Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Beautiful Cinque Terre

I'm in the middle of my workshop in Tuscany at the moment, but I thought you might want to see a few more pictures from our time in Cinque Terre.

Our first day had been spent hanging out in the little village of Manarola, so the second day we took off to explore the other four villages along this stretch of coastline.

Figuring out how to read the train schedules in Italy takes a little time. And, as a novice, it's always a little nerve-wracking, not knowing if I'm standing on the correct platform while waiting for the train, or if the train I just got on is actually going where I want to go. So my modus operandi is to just ask lots of questions. Sometimes the person I happen to ask is just as baffled as I am, but more often than not, it's a native Italian for whom this is all as simple as waking up in the morning.

We did manage to find the right train that morning in Manarola, and we traveled about five minutes up the track to arrive at beautiful Vernazza...

Vernazza was hit hard by the flash floods that devastated Cinque Terre in 2011. After the rain stopped, the harbor area was covered with mud and debris thirteen feet deep. Today, you wouldn't know it had ever happened.

Check out this gorgeous stone mosaic in front of the church...

I got a kick out of this narrow alley between two buildings, with multiple arches supporting and connecting the two structures.

This cute guy reminded me of my Buckley, waiting for me thousands of miles away, back in Pennsylvania.

 Laundry, laundry everywhere! I need to paint this.

My dessert at lunch - panna cotta with fresh fruit...

After a few hours in Vernazza, we hopped aboard the train again and rode a few minutes up the coast to Monterosso. We didn't stay long, since we'd already been there the evening before and walked around the Old Town area quite a bit. This time we just wanted to see the waterfront area in the daytime. It was worth the trip just to see this....

Due to time constraints we decided to skip the tiny landlocked town of Corniglia. It will have to wait until next time. Instead, we visited the larger town of Riomaggiore ...

The sidewalk displays were so pretty and colorful...

Our brief time in Cinque Terre was filled with amazing scenery, delectable food, and memorable experiences. And sharing it with nine friends (who don't think it's crazy to spend time sketching) made it really special.

Right now I'm in the middle of a week-long workshop at Fattoria Bacio, near Certaldo, Italy. On Saturday, I'll say goodbye to this group and welcome another. Most of my time this week has been spent either teaching, touring or sketching, which makes it difficult to squeeze in writing, too, so I'm going to wait until I get home to post more pictures here. I'll post on Facebook every day or two, though, so be sure to "Friend" me, if you haven't already. (My Facebook name is Leslie Conklin Fehling.)

I'll have lots of time to share both sketches and photos when I get home, so I'll see you in October!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Italy - Pisa and Cinque Terre

Hello from Italy! It's been a whirlwind week since I left Pittsburgh with seven friends, bound for Rome. The trip was grueling, but we finally landed in Rome, and after several hours of standing in security lines and customs lines, we took off for Pisa where we were picked up by a driver to take us to....

the Leaning Tower of Pisa! We spent some time with a tour guide there, learning more about the buildings on the Piazza Dei Miracoli.

The cathedral was impressive, as all European cathedrals are, with soaring columns, and gorgeous mosaics, sculptures, and paintings. The ceiling was covered in 24 carat gold!

Then it was time to head to our next destination, Cinque Terre. It was wonderful having a driver, so we didn't all have to schlep our heavy luggage on and off trains and up and down steep flights of stairs.

Here's our adorable B&B in Manarola, which would be our home for three nights....

Affittacamere San Giorgio

Cinque Terre is a place of indescribable beauty. You really have to experience walking those almost-vertical streets to even begin to understand what it must be like to live here. The people are all fit and trim - they're used to hiking the hills and climbing the seemingly endless steps that lead from the lower part of town into the upper streets.

Our first day there, we explored Manarola and spent some time sketching, then took an afternoon ferry boat ride up the coast to see the five villages from the water.

Here's a view of Manarola from the water...

We enjoyed a fantastic dinner at Il Casello in Monterosso, overlooking the beach and the Ligurian Sea.

Cindy, Candy, Judy, Teresa, Katie, Carol, Cathy, Jan, and Linda
 After dinner, we strolled along the water....

and walked through town where restaurants and shops were filled with people enjoying the warm evening.

