Beautiful Tuscany – exciting painting, May sunshine and pools warm enough to swim in! This year I travelled to Peralta and Cotto within the same fortnight, thus saving me a trip back home to London in-between. The plan worked beautifully and allowed me to stay on for a couple of days to indulge in more painting, lounging by the pool and visiting my Italian friends.
The week at Peralta started with my painting demonstration of an old clay pot surrounded by lush greenery, a good subject for beginners and advanced alike. Later on we painted the intimate corners around the old mountain village of Torchigliano, with a rather sumptuous meal at the local restaurant. Apart from capturing the many stunning views around Peralta itself, we also had the chance to paint in the town square in sculpture adorned Pietrasanta, where the renaissance artist Michelangelo was the first to recognise the beauty of the nearby marble.
Much less grand but nevertheless a joy to paint was the fountain in the square of the Medici town Fivizzano, during the second week in Cotto. The impressive castle Veruccula not far from Cotto makes for an excellent days painting, especially when a leisurely lunch in the small Pizzeria at the foot of the castle walls breaks up the hard day's work. At other times we were busy capturing the vistas towards the Apuan Alps and around Cotto, with its massive church peering down from almost every corner. As in the previous week at Peralta we also visited the historic town of Lucca, famous not only for its double sided town walls (great for a stroll & to gaze from) and amphitheatre, but also for its cathedrals, café and restaurant culture and last but not least, shopping.
Both painting weeks finished with special last dinners and enjoyable viewings of everybody's work. We all agreed that that this year the beginners made remarkable progress. A most satisfactory way to finish a creative and pleasurable time in Tuscany.
With many creative wishes for the summer,
Dear Painters and Friends,
After a late arrival in Sicily the night before, we woke up to a brilliant blue sky, the smell of wild flowers and a glorious day of painting at the Fattoria Mose. As usual on the first day of the painting week, the task of choosing one of the many subjects is tricky. Should it be the rather elegant olive vessel in the shade of the palm trees, could the old tractor in the courtyard be an interesting object, or might not the ancient, gnarled olive trees surrounded by a sea of yellow blossoms be better? A leisurely walk around the gardens and old buildings followed by a painting demonstration soon sorted out any doubts and in the end everybody found a suitable corner and happily set to work.
The next day we ventured further to the coast near Agrigento, where we painted the rocky shoreline accompanied by the sound of lapping waves and a blue sky above. Some of us indulged in a delicious lunch at restaurants conveniently close by in favour of a packed lunch. Of course a proper Italian lunch means a bit more time away from your painting, but then again it's a holiday and the paintings did get finished after all.
Our second day at the Fattoria had the additional excitement of a Television crew filming our host Chiara Agnello and her sister Simonetta cooking special Sicilian meals on the terrace. This gave us an extra subject to paint and it was also interesting to watch the crew at work. Fortunately we were not expected to paint in front of the camera, which might have had a somewhat adverse effect on our paintings.
As the week neared its end, we spent a wonderful day painting at the ancient Greek temples, set on a hill between Agrigento and the sea, with gorgeous views peeping through the temple columns. We had seen the temples in the distance the previous day on our visit to the town of Agrigento, where you can get a glance of their massive structures through gaps of tall buildings. I always enjoy spending a day in the old part of town with its ornate baroque churches, narrow streets and pleasant squares.
We finished the course with a another day painting in the grounds of the Fattoria, cherishing every last moment. For the big finale we had a wonderful show of everybody's work, made the more pleasurable by a glass of wine or two. After a delicious dinner we all relaxed and spent the rest of the evening talking shop, reminiscing about the weeks achievements and making plans for future forays into the world of painting.
With best wishes for the summer painting season,
Dear Painters and Friends,
Every year the first painting course of the season, eagerly awaited by the time March comes, is an absolute joy. Unleashing the watercolours under the Moroccan sun, surrounded by rose coloured sand dunes of the 'Erg Chebbi' with camels fluttering their long eyelashes seductively, cannot fail to get you in the mood. And when halfway through the morning's work glasses of mint tea arrive, the day is perfect.
