not saying this painting is going to be hanging in the Louvre anytme soon--the Musée d'Orsay would be more appropriate--but those of you with some familiarity of my artistic history will be able to appreciate this feat of applying paint to canvas.

Let's give credit where credit is due. If Giuliana Gandola hadn't been standing behind me and guiding me, saying things like, "Don't be afraid. Just use the brush," or "No, not like that," and if she hadn't helped me with the Herculean task of mixing colors, then the result would have looked considerably different. At one point in the process, George Clooney's villa was looking more like George Clooney's dilapidated shed with a crooked roof. The problem was one of perspective, and Giuliana helped me fix that.

But most of the paint on that canvas was put there by me.

Of course, it's not enough to just look at a painting. You have to "understand" its deeper meanings. So for those of you not schooled in the intellectually thrilling arena of art criticism, you may be missing out on some high-quality nuance. This is a work rich in meaning. Allow me to explain.

George Clooney's villa is symbolic of not only of George Clooney's villa, but of nice villas everywhere. In this way, it is a universal symbol.

The mountains are symbolic of extremely tall hills made out of rock that are not only majestic and grandly imposing, but also they're difficult to get over. They represent the boundary separating George Clooney's special world from our own.

The man fishing in the boat. This is George Clooney, and by the looks of things, he's hauling in a sizeable lavarello. This is the painting's most significant feature. Clooney as fisherman is symbolic of: a) Slow Food; b) Jesus; c) A sly nod to Clooney's appearance as Lenny Colwell on an episode of "Riptide" in 1984. ("Riptide" was an awesome show. Almost as good as "Simon and Simon.")

The man rowing the boat. This is the "artist" (me). Artists first started putting themselves in pictures during the Renaissance. For example, in Boticelli's "Adoration of the Magi," which hangs in Florence's Uffizi Gallery, you can see Boticelli staring back out at the viewer. It's like Boticelli is saying, "Hey, how's it going?" That's what I'm saying, too.

Tonight, I will be presenting this painting to Count Gherardo Scapinelli. The Count lives in one of the grandest villas in all of Lake Como; it was designed by the same architect who did Milan's La Scala opera house. His family tree goes back to the 1280s. His aunt was Ernest Hemingway's lover, and Hemingway--who, I would like to point out, was an incredible writer but didn't exactly leave a lasting impression with his cooking or piano playing--wrote his one and only children's story for the Count.

I will also be cooking for the Count. And while we eat and appraise my work of art, we will listen to the Schubert piece I teamed up with Albert Frantz to produce.

And who knows, I might even write and dedicate a children's story to the man. It will be about golfing and botanical gardening, though I might throw in a talking animal to give it some zip.

This, in short, is the big test. In a few hours' time, I will see if I have what it takes to be a real Renaissance Man. Wish me luck.


I love the painting! Great job!

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