Time to run down and have breakfast now, then head for Certaldo. I'll catch up with you later and share more pictures from the trip so far.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Looking Back at Italy, and Ahead!

I leave for Italy in a little over a week! I'm so excited to be going back to Tuscany! My mother decided not to come with me this time, but I won't be traveling alone. This time I'll have seven of my local students/friends flying out of Pittsburgh with me. We'll be flying into Pisa, then traveling on to Cinque Terre where we'll meet up with two more friends who are coming from Florida. We'll have a few days to explore Cinque Terre before the workshop starts at Fattoria Bacio. I can't wait!

I have some sketches from last year's trip that I never got around to sharing, so here's a little something to get you in the mood for my posts from Italy...

All sketches are ink and watercolor, done in a 10x7 Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook.

Casa Dante is one of the historic buildings that's part of Fattoria Bacio, the country estate where we'll be staying near Certaldo. This year, I think I'll sketch a few more of the buildings, and I definitely want to explore the old chapel that's right next to Casa Dante. Somehow I missed that last year.

One of the prettiest spots at Fattoria Bacio is the lawn in front of the villa. From there you can look out over a panorama of vineyards, olive groves, hilltop villas and distant mountains. In the middle of the lawn sits a picturesque old well, which I spent a relaxing morning painting last year.

I'm really looking forward to the delicious meals I'll have while I'm in Italy. Why is it that even the simplest salad tastes better there? Is it just because I'm so happy to be there, eating that salad in ITALY (!) or is it the fresh, organic ingredients and the care with which it is prepared? I'm not sure. All I do know is that everything tastes AMAZING!

One of our day trips will take us to Siena. I'll never forget my first walk through the Duomo (cathedral) there. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the building, the intricate patterns on the marble floors, the metal grillwork, the paintings and statuary...there's so much to take in, everywhere you look! Last year, I really wanted to sketch something while I was there, and what impressed me most was the marblework, so I devoted this sketchbook page to copying some of the designs found on the floors and columns in the church, with two angelic sculptures added to the mix. I penciled in the designs, creating the page a little bit at a time as I toured the building. Later on at home, I tidied things up and inked and painted the page. I love how it turned out. The busyness of the page reflects the impressive visual clutter of the Duomo's interior.

Bustling cities, medieval villages, and idyllic country settings - our week in Tuscany will have it all. One evening, we'll be visiting La Meridiana International School of Ceramics. We'll have a tour, meet some of the artists, do some sketching, and enjoy aperitifs on the veranda as the sun sets over the Tuscan hills. Last year, it was one of my favorite times during the week. The ceramic school is housed in a 17th century farmhouse, surrounded by gardens, barns, a pond, fruit trees, and vineyards. It's a peaceful place with quiet nooks, broad vistas, and surprises around every corner, like the "peeping Tom" statue semi-hidden in the front hedge...

Another one of my favorite places to visit is San Gimignano, the city of towers. We'll be there on market day - I can't wait to see what treasures I'll find! San Gimignano has lots of great shops, wonderful cafes, beautiful churches, and incredible views from the centuries-old town walls.

I'll try to post regularly from Tuscany while I'm there, but I plan to do a lot more sketching and journaling this year than I did when I first visited Fattoria Bacio, so I won't have as much time to journal on my blog. I'll be sure to share some sketches in progress, and I know I won't be able to resist showing you some pictures of the gorgeous scenery, so I'll be in touch. I wish you could all come along! Hey, there's still one spot available for my October 1-8 workshop, so if you're a spur-of-the-moment type, dust off your passport, pack your bags and join us. (Click on the "Italy Workshops" tab above for all the details.)

I'll be announcing my 2017 schedule soon after I get back from Italy. I have several exciting workshops in the planning stages. And don't forget about Provence coming up in July 2017. It's going to be an incredible trip!

Now, to finish packing and practice up on my Italian phrases, the most important of which is "Un gelato, per favore!" :)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

"Sketch Your Life!" Workshop at Summerhill

Last weekend I hosted my first three-day "Sketch Your Life!" workshop here at my home, and we all had a great time exploring the possibilities of sketchbook journaling.

