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May 28, 2008

Renaissance Man: Making George Clooney My Mona Lisa



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 next task:  Paint.

There comes a time in the life of every Renaissance Man when he faces great challenge. Famously, Leonardo Da Vinci sat down one day and contemplated how it might be possible for a powder skiing enthusiast to ski twenty five thousand feet of vertical in a single day. Da Vinci spent most of the morning peering into the existential chasm, but by lunch he'd invented the solution: the helicopter.

I face a similar task. I have traveled to yet another achingly beautiful corner of Italy to learn yet a new skill. It just so happens to be a skill I possess not a single iota of. They call it painting. My teacher is Giuliana Gandola. She began painting the same way Leonardo did: In Bottega. That's Italian for "in studio," and basically it means you learn how to paint by showing up at the studio of a noted master and paying careful attention. Giuliana's master was her aunt. My master is Giuliana. Giuliana's aunt never had it so bad.

The woman has her work cut out for her. Make no mistake: I have a rich imagination. I can think of thousands of paintings I'd like to paint. The problem is in the motor skills department. My hand is so unsteady that if a cashier bothers to compare my signature with the one on the back of my credit card, the transaction is usually refused. Oh, and there's this one other little minor issue. I'm colorblind.

I have decided to make up for this very slight lack of artistic aptitude by choosing a good subject. After all, would we even be talking about Leonardo if it weren't for that woman with the thin lips and the curious smile? Since I find myself in Bellagio, I have decided to follow an idea central to the Renaissance: Paint someone important. Around these parts, there's no one more important than George Clooney, who has a villa on the other side of the lake. I'm going to paint said villa. Or at least, I'm going to try.

In the meantime, please enjoy these landscape paintings I did today. I'm experimenting with realism. I feel like it's going well.

Giuliana helped with the colors on this one.

Not realistic enough.  But an OK start.

From my "Blue Period" which lasted from 1 to 2 p.m.

I think it has shades of Neo-classicism.  Giuliana thinks it's garbage. 

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