Monday, January 16, 2017

Scenes from Certaldo Alto

I've been working hard to finish up some of the unpainted sketches I brought home from my Italy trip last fall. Here's a composite page I did the day we visited the medieval hilltop village of Certaldo alto...

Since I taught two week-long workshops at Fattoria Bacio this past year, I had two visits to Certaldo alto, so I got lots of sketching done. On this page I included the delicious lunch I had at Taverna L'Antica Fonte. It's a cute little restaurant perched on the edge of a hill and has panoramic views of the Tuscan countryside.

View from L'Antica Fonte in Certaldo alto

This little terra cotta cherub sculpture I saw on the wall of a shop was so cute I couldn't resist adding it to my page.

Can you find it in this photo of Certaldo alto's main street?

A cup of cappuccino is good any time of the day. Normally caffeine in the afternoon would keep me awake all night, but in Italy it seems I always sleep like a baby. Maybe it's because we do so much walking during the day. Or could it just be that there's magic in the air?

I captured a slice of that panoramic view we saw at lunch in this sketch....

This page is a great example of why it is a good idea to narrow your focus when sketching onsite. I couldn't paint everything I wanted to, so I chose a few favorite scenes and put them all together to give an impression of my day in Certaldo.

In contrast, this next page features just one scene, but it has EVERYTHING in it: a fountain, a castle, a tile roof, blue chairs, people sketching, an umbrella, bushes, and, yes, even a herd of turtles!

I really think I overdid it here. In trying to include everything, I lost my focus. Oh, well, live and learn.

Those are my buddies Linda, Cathy, and Cindy working in their sketchbooks.

To paint the water in the fountain, I masked it with Pebeo masking fluid before painting the background foliage. After the masking fluid was removed I added a few touches of grey-blue to the stark white.

Travel journal pages that are primarily text can end up looking dull and boring, so I like to make them more interesting by incorporating banners, borders and mini sketches. This page of journaling about Certaldo is a good example.

(The text is continued on the next page, which isn't quite finished, so you'll have to wait to read more about the turtles.)

I used a fresco design from the museum in Certaldo to brighten up one corner of the page and placed the page title on a banner in the opposite corner, balancing the page nicely.

The landscape in the upper right corner is only about 1 1/2" x 4" wide, but it sets the scene and serves to illustrate the words on the page.

For this next sketch, I climbed the tower at Giovanni Boccaccio's home (now a museum). Boccaccio was a poet and the author of The Decameron, a masterpiece of early Italian writing. The view from his tower is pretty amazing.

A colorful underwash brightened up this scene filled with greens and browns.

You can see the rooftops of the old town, where everything looks much as it did in the 14th century....

as well as the modern city with its cars, trains, supermarkets and schools.

Certaldo alto is one of those non-touristy places that are challenging to find on your own. I'm so glad I had my friends Teja and Claudia from Artravelitaly to show us the way and organize everything so flawlessly for us.

Claudia, me, and Teja

I'll be teaching another Tuscany workshop next fall, September 23-30, 2017, and I'm looking forward to seeing my Italian friends again and enjoying another perfect week at Fattoria Bacio. There are still some spaces left - why not come along? It's a dream vacation, one you'll never forget. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Fun in the Mountains - Our Winter Painting Retreat in WV

Our winter painting getaway at Stonewall Resort in West Virginia was a huge success! Here's a behind-the-scenes look at our time together...

Stonewall Resort, Roanoke, WV

Eighteen of us gathered to paint and relax for three days with nothing more to worry about than what to order for lunch. We had a cozy meeting room overlooking the lake...

and everyone had plenty of space to spread out their stuff.

And we did have LOTS of stuff!

We all got straight to work when we arrived at noon on Sunday. Lots of people tackled unfinished sketches from their trip to Italy with me in September.

Jan completed a composite sketch of our day in Siena...

You don't see shoes like that in the U.S.!

and another one of a few of the beautiful wrought iron transoms we saw in San Gimignano...

 Here's one of Cindy's...

and a gridded sketch by Candy...

Almost finished!

As the afternoon wound down, we watched a beautiful sunset over the West Virginia mountains, and I ran outside in the 6 degree weather without a coat on just to take this picture for you...

The food was great at dinner and the conversation was even better. We gathered afterwards in front of the fireplace in the lobby for a time of introductions, since not everyone in the group knew each other, then a few of us wandered back to our temporary studio for a little more painting.

The next morning, my friend Carol led a yoga class for us. (Sorry, I forgot to take pictures. I was too busy doing sun salutations!) What a great way to start the day!

Then, after a nice breakfast, we all got back to painting. Betty worked on one of her memory journals, where she records remembrances of what life was like in earlier years.

She has quite a knack for drawing people. Seeing her work has inspired me to practice my people drawing skills more.

My mother didn't want to miss out on all the fun, so she came along on this little getaway. She worked on hand-piecing a quilt while the rest of us painted.

If you were strolling down the hall at Stonewall Resort, wouldn't you wonder what the heck was happening behind this closed door?

What's an Everyday Artist and why does she need a conference room? Well, this is why - so she has a place to produce beautiful sketches like Cathy's...

View from Fattoria Bacio by Cathy

A little journaling will finish off this sketch by Cathy. The pink floral pattern was inspired by one of the plates at L'Antica Fonte, where we had lunch.

and Hilary's...

and Cindy's...

and Larry's...

When we arrived at Stonewall on Sunday, it was a frigid day with highs in the single digits, but Monday it warmed up into the mid-thirties, which felt like a heat wave after the past week of near-zero temps, so several of us ventured outside in the afternoon for a walk around the property.

I love the S-curve bridge that connects the main part of the resort to the campground. It's so pretty and graceful-looking.

Carol and Cindy wave from the bridge

Last summer I took a boat ride down the lake on the Little Sorrel, but these days she's docked and waiting for spring.

Even though it had warmed up a bit, there was still a thin sheet of ice on the lake.

It felt good to get ouside in the sunshine and breathe some fresh air for awhile.

The snowy landscape and icy cold were captured beautifully during our stay by Cheryl in her series of Stonewall sketches...

She tinted her paper with watercolor first, then did a line drawing with a Hero Fude bent-nib pen.

Next, she added color and texture with colored pencils, then finished off the sketches with a white Uni-ball Signo gel pen.

We all loved them so much!

After dinner Monday evening, some of us went back to painting, while others enjoyed the warm ambience of the lobby living room.

Tuesday was our last day, and we had to check out at noon, but we managed to get a few more hours of painting in after yoga and breakfast. Carol finished up her sketch of marble floor designs from the Duomo in Siena, Italy...

and Myung put the final touches on her gorgeous water lily painting...

I worked on my Italy sketches during our getaway, but I think I'll save them for another post. This one is already way too long. I just wanted to give you an idea of how much fun we all had together on our little winter retreat. It didn't take us away from home for too long, it wasn't too far away, and it didn't cost too much, but it yielded amazing results. Friendships blossomed, creativity flourished, and spirits were lifted. A good time was had by all! We can't wait to do it again.

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