After driving from Ouarzazate through Moroccan villages and towns, parallel to the distant spine of the still snowcapped Atlas Mountains, we spent a leisurely day at 'home' at the Nomad Palace, painting various features of the spacious courtyard. The next day brought an exciting sandstorm with somewhat cooler temperatures than usual – an opportunity to do some portrait painting in the large salon. We had no shortage of models, since the young men working at the Nomad Palace are always happy to pose for us in their wonderful local robes and head gear.
In the evenings and at lunch times, we greatly enjoyed the meals prepared by the two new cooks, whose cuisine was absolutely delicious. One evening we were invited to have a meal in the family home of our host Ali Mouni, where we experienced true Moroccan hospitality and were introduced to his lovely wife Fatima and the rest of the extended family.
Our time at the Nomad Palace also included a day's painting in the nearby Palmeries, where the large date palms gave natural shade, as well as making attractive foreground subjects for our watercolours. Later on in the week,we all enjoyed the day excursion to the Kasbah Museum near the ancient caravan town of Rissani with lunch in Erfoud and a visit to the fascinating Fossil museum. Some of the fossils on display (and even available to purchase - I bought a small Trilobite) are millions of years old and quite awe inspiring.
Soon it was time to spend a day capturing camels on paper, initially not an easy task, but great fun. As a reward afterwards, those of us keen and able, rode the camels onto the high sand dunes to watch the sunset in late afternoon. This crowning moment was only slightly diminished by clouds appearing, which actually turned to rain on the camel ride back, a unique experience in my 11 years of visiting Morocco!
The weather turned sunny again when we left the Nomad Palace for the spectacular Dades Gorge to paint the view from the terrace of the lovely Auberge Panorama. The spring green valley below leads the eyes towards spectacularly colourful mountains, old Kasbahs and adobe built villages. Nobody wanted to leave the following day and it was hard to part from Ali and everybody who looked after us so well.
I hope you can join us next year and share the Moroccan experience. Same time*, same place…
All the best,
*almost the same: 7th-17th March 2015
Dear painters and friends,
A very happy new year to all of you with plenty of time to enjoy painting!
The new year starts again with good news: a calendar full of exciting painting trips and a watercolour Exhibition at GALLERY 402 in London's artist quarter, Hoxton. You are invited to the opening on 21st January 2014, 6–9pm at Arch 402, Cremer Street, LONDON E2 8HD. The evening will be for the benefit of the Terrence Higgins Trust with drinks, canapés and music: “Chansons with Francois Testory”. The show runs from: 20th–23rd January 2014. Opening hours: 11am–6pm.
The past year has been colourful and filled with events. My solo show at the Vibe Gallery in January 2013 in London went extremely well. However, it was lovely to return to the paintbrush after all the hard work organizing the show, and to meet our host and friend Ali Mouni at the edge of the desert. On arrival in Morocco, we could see the snow capped peaks of the Atlas mountains in the far distance as we travelled towards the Nomad Palace, heading for blue skies and sunshine. Imagine our surprise when we opened our windows on the first painting day to see camels standing in the mysterious haze of a desert sandstorm. We decided to head for the Salon and spent an enjoyable day painting young Berbers in their colourful robes.
In April this year, there were two painting courses in Sicily at the beautiful Fattoria Mose. And well, the weather was just brilliant in the first week with non-stop sunshine. We enjoyed painting at all my favourite locations at the Fattoria, the Valley of the Temples, the coast at San Leone and spent a leisurely day visiting the town of Agrigento. In the second week we discovered a new location for painting the sea, with more cafes close by for delicious lunches, or a refreshing Sicilian ice cream.
May in Tuscany at Peralta is always a joy, especially when the sky is blue and the sun shines on the terraces surrounded by lemon trees, and Jasmine blossoms with a glistening turquoise sea in the distance. The small, deeply set window in an old stone wall featured a wonderful clay pot on its sill - just the thing to try out those Burnt Sienna tones. We made an excursion to the mountain village of Torcigliano and visited the famous town of Pietrasanta, well-known for its marble quarry founded by Michelangelo. My next port of call was Cotto in Tuscany, the picturesque village situated in the hills, with the ancient castle of Verrucula nearby, and only a train ride away from the historic town of Lucca. We painted the many fabulous views around Cotto and later ventured out to the square of the medieval market town of Fivvizano, complete with fountain, magnificent church towers and restaurants.
