CoviDiaries: Ken Carbone, To Rome and Back

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In order to make the creative world feel a bit less lonely and a bit more connected in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve decided to kick off a new blog series—CoviDiaries—that will bring us into the homes and minds of various designers, illustrators and other professionals, to see how they’re coping. We’ll publish a few installments each week and would love to hear from you, too. In the meantime, here’s a dispatch from Ken Carbone in Piermont, New York.

On Feb. 3, I arrived in Rome for a three-month visit. I was there to teach a branding course at the Michael Graves College for Architecture and Design, followed by an artist’s residency at the American Academy. Along with teaching, I had ample time for touring, drawing, dining and discovery. It was “Glorious Maximus.”

Life in Rome, “BC.”

A cappuccino break with my class near Campo di Fiori in early February.

Visiting the Laocoön, one of my favorite masterpieces in the Vatican Museum.

Rome in February is beautiful and green with spring-like weather.

The sheer number of iconic monuments one encounters each day is exhausting in all the right ways.

This was a time when museums were open and crowds stood in awe of art and history.

Sketching my experiences was a big part of my daily routine.

Rome’s classic umbrella pines are just so much fun to draw.

Memories of my “meeting” with Bernini at the Villa Borghese.

“No photos! No video!” shout the guards in the Sistine Chapel. Drawings are OK.

… Then came COVID-19. Quickly, Italy became a “hot zone.” My classes were canceled. The students returned home. I remained for another two weeks to monitor the situation, but it soon became clear it was time to leave.

In the shadow of the Trajan Column the day before returning to New York.

My last drawing in Rome, made in Campo di Fiori.

I arrived back in New York after passing a mandatory health screening in Italy. Since then, I’ve been under a 14-day quarantine at home as per the CDC protocol. I feel fine—and somewhat safer—in my seclusion, considering all that is now happening in the U.S.

Fortunately, I have a home studio with a private bath and a place to sleep. This isolates me from my family. I keep busy, and the time passes quickly. This has been helped by one essential rule: NO NEWS UNTIL NOON.

Between 7 a.m. and noon, I take my temperature, wash my hands, down some vitamins, turn on some music, exercise, shower, have a coffee and a biscotti. Then I wash my hands, draw, paint, read, study Italian, play guitar and wash my hands. This quiet time is the emotional and psychological armor I don each day to face the new world.

Life in New York, “AC.”

Taking my temperature. Twice a day, a.m. and p.m.

Streaming “The New Pope” is about as close as I’ll get to Rome for a while.

I started a new painting of Roman amphorae. An ancient object of great design.

Some fine reading to help pass the time.

I love this powerful New Yorker cover by Christoph Niemann.

Drawing talking heads on the PBS Newshour. I’ve been doing this for years.


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