Drawing Lessons from Civita: an artist’s adventure in Italy

Presented November 13, 2015 at the Civita Institute's Benvenuti in Famiglia fundraising event


ANITA LEHMANN is a registered architect in the state of Washington. She is also a teacher and an artist. After receiving training at the University of Washington, she taught freehand drawing in Rome and in Seattle, and currently offers small group classes in drawing and painting. Her other skills include architectural design, graphic design, community planning and design illustration. Using figures as disparate as bugs and urban monuments, Anita has designed several series of alphabets, which have been acquired by the Smithsonian Institution. ‘City Alphabets’ is a unique collection of illustrated highlights of American cities: for each letter of the alphabet, the iconography of a city is represented in illustration; a new alphabet, ‘Alphabugs,’ was recently launched. Prior to receiving the 2013 NAIUSI fellowship, Anita was a graduate student at the University of Washington Rome Center, in Rome, Italy in 1985.

In the late summer and early fall of 2013, as the recipient of a mid-career fellowship awarded by the Northwest Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in Italy/ The Civita Institute, Anita Lehmann began a creative exploration which has resulted in this extraordinary collection of drawings. Based at The Civita Institute in Civita di Bagnoregio, arguably the most romantic hill town in all of Italy, Anita’s drawings began to unfold into stories of her daily experiences.

Her presentation will present the collection of Anita’s drawings; those that recorded her daily engagement with the architecture and life in Civita di Bagnoregio, Venice, Siena, Montepulciano, and Rome. In organizing her visual experience, Anita will present a visual feast of spaces where Italian piazzas and forms of ancient buildings are punctuated by a wealth of architectural details and the brilliance of Italian light. Her drawings are a rich and poetic experience.

She will demonstrate that drawing is also about attempting something beyond language and beyond representation. It is about transcendence, and when you draw daily, as Anita Lehmann does, drawing becomes the soil out of which your visual thinking grows.

Then there’s the “evocative.” It is all of the above, plus the memory of experience and place—the senses, the history, the structure, and the story. Anita will discuss how she connects with the world and experiences life. Hers is the hand of a practiced artist who has spent thousands upon thousands of hours honing her tool. Her pencil is her baton, and she wields it as effortlessly as most people breathe. She reaches us with her drawings because she connects so perfectly with who and what she is seeing. She becomes part of it, breathes it in, lives it, and loves it. There is humor, humility, work ethic, and confidence in this beautiful book about the ancient city of Civita.

Learning Objective #1

Participants will learn about transforming and extending oneself: utilizing studies and design tools to be evocative; mark-making about a place and time, and aspects purely felt on a given subject.

Learning Objective #2

Participants will understand how Anita Lehmann fully embraces the Renaissance wisdom that to draw something is to fully understand it by connecting us to our experience with an intimacy not otherwise possible.

Learning Objective #3

Participants will learn that an inherent intimacy with drawing occurs because the materials are limited. One simply holds a pencil in your hand. The artist’s touch is elemental and we are able to see how much an artist can do with a pencil and how distinctive each artist’s language of mark-making can be.

Learning Objective #4

Participants will learn how to become aware of the ‘power of a place’ through drawing and experience:

Courage • Adventure • Joy • Community • Connection • Joy • Storytelling • Sharing • Truth • Continuity • Strength • Courage.  And leap to the next place in their own journey with Drawing Lessons from Civita.