Archives for March 2016

My camera helps me look but my sketchbook makes me see, says Mike Willdridge

Painting by Mike Willdridge, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany Italy.Our friend and inspiring Watermill painting tutor Mike Willdridge has recently returned from a trip to Southern Africa – and, of course, as usual, he took his trusty sketchbook with him.

He tells me: Most of my finished work is produced in the studio. When away from my studio I always carry a sketchbook and camera and, from the responses and recordings I make using these, I develop my work. The way I see it my camera helps me look but my sketchbook makes me see. 

 I take a lot of photos (with my phone) and, if there’s time will work something in my sketchbook. I don’t need a lot of time; a few seconds or minutes will do. The sketch I’ve attached below the finished work took about 20 minutes. There is, however, a third and important ‘aid’ that I use in the studio and that is my memory of that particular scene/day/moment. Currently, I’m trying to simplify my work and am relying on my memory more and more now.”

The picture above is a page from his sketchbook, using watercolour and gouache. And below is a finished painting (oil on board, 600mm x 600mm), called Storms River Mouth, South Africa.

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

Come and look — and see — with us on Mike’s sun-filled, fun-filled, inspiring painting week at The Watermill.

Mike new head and shoulders FINALMike Willdridge will be with us this year from Saturday 27 August to Saturday 3 September 2016. He will concentrate on watercolour and drawing, but is also happy also to teach in gouache and acrylics.

As you see, Mike especially values drawing as a way of recording/responding to everyday events and makes constant use of a sketchbook. He’ll encourage you to do the same and to take a sketchbook on location, building up a journal of memories of your time at the watermill and in the unspoilt countryside of Lunigiana.

 *** Why not bring your non-painting partner as well? There’s a generous £200 discount for him/her if they share a room with you — and there’s plenty for them to do. Have a look at our Partner’s Activities suggestions by clicking here. 

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

Mike Willdridge’s wonderful watercolour of Flavio’s bridge and millstream gushing towards the river.

 

The secret of drawing? Practise every day, says Mike Willdridge

Mike Alice 2 sketchOur good friend and inspiring Watermill painting tutor Mike Willdridge emphasises the great importance of drawing. He says: “I suspect that if you were to ask any ‘artist’ (painter, sculptor, photographer, printmaker, designer an so on) this question: “What do you consider to be the single most important skill for an artist?” The answer is likely to be “the skill of drawing”.

Mike adds: “Certainly, that’s how I feel. It is not, however, the value I place on a ‘good drawing’ or the ability to draw well that puts drawing at the top of my list. It is, rather, because I value drawing as an excellent way to help an artist to see.

“Let me explain further. The National Gallery in London has a statistic that on average visitors look at any one of their thousands of paintings for just seven seconds; and five seconds of that time is spent looking and reading the artist’s name. In other words, we are all able to look but maybe we don’t always see. I believe that the simple act of drawing (especially from the real world) allows the artist to take time to look at any subject for long enough to be able to see. Therefore, the importance that I place on drawing as a skill is more about its value as a tool to help a person to see and is not necessarily about the quality of the drawing itself.

“For anyone wanting to develop their drawing skills, I am offering this simple tip: Draw every day.

“If you were learning to play a musical instrument, wouldn’t it be that your teacher would say just the same … practice everyday? Really, it’s no different with drawing.

“I would advise that you get yourself a little sketchbook, hard backed if possible, a soft pencil and a pen – a biro or one of those permanent black ink drawing pens. Of course, there’s lots more you could carry around but, to start with opt for something that’ll fit in your bag or pocket.

Mike sketchbook

Here are some eagles I sketched in pencil at a farm in Germany on holiday with my children.”

Mike Eagles pencil

Now three things to consider to get yourself started:

1. CARRY YOUR SKETCHBOOK EVERYWHERE. The secret is to get your sketchbook out when you have a few moments to spare such as at a cafe, waiting in an airport, on the metro/train, in a park at lunchtime, at a concert  or wherever. It needn’t take long; ten or fifteen minutes would be fine. If you don’t have your sketchbook, draw on anything such as the back of an envelope but be sure to stick the drawing into your sketchbook later.

Here’s a sketch of a woman on her laptop, drawn in a station waiting room.”Mike woman laptop sketch

2. KEEP IT SIMPLE. “Draw anything; you’ll soon realise there’s a wealth of subject matter around you, especially in the ordinary. The cup and saucer on your cafe table, the person reading a newspaper opposite you in the airport or on the train, the little shed in the park, someone in the audience/on stage at a concert or meeting and so on. Here’s a simple sketch of a man playing a flute.”

Mike flute player sketch

3. DON’T WORRY IF IT DOESN’T SEEM TO BE GOING WELL. “The real value is in doing it, not what it looks like. Really, don’t worry about ‘mistakes’  or what other people may think. Here are some heads, drawn at The Louvre. Museums and galleries are excellent places in which to draw.”

Mike museum heads

CONCLUSION. “Everyone can learn to draw, especially if they do it just for themselves. Think of your sketchbook as a visual diary. In addition to drawing in it, why not stick in other visual evidence of where you were, such as tickets, postcards, food wrappers etc. Anything, but use it regularly.”

