Three Ladies and a Drawing Student

Monday, April 16, 2012

A couple of weeks ago I was giving an assignment from my drawing teacher to go out into one of the piazzas in Florence and draw people around me. So, Monday afternoon I gathered up my sketchpad and pencils and went to one of the piazzas near my homestay.

I'm always a little nervous of assignments that involve staring at unsuspecting strangers for a long period of time. A simple drawing can quickly become mortifying if people catch you staring at them and scribbling on a sketch pad. So, when I'm drawing I tend to hold my sketchpad close, try not to catch anyone's eye, and hope that no one inquires as to what exactly I am doing.

When I got to the piazza, I sat down on a bench, set my backpack down beside, and prepared to draw. Not five minutes into my sketches an older Italian lady comes up to me, ignoring the entirely free benches around and asks if she can sit beside me. Trying to conceal my reluctance I say yes and she sits down. An older man abruptly approaches and they begin to have a conversation. Eventually, he turns to me and says that I should draw the old woman's face. So much for being stealthy.

Like the awkward person that I am, I laugh and say no, I'm not going to creepily draw the woman sitting next to me. The man leaves, and a few minutes later another woman, evidently a friend of the first, comes over. They start to talk, and she asks to sit down. I move my bag over and she sits. At this point there's barely enough room on the bench for the three of us and my bag. Shortly after, another woman comes toward us, moving slowly with a cane. As she approaches, my bench buddies applaud and congratulate her for making it to the bench. Recognizing what's going on, I move my bag to the ground, and try to make room for her on the bench. She squeezes in between me and one of her friends.

Now here's the thing about these Italian women (and indeed Italians in general), they are not concerned in the least about personal space. These women are perfectly happy to sit squished up against a strange girl with her creepy drawings. They smile nicely at me and prattle on, talking to the older men who occasionally come over for a chat. I went on drawing, and spent my afternoon listening to them and pretending to draw lamp posts.

When I got up to leave, they called, "Goodbye!"

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