I injured my toe when I was rearranging furniture for the workshop. Ouch!! I ended up with a nasty infection, but it's healing nicely now, thank goodness!

Everything went fairly smoothly (except for that trip to Urgent Care on Friday evening!) and by the end of the weekend, we all felt like friends. The students came from all over - some were local, a few drove in from across the state of Pennsylvania, and others came all the way from Maryland, Mississippi, and Kentucky. They all had one thing in common, a desire to try a new approach to being creative.

Or did they only come for the great food? :)

Yes, my mother and I fed them well!

Mocha Sundae Pie with Oreo Cookie Crust

Our lunches included Corn and Basil Tart, Wild Rice Artichoke Chicken Salad, and Pizza Pizzazz Salad, plus lots of yummy side dishes like Cantaloupe-Peach Soup with Blueberries...

and desserts that that were to-die-for, like Mocha Sundae Pie, Bourbon-Pecan Tart, and my famous Chocolate Pavlova.

Bourbon-Pecan Tart

The ladies worked hard each morning, sketching and learning and trying new things. They deserved to be rewarded at lunchtime!

Most of them were new to sketchbook journaling, so I started them off with an introduction to drawing and watercolor. I think it was a big help to those who were complete beginners.

They learned how to design interesting lettering styles and simple border designs, then they put their new-found skills to use on their first sketches...

Next they did a page using a color block or box to make their subject pop off the page...

Later, they sketched fruits and vegetables from varying angles or in different stages to make an interesting "Multiples" page...

It's always so much fun to see each person's style begin to emerge as they work through the projects.

One afternoon, I had them do a speed-sketching challenge where they drew a gridded page filled with candy in a very limited time. Choosing just six pieces from the candy box may have been the toughest part of this exercise!

The candy bin had lots of cute, colorful penny candy, but we reserved our calories for the good stuff...

Thanks, Carol, for bringing us these yummy temptations all the way from Maryland!

A little chocolate makes the sketching so much more fun!

Carol designed some beautiful borders...

and don't you love this sketch? Those complementary colors just sing! And how about that plaid background? She got the idea for the pattern from my laundry room wallpaper. Inspiration is everywhere

I decided to mix things up a bit on Saturday afternoon, so I gave everyone a break from their watercolors. I had them find a spot somewhere in the house or outside in the yard or on the porch, and try doing a sketch directly in ink without any preliminary pencil drawing first. The twist was that the ink in the pens was water-soluble, so, when they touched the lines with water, they dissolved into soft grays, resulting in nice mid-tone shadows. My sketch at the top of the page is an example, drawn with a Platinum Preppy pen with Platinum ink. And here's Bobbie's sketch of my porch swing...

Charlotte and Lu sketched the view from the classroom...

Carol, Sara and Lory drew in the living room...

The sketches were done in nothing flat, and everyone really enjoyed playing around with the shadow washes.

Another fun project we did was to illustrate one of our favorite quotes. There were some really good ones - here's one by Angela...

Sunday afternoon, after three days of me standing up front talking about sketchbook journaling and showing pages from my sketchbooks, it was finally time for everyone else to have a turn. Each person shared their sketches with the group and talked about what they had created.

It was touching and funny and heartwarming to hear them talk about their work. And the encouragement that flowed back to them from their new-found friends made it even more special.

Charlotte had us all laughing!

It's amazing how much they accomplished in just three short days! And seeing their confidence grow over the course of the workshop was a wonderful thing. They're excited about sketching now and are making plans to do a September challenge. They'll learn so much if they stick with it.

All of my preparations - the writing, printing, emailing, meal planning, grocery shopping, house cleaning, cooking, and studio prep - were worth it, to see the happiness on their faces as they said goodbye. This kind of teaching is a lot of work, but the rewards are priceless.

I hope to offer another "Sketch Your Life!" workshop here at Summerhill in 2017, but haven't settled on the dates yet. I still need to firm up some travel commitments first. Stay tuned...
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