What a surprise when I arrived later at Brymnaport to find the Scottish Highlands engulfed in a heat wave! Painting the dramatic mountains across the water from Brynaport under the bright sunlight was sheer heaven. During our stay we explored the way 'Atmosphere' can be captured in painting. Watercolour lends itself particularly well to expressing in light effects and their reflections on water. After a few attempts everybody mastered those exciting washes and watched the colours explode.
After my delightful trip on the sleeper train from the Scottish Highlands I grabbed another train to Devon for the first course at Coombe Farm Studios. The gentle, green hills and estuary around Dartmouth are perfect for a stroll with pencil and sketchbook. We were spoilt for choice when it came to painting around Coombe Farm: sun filled terraces with colourful flower pots, a little archway leading to the stream, sunflowers behind the garden gate and the old dove cote. In August, a new location, Tuckenhay village with gorgeous riverside views and tasty ice creams, proved very popular with everybody and not just because of the lunch time champagne.
It was time to return to London. My previous article 'Colour Choices' in landscape (Sept. issue 2013) had been well received and I had promised ‘Leisure Painter’ magazine to write another article about portrait painting, demonstrating a simple 3 colour approach. The article will be published in the ‘Leisure Painter’ on 3rd January, on sale at art shops or online at: www.painters-online.co.uk (February 2014 issue). I hope you will enjoy it.
One last journey led me to the Portuguese port of Olhão in the Algarve. David Clark, our charming host for the course, showed me all the best spots in town and worked out an exciting schedule for the painting week next June.
It would be wonderful to share some of the painting adventures planned for 2014 with you,
DEAR PAINTERS AND FRIENDS,
The last week of the painting course season finished on a high note after a glorious sunny day at Blackpool Sands, where we painted the dramatic cliffs from the beach. What a great opportunity to introduce figures into our paintings. It was also great fun to people-watch and do some leisurely studies of typical movements and poses, and use these observations for painting later on.
My luck with the weather lasted the whole week, and painting outside in the pleasant Devon summer sun was very much enjoyed by everybody. As in July we ventured back to the river location in the dreamy village of Tuckenhay, and were fortunate to find some attractive yachts and diverse boats moored nearby. They made splendid foreground motifs and conveniently were far enough away to not have to worry about too much technical 'boat detail'.
The timing of our trip to the small but 'perfectly formed' harbour in Dittisham was spot on, as the tide had just turned and freed up the shore line for us to sit on and paint the old cottage nestling amongst verdant trees by the beach, with the view across the estuary. The wooded headlands opposite were shimmering in all tones of green, a chance to practice painting trees and distant hills.
Our first and last days were spent at Coombe Farm. The romantic vegetable garden – yes, vegetables can be romantic – is a wonderful painting subject. It offered the painter's hungry eyes large yellow sunflowers and purple artichokes amongst quite colourful vegetables, most of which ended up in delicious home cooked dishes. There were also chicken in the meadow opposite, easily transposed to the foreground in the garden. They remained on their patch by the rather attractive grass-roofed chicken house, and luckily for them did not get anywhere near our dinner table!
Like all good things the week in Devon had to come to an end, but not without the special last night show. The paintings on display represented a fantastic record of our week's work, which was a rich reward for a your tutor.
With best wishes for a colourful September,
After my delightful trip on the sleeper train from the Scottish Highlands I just had enough time to repack and grab another, slightly less glamorous train to Devon for the painting course at Coombe Farm Studios.
The gentle, green hills and estuary around Dartmouth in the sunshine were calling out to take a stroll with pencil and sketch book. After getting to know each other over a delicious meal we all felt ready and eager to unleash our talents the next day. However the first day was approached tentatively, looking out for subjects around Coombe farm gardens and courtyard: the sun filled terrace with various flower pots, the little archway leading to the stream or the sunflowers behind the garden gate. Even the old coal shed framed by bushes and flowers made a good starter.
