Tuscan painting trip

An old friend whose husband is Italian organised a painting trip at their house in Tuscany and I got an invitation which I could not, as one can imagine, refuse. The house is on remote hillside near Pisa, with fantastic views over the surrounding countryside. This was still mostly green, with patches of yellow slashed by the dark green spears of cypress trees. The weather was brilliant throughout.



Sketchbook drawing

The painting experience was spread over two weeks, in order to accommodate all aspiring artist friends, and sadly on the days I was there, the artist who was to teach us was absent—leaving me in the position of being the most experienced guest.

Still life on the terrace

However, while I did not get the opportunity to learn from someone else as I had hoped to do, it was so much fun to paint—and eat—with others in such beautiful surroundings that I really could not complain.

One day we took the opportunity to drive to Florence, where we went around the Palazzo Pitti. I had visited this museum years ago and I can report that nothing has been done to it since. With the new style of curating now prevalent, I found it extremely old fashioned. Rows and rows of dark paintings of the Virgin Mary against a wallpaper of dark red stripes. More rows of Allegories in the next room. Rows of portraits of unattractive people. Heavy frames with the names of the artists on tiny bronze plaques—I had to lean right in to be able to read them and, every time I did so, I set off the alarm!

However, the views from the windows were stunning.

Florence rooftops seen from the Palazzo Pitti windows

We went through a multitude of rooms, one after the other, badly lit and even more badly ventilated, which tired me out and made it hard to seek out the treasures—for, of course, the Palazzo Pitti is full of treasures-


-such as frescoes to die for around the ceilings, and, above all, the incomparable Titians.


After lunch in a small tratoria hidden away in a side street, we walked in the Bardini Gardens.

And I cannot finish this post without a mention of the food—Italian food being, to my taste, the pinnacle of deliciousness.

A view of the Ponte Vecchio
Another hillside

Trying to keep up

Well, it’s been a busy week, but I was determined not to fall behind on the World Watercolor Month challenge, so I mostly resorted to quick sketches at bedtime.

Day 8: Seagulls.  I seem to be inspired by birds lately, and it is the summer and beach weather. After making a quick and splashy background, I drew the seagulls in ink and added oil pastel for highlights.



Day 9: Mother and child. I have to force myself to draw people (not my strongest point, so I need the practice).  I had a little more time tonigh, and I found an appealing photo as a reference – it would have been better drawn from life, but no models available (sigh…)



Day 10: Garden produce. I’d gone out to pick some lettuce, onions and cauliflower, so I just dumped them on the kitchen table (I used a tea towel not to get dirt onto the table, and that proved quite a useful addition to the sketch!)



Day 11: Three bowls of fruit and a tomato. I do love summer fruit. These are peaches, yellow cherries and red currants. What could have been more inspiring than to make a sketch of them in a large Moleskine journal.



Day 12: Roses. Really no time tonight, so I just sloshed some paint around and doodled on top. It was a good way to test some new Daniel Smith watercolors, too (Quinacridone Rose, New Gamboge and Deep Sap Green).



Meanwhile, I’ve been putting the finishing touches on my bird project, ‘Sandhill Cranes In Flight’. This is watercolor, oil crayon and gold leaf on two large sheets of Arches paper (100x60cm). It has now been packed off to the recipient, who I hope will be happy with it. I’m a rotten photographer, only use my iPhone and couldn’t get the light right, but you get the idea (I blue-tacked it to the wall to take the picture, but the left side was in shadow).



Day 13: Three-panel study of floral painting. This is my new project, so I started making some studies to help me decide how to proceed. It will be based on plein air sketches of irises, tulips and hyacinths I made when they were in flower in the garden. Always gives a better result than painting from photos.



Day 14: Six-panel study. Another version, using six pieces of paper instead of three. I probable prefer the first one.



Day 15: Chickens. Really got back late today, so when I came upon a piece of paper on which I’d been testing color mixes and some flower stencils, I just added a rooster and a hen on top.


That’s the week done, phew!

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook

On April 14, 2016 Anne Lawson, a botanical artist who lives in Melbourne, posted this on her blog: ‘Oh I do love a good idea, and this is one of the best! A travelling sketchbook!’

So she made a sketchbook, drew her own contribution in it, and posted it to the first person on the list of those who’d signed up for the project.
There are 15 of us, and each is to ‘add to the sketchbook when it comes in the post to you. Draw, write, collage, sew, paste in a photograph ~ whatever you would like to contribute. There would be no rules, no themes, just a heartfelt contribution.’
(You can read the whole post here)

I was number 9 on the list. Imagine my excitement when I received a package from Indiana, USA, and opened it to see this:



Anne had drawn on the cover, and inside the back cover,



and her contribution was a delicate drawing of the Kakadu Escarpment in Melbourne.



Next was Kate Chiconi from Baker’s Creek, QLD. (See her blog here) Kate makes the most amazing quilts, so this is what she came up with:




After Kate, Sandra Gay from Ténériffe, QLD (blog here), added an illustrated recipe for ratatouille!





In number 4, we have the stunning drawings of Megan Power from Caulfield, VIC (blog here) – she made a map of the cycling trails in the city, leading to the National Gallery of Victoria,



as well as a beautiful drawing inspired by a painting  by Jules-Bastien Lepage, which is exhibited in the gallery.




Then a poem, by Sandi Worrall-Hart, of Wnadin East, VIC.



Next, the Sketchbook travelled from Australia to the US, where Alys Milner from SAN Jose, California, (blog here) made an imaginative collage ‘quilt’ from all the previous contributions!




Followed by two more stunning mini quilts by Sue Brown of Mount Vernon, WA (blog here).



Then, just before me, Usha Gudipalli from Indianapolis (blog here) added another, very colorful,  collage. Again a quilt theme, which I assume has been so popular as it symbolises unity and friendship.



Now the Sketchbook has travelled to Europe – first stop, Athens, Greece! When I’m done I will send it on to Germany, since there are five more memers of the Sisterhood, two in Germany, one in France, and two in the U.K. Finally, it will go to one more contributor in Australia, then at last back to Anne – we are thinking of maybe scanning it, so each of us has a memento of her own.

I have already thought about my own contribution, of course, but my lips are sealed for the moment, so stay tuned!
(To be continued)