Painting Out of the Box

Juggling my painting supplies and balancing everything on my lap was not the best system for 21 days of watercolor painting in a 6”x9” journal in Italy. 

Usually I pack my favorite cigar box to use to hold my supplies when I am painting outdoors or somewhere fancy. I did not bring the box on this trip because it takes up precious packing room in my suitcase. 

I am definitely finding room for the box on my next painting outing. It makes things more organized and it contains everything so I don’t leave paint splotches on brocade couches, linen table cloths and my clothing. 

I do need to modify the cigar box for easier use, any suggestions are welcome. 

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Want to Develop the Habit of Practicing Your Watercolor and Drawing in a Sketchbook?

Finding time and figuring out what to paint and draw when you finally pick up your paintbrush are roadblocks to improving your art skills. Now that you have put all your art supplies into a bag that you can grab when you want to paint and you have found a spot to paint in or out of your house, I have a new idea to help you get more artwork done.

Buy an Aquabee mixed media sketchbook and practice + play on the pages of the sketchbook. Using a sketchbook will free you up because the paper is much cheaper than watercolor paper and you can easily turn the page when you don’t like what your artwork looks like or you want to try something else. Your sketchbook is your private practice coach because by working on your artwork on its pages your artwork will improve. Your strokes and pencil marks will be more fluid and your colors won’t be muddy (that is if you practice mixing colors).

If you happen to live in the So. Cal area and have Friday at happy hour free and the desire to improve your artwork in a sketchbook, attend my Developing the Practice of Watercolor Sketching in a Sketchbook at Miracosta San Elijo campus from 5:30-8:30 (happy hour). We will pin point what you want to learn and improve, practice things like brush strokes, color mixing, different subject matter and much more.

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Good Bye Cortona

Our painting workshop ended on a high note with a painting show and tell and shoe parade last night. Visiting Tuscany in the Fall was special. Seeing the towns wearing their in Fall colors, walking around towns wearing sweaters in the crisp air and tasting the newly harvested olive oil were all pluses and made us artists love Italy even more.

 

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the fountain in the park in Cortona

 Bramasole, the house that inspired Under the Tuscan Sun. 

Bramasole, the house that inspired Under the Tuscan Sun. 

 The altar in front of Bramasole

The altar in front of Bramasole

 Fall colors and old stone textures will give us lots of unique watercolor paintings to make at home. 

Fall colors and old stone textures will give us lots of unique watercolor paintings to make at home. 

Shoe Shopping in Italy

We decided to visit a shoe factory’s outlet store yesterday. 

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We found lots of great looking shoes. 

 

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Several pairs of shoes were purchased. 

A good time was had by all and we will be wearing some stylin shoes when we return home. 

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Learning About Tuscan History

I knew only a little about the history of Tuscany’s wine region until we visited the Museum of the Messadrina yesterday. It wasn’t always Villas , wine tasting and holidays in Tuscany. Since feudal times, the vineyards and farms in Tuscany were run by wealthy land owners who hired farm workers to work the fields paying them only a portion of the food that was harvested. The farm workers were kept in poverty with this system and they owned nothing but their tools and perhaps a cart and a few animals. The old farm houses that people restore into homes these days, were rented shacks on rhe landowners property often without heat or plumbing. The animals lived on the first floor of these homes to keep the people                 ( sometimes as many as 45 people living in one home) warm at night.

 the inside of a farm workers home, the mattress was filled with twigs and sticks!

the inside of a farm workers home, the mattress was filled with twigs and sticks!

 left to right; the land owner, the supervisor and the farm workers, also known as share croppers.

left to right; the land owner, the supervisor and the farm workers, also known as share croppers.

The supervisor kept huge books writing down production details, everyone’s jobs including the children who worked. The mother took care of the children, cooked, worked and raised silk worms to make cloth for their clothing. 

 Hand made wedding dresses

Hand made wedding dresses

 The supervisor and his ledger book.

The supervisor and his ledger book.

Around the 1960’s the workers began to leave the farms and go to the city for better paying jobs and the system broke down. The farm workers took with them the knowledge of farming and many land owners had to sell their farms because they had no workers. The share cropper system ended about 1972 when it was outlawed.

This could have been the end of the Tuscan wine industry, but in the 80’s experts were hired to revamp and professionalize the wine farms.  

So next time you drink some Tuscan wine, toast the poor farm workers too.

 

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Learning to Make Cantucci

Sorry I can’t show you our painting right now. We are very busy learning to make Italian cookies from Ilaria, the cook at Villa Marsili. 

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Ilaria is a very good teacher, showing us all the steps we need to learn in order to create cantucci at home. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Italian cookies, cantucci are small size biscotti. Ilaria taught us many variations of things you can add to your cantucci dough; chocolate pieces and orange peel are going to be my choice for my homemade cantucci. 

Its important to slice the cookies after the first 10 minutes of cooking while they are still warm and NOT slicing with a sawing motion but with one firm slice with a sharp non serrated knife. Then you bake the cookies for 2nd time for 2-3 minutes. 

Italian Baked Apple Recipe

At Alla Corte Degli Angeli hotel they served the most delicious baked apples on the breakfast buffet. They were kind enough to give me their recipe. I have transcribed the recipe here for you.

 

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Artist’s Home Choices

When we travel I am slways on the lookout for homes for sales that can be turned into Haven’s for Artists. On this trip I have found 3 very different properties for you to consider to runaway to with me. We’ll make art all day and wile away our days talking artist’s talk, like “What color of yellow do you prefer?”

Consider these homes: 

 25 rooms, includes studio space and wine making equipment. 

25 rooms, includes studio space and wine making equipment. 

 Small villa in town, good lighting, however only 20 rooms and no vineyards. 

