Archives for December 2014

Why a squeeze can help your painting

Charles Squeeze 1We hope you had a lovely Christmas and are looking forward to picking up your paintbrushes again. When you do, here’s another great painting tip that you can find, along with many others, on the Friends of The Watermill web page. You can sign up simply by clicking here – it’s free and fun!

Our friendly and talented Australian painting tutor Charles Sluga today provides us with a very simple tip, but, he says, you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.

Charles says: “Over my many years of teaching watercolour painting, I have often had a student come to me with their work and in a despondent manner tell me that they are not very good at painting because all their paintings look flat and insipid. “Well the good news is that in most of these cases the solution is very simple and so obvious that it is often overlooked.

“Basically, if your painting looks flat, it is usually because it lacks any contrast: dark areas or accents. This often occurs because the student has neglected to squeeze out fresh paint.


“Every time I do a painting, I make sure that I have squeezed out fresh paint into my palette. This means that not only will I get freshness of colour in my work, but also those all important rich and juicy darks that often give paintings their punch.

“Look at your palette when you are about to begin and if it is full of dried up paint then give your painting a chance of success by squeezing out fresh paint. I know paint can be expensive, but the way I see it is that you have one of two choices – save money and leave the paint in the tubes and paint with dry paint meaning insipid and flat looking paintings……or squeeze out that paint, enjoy the rich colours and tones and give your painting some life. It is also much more fun!Charles dry-and-wet-paint“The other disadvantage of using dried paint is that you often have to scrub the dried up blob of paint to try and bring it back to life and this is not particularly good for your brushes.

“If you look at the painting of the milkshake maker and flavours above you’ll see that it is generally a high key painting (meaning most of the tones are relatively light), but the few dark accents in this painting are very important. They give the painting a larger tonal range and a visual respite from all the lighter tones. If you look at the close up of the milkshake containers you will see some strong darks in them. Without them there’s no way you could get that feeling of shine.

Charles Squeeze close up“So in summary, squeeze out fresh paint into your palette so that you can achieve rich and deep darks and give your paintings more depth and excitement.”

Charles New photo 2012Charles Sluga is a highly respected and sought-after watercolour artist in Australia who has gained a reputation for his versatility in both his technique and choice of subject matter. He’s a great teacher, with a friendly and enthusiastic approach and an eagerness to impart his wide knowledge.


The unswaddled bambino

blog bambini 6One of my favourite buildings in Florence is the Ospedale degli Innocenti, the Foundlings Hospital, designed by my hero Filippo Brunelleschi, architect of the miraculous dome of the cathedral of Florence. It is one of the first, if not the first, classical building of the Renaissance. Calm, beautifully proportioned, brilliant.

Blog bambini 5When it was finished in the 1440s, there were 12 blank roundels in the spandrels, the spaces between the arches, and in 1487, forty or so years after Brunelleschi’s death, these were filled with the famous ceramic bambini of Andrea della Robbia (Well, ten of them were; the final two, copies of the originals, weren’t put in place until 1845!)

Each bambino is unique. Seven are tightly swaddled , while in two the swaddling clothes are sagging below the waist or knees.

But in bambino number 7 (pictured above, and top left of the four to the left here) the swaddling clothes are untied and falling away; the infant’s feet are unbound. Nobody knows why Andrea della Robbia did this, but there’s a theory, to which I like to subscribe, that the unbound clothes represent the child’s transition from the stigma of being an unwanted, foundling child, to the liberation, the new life provided by the hospital, which incidentally still cares for children more than five centuries after it inauguration.

You can see the Ospedale degli Innocenti if you come on our wonderful Florence Add-on before your holiday at the mill.  You’ll stay in the same classical piazza (Santissima Annunziata), in the historic hotel Loggiato dei Serviti, built almost a century later in the same style as Brunelleschi’s masterpiece. For more details, please click here. Here’s a view of the Ospedale from the front door of your hotel.Blog bambini 1 Piazza_SS_Annunziata_Firenze_Apr_2008

A celebrated sculptor and his fountain: come and paint it!

Cascella with sculptureI’ve been doing a little research into the celebrated Italian sculptor Pietro Cascella, who lived in the castle at Verrucola, where we go to paint on Mondays during our week-long courses.

Born in 1921, Cascella created monumental sculptures for locations as varied as the Auschwitz death camp and Silvio Berlusconi’s mausoleum at his villa in Arcore. He had a distinctive, even archaic style, recalling the art and architecture of the ancient Mediterranean. Cascella often used simplified, geometric shapes, that, while looking as old as time, remind the viewer of the work of the the abstract sculptor Constantin Brancusi.

Other commissions included sculptures at the headquarters of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Independence Park in Tel Aviv; grand fountains in Italy and sculptures celebrating the Italian resistance. You can also see his work at the Piazza dei Parchi, near the mill, at Soliera, the gateway to the national parks of the Appennines Cascella piazza dei parchiand the Apuan Alps.

Cascella Verrucola fountainCascella renovated the castle at Verrucola, where he moved in 1977. He created the fountain at Verrucola, which was dedicated in 1984, which you can see – and paint — after you cross the bridge into the village.

My favourite painting of this fountain is by our talented and inspiring watermill tutor Trevor Lingard, showing children having fun there last year.

Trevor Verucola fountain

Trevor’s good at fountains (and lots of other things!) Here’s his painting of the fountain in Fivizzano (we go there for the market on Tuesdays). Why not join us and paint these wonderful fountains yourself? More on all our 2016 painting courses can be found by clicking here.

***Don’t forget our special Early Bird offer: If you book on any of our 2016 painting courses, or on any other of our painting courses, before 31 December 2015, there a £ (GBP) 75 discount.***

Painting by Trevor Lingard, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany Italy.