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!" :)


  1. Such exquisite work, Leslie! I never stop appreciating how much detail you are able to include in a small sketch, yet your work is visually calming, never cluttered. A feast for the eyes! I can't wait to see your sketches from this trip. Have a safe journey and an unforgettable time!

  2. Love seeing your sketches of Tuscany. I an finishing up a month of painting and sketching in Venice...too bad I couldn't join you there. Ciao! Enjoy!

  3. Such beautiful cards! These are your sketches?

  4. Yes, these are sketches I did last year in Italy. I do sometimes make them into cards but these are just the sketches from my sketchbook.


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