Thursday, May 31, 2007


We dined on our first garden fresh broad beans last night. After I painted these this morning, I ate them my favourite way - raw.

I've wasted an extraordinary amount of time lately struggling with a watercolour of a paeony. Pink is not my favourite colour but the bloom came from two gorgeous bunches given to me by friends. I didn't give enough thought to the palette or the background and no matter what I did the flower looked pasted on. Finally I threw it in a bathtub of water, gave it a good scrubbing and finished it off with dry watercolour pencils. My first Mixed Media which I present with mixed feelings.

31cm x 25cm Mixed Media

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Un Regalo

Pigment Pen in large Moleskine

I recently received a gift - un regalo- from our very generous next door neighbour, Lorenzo. It's a beautiful old Tuscan wooden trunk. It's moments like these that I become really frustrated with my inability to express myself properly in Italian. In the end I just kissed him on both cheeks. I think he understood.

The other gift I've really appreciated this last year was the inspiring workshop on Sketching from Life that Katherine Tyrrell conducted through WetCanvas. It really inspired me and finally got me sketching in public.

Most of you will already know Katherine through her blog Marking a Mark but if you don't, and you are interesting in sketching, she's posted about it today and includes printable material from her workshop that you can download.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

La Fruttivendola

Cretacolor on Ingres Pastel Paper

This is the little Greengrocer's Shop in the square. La Signora doesn't speak any English, I didn't speak any Italian when we arrived but she always patiently attempted to engage me in conversation and correct my pronunciation. I've become very fond of her.

Today the village is full of visitors for the Festa Medievale. Lots of people wandering around in medieval costume.

I don't know what this guy did - probably didn't pay his TV licence.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


When I look up to the back of our garden today, I keep imagining there is a medieval army about to breach the wall!

The flags went up last night for the Festa Medievale Biancazzurra. It's an annual spectacular with food, wine, music and medieval madness.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wednesday's Fruit

Still Life with Oranges - After Arthur Easton

I finished my first oil painting today at our Wednesday art group.

My reference was a tutorial by Arthur Easton in the book An Introduction To Painting Still Life by Peter Graham. I found it very difficult to work out the values in the lovely subtle original. I would have found it easier with a photograph or, better still, setting up my own composition. I'm sure it wouldn't have looked as good but I'd have had a better idea of what I was doing.

I love Arthur Easton's paintings and it was a joy just looking at the reference in the book.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Bean Stalker

In the case of botanical art, drawing from life often sadly results in death. In order to sketch these Broad Bean blossoms I had to cut the top off a plant. It is still sitting in water on my desk. I feel bad about it, thinking of all those little beans that won't happen now. I think I'm spending too much time in the studio!

This watercolour sketch was at the request of HWEM. He cast a cursory glance at the rose I painted and said: 'Why don't you paint the Broad Beans. They've got flowers'. And very pretty little flowers I discovered.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


This drummer was part of one of many brass bands that regularly parade down our street and terrify the life out of our Old English Sheepdog, Dermott.

I'll give you the drum is Australian for I'll tell all.

Susan Borgas from Arts & Stuff has tagged me so now I'm supposed to tell you seven things about myself that most people don't know. I then tag seven other people to do the same and they mention in their blog who tagged them. It's not that simple. That's why I'm posting a photo today instead of a sketch.

Seven things most people don’t know about me? Goodness, I have more secrets than the CIA. But which can be divulged while still protecting the innocent – which is to say, me.

So, I'll give you the drum.

1. I didn’t finish High School. I completed my education at the University of Life and have had, to date, a most fortunate one.

2. While at High School I dropped out of Latin in favour of Domestic Science, which was a fancy title for cooking and cleaning. As a result I learned to make a fantastic Bechamel Sauce which has stood me in great stead. Now that I have a husband who is a superb cook, and I’m living in Italy battling to learn Italian, I wish I had stuck with Latin.

3. I’ve had four different surnames – which is hell when one has to produce I.D. How have I had four different surnames? You’ll have to work it out. This is an abridged version.

4. I have a terrible weakness for gadgets. Any new electronic or electrical device makes my heart pound and my eyes glaze over. I had the first Apple Mac portable computer. It cost as much as a small car and weighed around twenty pounds. It eventually made an excellent doorstop. It was more useful than the electric pasta machine that made spaghetti in three minutes and took two and a half hours to clean. I left an iron in Sydney that came attached to its own ironing board. The board blew up like a dirigible when I pressed the steam button. Since I’ve stopped working I have given up such nonsense. Art supplies could become a problem.

5. In another life, I toured a maximum security prison, observed brain surgery at close quarters and spent time in the city morgue – all in the name of research and, to be honest, insatiable curiosity.