Our first outing was to the fantastic gardens of the sculptor Jilly Sutton and her family. The views from there across the waters to the small village of Stoke Gabriel are truly inspiring and we were also able to snatch a glance of some of Jilli's amazing wooden sculptures. Staying with the watery theme, we ventured to the small harbour village of Dittisham the next day. It was teaming with boats and the old cottage by the shoreline was just coming into view for painting after the tide went out when we arrived. After lunch some of our group enjoyed taking the little ferry and visited the famous house of Agatha Christie on the headland opposite.
Our last painting excursion to a near pub with gorgeous riverside views and tasty ice creams was a new location and prooved very popular with everybody and not just of the lunch time champagne! We spent our final day at Coombe Farm finishing paintings and getting ready for a little show in the evening, rounding off wonderful week's painting with scrumptious meal and more wine.
It will be a pleasure to return to Devon and the warm welcome of Coombe Farm in August.
With the best wishes for the summer, Bettina
After the hot weather in Tuscany I was rather looking forward to a more moderate climate in the Scottish Highlands. What a surprise when I arrived at Inverness airport to find the area engulfed in a heat wave! But it soon cooled off to a manageable temperature.
I am always very excited to come back to the Highlands. The dramatic mountain scape just across the water from Brynaport and the rocky shorelines in the distance call out to be painted the moment you arrive. So on the first day it's good to stay closer to home and get going with painting the stunning views from the house and garden. We moved a little further down the road to Achintraid village the next day, where Loch Kishorn opens up a great view, surrounded by interesting buildings from rusty red sheds to whitewashed cottages and usually a boat or so just in the right place.
One of our painting excursions to the small fishing village of Shildaig, where we normally paint the village cottages along the seashore or the bay with fishing boats bopping on the water, disclosed another painting subject: a bench on a strip of juicy green grass, overlooking the expanse of water and island opposite. Initially we were attracted to the little café nearby for those cappuccino breaks, and unexpectedly found the bench made a great foreground motive. So for a change we did not sit on it with our lunch picnic, since we were too busy painting it. Some of us had a delicious sea food lunch instead in the local pub and still did a day’s good work.
During our stay we explored the way 'Atmosphere' can be captured in painting. Watercolour lends itself particularly well to expressing gentle tones in light effects and their reflections on water. Naturally the 'Wet Into Wet' technique came in very handy. After a few attempts everybody was able to lay down those exiting washes, watch the colours explode and doing all the work for you; well almost. A little bit of gentle teasing to assist the flow of paints was successfully administered, followed by some more controlled and decisive brush strokes to bring it all together. The mountain tops were a bit reluctant to show at times. We managed to capture them nevertheless, especially since they have to be painted quite sketchily and lightly to give them the necessary distance, so essential in landscape painting.
Near the end of our wonderful time painting together, I had to rush off prematurely to my next course in Devon and missed out the last evenings feast and last night's show. But not before a little private view of all the paintings produced during the week. It was an impressive sight and I was sad not too be able to celebrate with everybody afterwards. However, my train journey home on the overnight sleeper train from Inverness to London made somewhat up for it. Wonderful sights from my little cabin, great service and a good night’s sleep to the rhythm of the train. I arrived rested and fresh, ready to repack for my trip to Devon.
With thanks to all at Brynaport and everybody on the course for making it such a memorable week, Bettina
To return to Tuscany so soon after my trip to Peralta in May was a real treat. This time my port of call was Cotto, the picturesque village in the Tuscan hills, tucked away behind the Carrara marble mountain range and near the medieval market town of Fivizzano. The first two days where not as expected sunny, but we made good use of the time and painted in and outdoors first at Cotto and on day two in the square of Fivvizano. The square has an old fountain in its centre and a big church with tower and no less than 6 bells. Thankfully they do not ring that often, so we were able to enjoy the delicious lunch at the Bar Elvetico in piece and quiet.