Small villa in town, good lighting, however only 20 rooms and no vineyards. 

 Excellent view of the Arno River, contains classrooms and plenty of small apartments. 

Excellent view of the Arno River, contains classrooms and plenty of small apartments. 

Let me know your opinion and I will get started on negotiations and planning for our Communal Home for Stressed-Out Runaway Artists.

Gelato

Everyone loves gelato, right? Imagine yourself in a small hilltop town strolling down the main road. The air is cool and crisp and leaves are falling from the trees. You might have just had soup for lunch and then stroll down this road in Radda in Chianti for a cone or cup of gelato. What flavor are you having?

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My Discovery of Painting Juice

Artists search for inspiration wherever they go. Some find it on a mountaintop, some are motivated to paint by a beautiful sunset in Greece, others seek inspiration from a guru.  

I found painting juice on a back road in Tucany in the Toliani Winery tasting room. After I tasted 5 different varieties of Toliani wines, I painted with a new zeal, my brushstrokes loosened up and I saw vivid scenes I wanted to paint everywhere. I may have seen a few pink elephants as well. 

 

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Art Students at Work in Lucca

My job as an art teacher depends on the attitude of my students. One must always work to keep the attitude of one’s students at a positive level. 

For observation and drawing of people on the move, we all sat in a cafe and sketched moving people. 

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The attitude and and the artwork was super!

 

Pisa Leaning and Watercolor

Visiting Pisa was one of the highlights of our week in Northern Tuscany. The leaning tower does not disapoint. The buldings are made of white marble and the tower reaches to awesome heights and touches the sky. We sketched the tower and used our angle finders to determine the angle to draw.

 My watercolor sketch of the tower. 

My watercolor sketch of the tower. 

 Angle finders at work. 

Angle finders at work. 

The funniest thing about visiting Pisa was all the people having their pictures taken so it appeared that they were holding up the tower.  

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What Color Watercolor Blue To Paint the Mediterranean?

We visited the Cinque Terre, the 5 towns that overlook the Tyrean sea, a portion of the Mediterranean yesterday. You can hike between some of them or take a train or boat to visit them. 

 Rona in front of the shoreline at Monterossa. 

Rona in front of the shoreline at Monterossa. 

We took the boat to see all the villages from the ocean looking back. I have never seen such colors of blue and the colors were constantly changing.  

When you travel with other painters you always have someone to discuss paint colors with. Dave suggested mixing different blues together, I want to use colbalt turquoise light and marine blue and French ultramarine blue and perhaps thalo and viridian with a touch of scarlet lake. 

 

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What color(s) would you use? 

Villas, Painting and Pasta

We took up residence in a B&B on a quiet street in the walled town of Lucca for the first week of our worshop in Tuscany. We were starving when we arrived, but luck was with us and we found a restaurant that served pasta.

 So many beautiful shapes of pasta are made in Italy. I may have to taste all of the shapes.  After a meal and a rest we met up for our first art lesson where everyone told me what kind of painting they wanted to do during the workshop and what kinds of subjects they wanted to paint.   My advice on travel painting in the field is to only bite off enough that you can chew, or to choose to draw and paint what you see depending  on your level and time limits. One window is acceptable and a tree if you have time, you don’t have to eat the entire villa.

So many beautiful shapes of pasta are made in Italy. I may have to taste all of the shapes.

After a meal and a rest we met up for our first art lesson where everyone told me what kind of painting they wanted to do during the workshop and what kinds of subjects they wanted to paint. 

My advice on travel painting in the field is to only bite off enough that you can chew, or to choose to draw and paint what you see depending  on your level and time limits. One window is acceptable and a tree if you have time, you don’t have to eat the entire villa.

 Villa Torrigiani, our first stop on the day out where all of us painted whatever we wanted.

Villa Torrigiani, our first stop on the day out where all of us painted whatever we wanted.

Journey to Italy for Tuscany Watercolor Workshop

Somehow when I went to board the airplane in Paris in order to fly to Florence, my seat on the flight had gotten canceled.

I saw this beautiful cart from the Laduree Bakery and stopped worrying about starving if I had to wait overnight in the Paris airport because I knew I would not starve and I would have a subject to sketch.

It all worked out cause they found me a flight in first class. 

 

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Aurora Borealis Watercolor

A student suggested I paint aurora borealis in the night sky behind the cottage we were painting. I asked the students who were watching my demo for sugestions about how I could paint the sky.  Students always give me new ideas for my paintings. 

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Desparate for Cookies Watercolor Recipe

Last week we dug out this recipe when we needed some cookies asap and had no patience to make some from scratch.  A harried mother had divulged this recipe to me years ago. 

 

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Muses & a Watercolor Recipe 4 U

I woke up this morning determined to follow my muse where ever it takes me. In the kitchen I saw some extremely ripe bananas. My instincts told me to make banana bread. Are my instincts the same as my muse? Is my muse, my instincts? Readers of this blog, please give me your opinion.

If there is such a thing as a muse, where do you get one? You know I am all about trying to find solutions to your problem of discovering ways to paint often. Maybe you can get a muse. Or maybe even better, I can sell muses from my website. I am going to work on this.

Anyway, after I had made 2 loaves of banana bread (which is quite easy to make and low fat, I think), I was again directed by my muse, I think…. She/he/it pushed me into my studio where I picked up my pencil, pen and brush and made you an illustrated recipe.

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Playing with Color and Pumpkin Painting

This painting is the result of a demo I started in my Thursday class. I was trying to show my students how to not be afraid of trying painting color shapes, different textures and colors to use for shading. I like to ask the students for suggestions as I go along and paint using their suggestions. It makes the process of creating a painting more collaborative. 

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