by Fred Lynch, near Boston
When I draw, I try to tell the truth. But, sometimes I fear that looking at my drawings of Viterbo as a whole, could make one think it's a more charming place than it really is. So, this year, I tried to address that. I set out to draw in an ugly part of town. Unfortunately, it was only a few steps from my door.
Viterbo is not a tourist town for understandable reasons. It's a scrappy place. Graffiti, trash and dirt are easy to find. The city's most historically significant events happened seven hundred years ago, when a series of popes lived there. Since then, it's been a struggle.
But history doesn't stop, and decades ago, attention was brought to bear on the city in the worst way. On a cold January day in 1944, scattered neighborhoods of the walled medieval city were bombed by Allied forces during World War II. Viterbo holds an air force base nearby and it made the area a strategic target. The city was shattered, and after all these years, crumbled walls and partial buildings are still scattered around the town. Where I sat to create this drawing, was certainly a bombed area. What existed for centuries was destroyed. Before me was what came next: one of many severe, post-war, modern structures.
Day after day, I slipped by this hulking, sulking concrete monster. But, at long last, in an effort to better describe the complexity of the city, and being slightly charmed by a certain slant of light, I decided to sit and engage my ugly neighbor. I fixed my eyes, and held my nose, and drew.
Adding insult to injury, after a long while working, I realized that my drawing ink was not responding well to the paper. It was not cooperating as usual. Looking closely, I found that I was working on a different side of the paper than I always do. I was working on the wrong side. Actually, I didn't even know at the time, that there was a wrong side! My thick Arches watercolor sheets have what I've learned is called a "felt" side, which is smoother, and a"wire" side which is a bit bumpier. That day, I was working on the smooth side and it made everything much more difficult. It all came down to ink absorption - or, a lack of it.
So, in the end, I found myself drawing on the wrong side of town, and on the wrong side of the paper. Believe me, it took a long time to make those two wrongs look right.