By the time we were ready to venture out further, the sun was out in its full glory, presenting us with clear, blue skies. Another excursion to the historic town of Lucca was great fun; some people painted, whilst others just enjoyed the sights and shops. On the way home we did not take the same route by train via the National park, but interrupted our journey at Monzone. There is a wonderful local restaurant which served us the most scrumptious Tuscan cuisine. Paulo, our friendly bus driver for the week picked up a slightly tipsy and happy lot afterwards.
This gave us ample of energy for the next day to tackle the ancient castle of Verrucula. An imposing structure, set on the top of a hill with church, campanile and stone build houses nestling at the foot of it’s towers. Conveniently, there is also a little restaurant by the fountain above the river, where we indulged in another delicious lunch.
The last day we enjoyed painting the mountain views from the balconies of La Vecchia Canonica, the old farm houses and pan tiled roofs of Cotto before getting ready for a little show in the evening. It is always a great pleasure to see the diverse work that has been done during the course. Coming together on the final night we celebrated not only a wonderful week in Tuscany with great art, but also the friendship and good spirit we all shared.
My gaze now wanders to the North, to the Scottish Highlands, where my next course is taking me. Not such a strong contrast as one would imagine. On a clear day the light in the Scottish mountains is as breathtaking as the Apuan Alps in Italy. Seeing is believing!
With best wishes for a British summer,
Painting at Peralta is always a joy, especially when the sky is blue and the sun shines on the terraces surrounded by lemon trees and Jasmine blossoms with a glistening turquoise sea in the distance. But on the first day we restrained ourselves and painted something a little less grand to get warmed up. The small, deeply set window in an old stone wall featured a wonderfully round clay pot on its sill - just the thing to try out those Burnt Sienna tones.
On Monday there was no holding back and we made an excursion to the nearby village of Torcigliano. Those of us who choose to walk, sent their painting equipment ahead with the others in the car and were able to enjoy a wonderful walk contouring along the mountainside through an enchanting forest and viewing staggering vistas across the valley to Peralta and the Mediterranean coastline. We were rewarded with the most delicious meal in Torcigliano's restaurant after a short painting session before lunch, which was continued afterwards in a slightly laid back fashion.
Another joy was our visit to the famous town of Pietrasanta. Well-known for it's marble quarry established by Michelangelo and to this day a magnet for contemporary sculptors from all over the world. The town square is of generous proportions with fantastic views for painting and cafes for cappuccino breaks. This outing was followed by an excursions to the medieval Lucca, where painting, sketching and shopping were optional, but sight seeing was a must.
The sunny weather gave way to some rain on our last two days. A great opportunity to do some portrait painting. We were lucky, our hostess Dinah Voison accommodated us in the stunning studio of the late Fiore Henriquez, left almost untouched since her death in 2004. It was an honour to be able to paint in a such a special space, surrounded by Fiore's sculptures. So came the wonderful week at Peralta to a creative conclusion.
I returned back home from Sicily to a very cold Britain last week and wished I could have turn back straight away.
This year there were two painting courses at the beautiful Fattoria Mose. And well, the weather was just brilliant in the first week with non-stop sunshine. Not as quite as much luck the following week - a bit more cloud and one rainy day. But we did enjoyed painting at all our painting locations at the Fattoria, the Valley of the Temples, the coast at San Leone and spent a day leisurely day visiting the town of Agrigento. In the second week we also discovered a new location for painting the sea with more cafes for ice creams or delicious lunches.
With the very best wishes for a sunny May, Bettina
"I came back from holiday, enthusiastic and inspired."
"Thank you so much for all the time and effort you put into the holiday. It was a delight."
"I really enjoyed the week in very enjoyable company, and as usual your sense of humour (and style!) made it a memorable week with a strong fun element."
"Thanks for a great holiday Bettina. I really enjoyed it. A bit of Sicilian sparkle, after a long, cold winter!"
"It was a special holiday and such fun I will do my best to come along again next year to one of your trips."
"We had a lovely time at the Fattoria Mose and Chiara really makes you feel at home."
"I really enjoyed the painting and learned so much from you. I have made more attempts now I am home and have been putting some of your advice into practice."
"Thank you for a memorable holiday. I will hope to join you again as I really enjoyed the people I met and all the painting locations. Isn't the Fattoria an ideal place?"