Bursting with wild flowers and bathed in sunshine, the Fattoria Mose in Sicily welcomed us with open arms on Sunday morning, our first painting day. After a late evening arrival, it’s always a wonderful surprise to find yourself transported into the lush gardens and courtyards, terraces and rambling olive groves that compose the estate. There were still some late ripening oranges and lemons clinging to the trees, a perfect splash of colour to lift our paintings.
A short stroll through the surroundings of the Fattoria helped us to select our painting subjects. Some of us settled for the massive, antique olive oil vessels adorned with flowers, while others chose smaller pot plants to begin with, or shady corners with views towards the old farm buildings. My first demonstration of the week focussed on colour choices, and how to apply watercolours in a free and easy way, while maintaining ‘control’ of the flowing pigments. Having made a good start, we were all ready for lunch on the main terrace.
The next day we awoke again to blazing sunshine, perfect weather for the seaside. Nearby views of rocky seashores and golden beaches at St Leone were an irresistible subject to paint. The azure sea was gently lapping and soon we set our paintbrushes to work. The intense colours of sea and sky gave me a chance to explain colour mixing and aspects of perspective in landscape.
We had another chance to practice some basic perspective rules on our outing to the famous World Heritage site, the ‘Valley of the Temples,’ near Agrigento. The ancient Greek Temple of Juno with its partly tumbled, rich ochre columns standing in symmetrical rows is a magnificent sight. It is surprisingly easy to capture on paper, because the shapes of the columns (Doric) are relatively simple and repetitive, and their colours are obvious variations of ochre and burnt sienna. Green colours were supplied by gigantic cactuses, and a range of shady trees at the foot of the temple, which was also a perfect place to paint from. Some of us took the opportunity to walk along the ancient road connecting the temples of Juno, Concordia, and Hercules, further along. An awe-inspiring sight with the sea glistening in the distance.
Wednesday was a non-tuition day, and we were able to admire the Temples from a higher vantage point. The town of Agrigento was built on a parallel hilltop, with the main road in the old centre and vistas towards the Temples and the sea. It’s a pleasure to explore the narrow old streets, and visit the famous churches with their Rococo architecture and chequered histories. Naturally we combined this with a bit of light shopping, sketching, and refreshments in the various cafes and ice cream parlours.
As the week went on and our paintings progressed, we were able to tackle more complex views back at the Fattoria Mose, like the private chapel attached to the Fattoria’s manor house. A challenging corner, not for the faint-hearted! But both, oil painters and water-colourists did it justice and achieved some fine results. Fortunately, there was a more user-friendly view from the track just above, with a riot of flowers and colourful trees. Here, the huge prickly pear cactuses made a perfect foreground to lead the eye into the composition.
Since we had non-stop sunshine for the entire week, the interplay between light and shade was particularly strong. This made our painting subjects the more exciting. The archway to the main courtyard, terra cotta urns by shady palm trees and surrounding fleshy succulents stood out in painterly contrasts. This variety gave me a wide choice for my daily painting demonstrations, tailoring them to the needs of beginners and advanced painters alike.
Inevitably, the week drew to its end, but not without an informal show of a selection for the work we had accomplished. We gathered with a glass of wine in hand, ready to have a look at each others’ paintings, and compare notes. It was impressive to see such fine paintings and the progress that everyone had made in such a short time. A lively discussion ensued, and the happy faces bore witness to a successful week.
We all would have loved to stay longer, but Saturday came, and we had to say our goodbyes to our charming and warm-hearted hostess Chiara Agnello, and her marvellous assistants Corrina and Marcello. With great thanks to Chiara for making us so very welcome in her beautiful home, and with thanks to all of you who joined me for the fun and who made the week such a great painting experience.
All the best for your painting summer,
PS: there are more pictures to bring back memories on my Facebook page.