6. I once smoked a funny cigarette under the moon on a lake in Kashmir – but I didn’t inhale.

7. I used to be a domestic goddess. I washed the clothes before they hit the floor, ironed our underpants and polished the copper bottoms of the saucepans. Then I discovered Art.

Now I'm going to tag seven people in the hope that they would like to play.

1. Ronell Van Wyk from African Tapestry who stirred the dormant domestic goddess in me when I learned she places fresh lavender under her pillows when she changes the linen. I also love her painting and musing.

2. Dave in Oxford from Dave's Blog is a quiet achiever exploring all the media I love.

3. JUJ from Everything is Contextual. Apart from her wonderful drawings, I love her quirky sense of humor.

4. Felicity Grace from Sketches by Fiz who delights with her beautiful graphite drawings and is now moving on to watercolours.

5. Stacy Rowan from Stop and Draw the Roses - a delightful young artist from Pennsylvania who manages to fit it all in around the demands of a young family and very limited studio space.

6. Judith Nijholt-Strong from Kats-in-Klompen a visual artist who maintains the blog for her two mischievous Dutch cats.

7. Anita Davies from Art by Anita, who lives and sketches on location around the beautiful Fens in the UK.

If any of you have already been tagged, I do apologise. Just let me know and I will amend my list.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Rose for Mae

Underneath the Arches

This 16C Loggiato is attributed to Vasari and dates back to 1513. It houses, on the left, the bar where we have breakfast each morning and, on the right, a great little Pizza restaurant. The walls are decorated with ancient coats of arms. The arches at the back provide a gorgeous view of the Val di Chio.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Isn't He Romantic

For those of you, Dear Readers, who think HWEM is only a purloiner of studios, a savage wit and a pedant, here is proof positive that he has a romantic streak. Yesterday he presented me with with this rosebud from the garden. This was an unexpected and most welcome gesture from the man who proposed with a cob of corn, but that's another story.

We inherited this rose bush with our garden, so if anyone can identify it from the photo below I'd be delighted. It begins life as a deep pink bud but by the time the flower reaches maturity it is almost cream. I think it is an old variety and very sweet because the bugs love it.

Today is Wednesday - Oil Painting Group! I haven't posted any progress photos of my dreaded first oil painting. It is progressing slowly because I still haven't a clue what I'm doing. I do love my afternoons at Miranda's studio though. You will find some photos here on Le Santucce website.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Finally ... Light!

I've been waiting since November for a proper light in my studio. Since I don't have a window in my 'cupboard', much of the time I haven't been quite sure what I'm painting. It's finally arrived and after a naked 60 watt bulb I'm dazzled. I'm also grateful to our wonderful electrician/friend Carlo who found it and eventually installed it. And, of course, to HWEM, who encouraged me to spend the money to get it.

Before I was driven home by spots of rain smudging the ink in my Moleskine this morning, I managed this quick sketch of the gate we pass through twice a day taking the dogs for walks up to the tower.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

First Strawberries

That's first EVER strawberries that we have grown in our own garden. Less than a month after planting they are ripe. I don't want to pick them, they look so pretty. I should have painted them in watercolour. I'm regretting using this Fabriano Artist's Journal as my Garden Journal because it doesn't take watercolour very well and coloured pencils, which is what this is, always takes me ages.

I'll probably have to try them in watercolour before I eat them - sweet little things.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Sketching En Plein Air

I banned myself from surfing other people's blogs this morning and headed out with my sketching stool. I only got as far as the corner, where I sketched our main street. The perspective is a little out. You may play 'spot the errors', but I'm rather pleased that I actually did this.

Yesterday I drew the garden tools I bought for HWEM on my 'sketching' trip to Florence. I used this as EDM Challenge #103 Draw Some Exercise Equipment - what you use to stay fit. Well, I am planning to use them - one day.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Linocut Print - Torre del Cassero

I'm obsessed with the tower above our garden wall. Perugians built the original structure in 1330. It houses an 18th century weight clock that strikes the time each hour (before and after the event) but never on the hour. Il Cassero gives its name to our neighbourhood in this little historic town. Under its blue and white flag we fight off various challenges throughout the year, culminating in the annual Palio dei Rioni (horse race).

This is my first linocut. I printed it first on 90lb watercolour paper, then not liking the naive cloud, I eliminated that and printed on Chinese rice paper. Belinda del Pesco, I'm not! But she does inspire me and I'm sure many others.

I have worked out how to do this without making too much mess.

I tried rubbing the paper against the inked lino block with a spoon, but the best baren turns out to be an Italian scaloppina hammer I bought for HWEM. I haven't told him yet!

Scaloppina hammer come Baren
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