LASTLY. “Think about it. We all learn to do things by doing them. We learnt to read by constantly reading, we learnt to drive by driving and we learnt to cook by cooking. It’s the same for drawing. Do it everyday, keep it simple and don’t worry if you ‘make mistakes’. To sign off today, here’s Alice, a friend’s daughter, drawn in our Living Room. Alice was fully occupied with her own drawing.”

Mike-Alice-sketch

Come and occupy yourself with drawing — and much else beside — on Mike’s sun-filled, fun-filled, inspiring painting week at The Watermill.

Mike new head and shoulders FINALMike Willdridge will be with us this year from Saturday 27 August to Saturday 3 September 2016. He will concentrate on watercolour and drawing, but is also happy also to teach in gouache and acrylics.

Mike especially values drawing as a way of recording/responding to everyday events and makes constant use of a sketchbook. He’ll encourage you to do the same and to take a sketchbook on location, building up a journal of memories of your time at the watermill and in the unspoilt countryside of Lunigiana.

 *** Why not bring your non-painting partner as well? There’s a generous £200 discount for him/her if they share a room with you — and there’s plenty for them to do. Have a look at our Partner’s Activities suggestions by clicking here. 

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

Mike Willdridge’s wonderful watercolour of Flavio’s bridge and millstream gushing towards the river.

 

Latest news from a historic Watermill in Tuscany

Blog March 16 newsSpring is well on its way here in Tuscany, and the mill gardens and campi are alive with primroses and daffodils. It’s not too late to give yourself a break and join us this May for Italian language, knitting or painting. And in the Summer we’ve added a new yoga retreat to nourish your soul – check it out in this month’s newsletter, by clicking here. Then come and join us in glorious Tuscany ! We’d love to welcome you here.

Tom riverside photo Jun 13

 

Shall we make a yarn bomb during one of our Watermill knitting weeks?

Blog yarn bomb busHave you heard of ‘yarn bombing’? Well, we hadn’t until we came across one of those marvellous TED talks by textile artist Magda Sayeg. She uses handmade, eye-catching yarn bombs to shake up the way we see the world and make us notice things we hadn’t seen before. Like the bus above. Or this transformation of  a fire hydrant and ugly street bollards below.

Blog yarn bomb 3 croppedMagda transforms urban landscapes into her own playground by decorating everyday objects with colorful knit and crochet works. These warm, fuzzy “yarn bombs” started small, with stop sign poles and fire hydrants in her hometown, but soon people found a connection to the craft and spread it across the world. She says: “We all live in this fast-paced, digital world, but we still crave and desire something that’s relatable,” Magda adds: “Hidden power can be found in the most unassuming places, and we all possess skills that are just waiting to be discovered.” You can see her TED talk by clicking here.Blog yarn bomb 2It got me thinking: maybe we should have a ‘yarn bomb’ during our three knitting weeks at The Watermill this year. I am not so sure that the local transport services would take too kindly to having one of their buses ‘stitched up’, but maybe a tree or two along the Watermill millstream garden. What do you think?Macfie millstream reducedYou’ll know that Watermill knitting holidays were recently rated recently by The Times of London as one of the best 50 holidays in Italy. This could make them even more fun.

In the two years since we inaugurated our Knitting and La Bella Vita Italiana courses at The Watermill, they have gone on from strength to strength. So far more than 50 people, from all over the world, have enjoyed our knitting weeks – and another 25 or so have already signed up for this year’s sun-filled, fun-filled, inspiring weeks. As we only have room for about 30/32 guests in total of this year’s three knitting weeks, you can see that we only have 10 or so places left. So, yes, now really is the time to book and make sure of YOUR place,

Our lovely tutors are Sarah Hatton and Lisa Richardson, both of whom produce great designs for Rowan Yarns– and, of course, as ever, you’ll enjoy both knitting and La Bella Vita Italiana at The Watermill and its stunning Tuscan surroundings in the unspoilt area of Lunigiana.

As you know, La Bella Vita means ‘The Good Life’ in Italian and that’s just what you’ll be savouring when you take one of our wonderfully relaxing and inspiring week-long knitting holidays in the beautiful Tuscan countryside. You’ll work at The Watermill on projects from top designers and you’ll also be knitting at a privately owned ex-monastery and in the grounds of a fabulous hill-top restaurant.

You’ll be treated to an all-day excursion to the beautiful fishing villages of the Cinque Terre and enjoy a morning’s ramblings through the market at the nearby walled medieval town of Fivizzano. You will have the perfect opportunity to make new friends in the company of like-minded people learning new knitting techniques and tips from our tutors… and enjoying unspoilt Italy and, of course, fantastic food and wine: truly La Bella Vita Italiana.

A local view, thanks to the Ciao Lunigiana blog

A local view, thanks to the Ciao Lunigiana blog

Your inspiring 2016 knitting tutors

Sarah Hatton head and shouldersSarah Hatton is a designer for the Rowan Yarns and also teaches knitting classes worldwide. She learnt to knit as a child and has always been passionate about fashion. After gaining a degree in fashion design she began working in the handknit industry and has done so for over 15 years. Sarah is also an enthusiastic, sympathetic and inspirational tutor and for her week-long course at the mill she has devised two specially-designed projects for you to knit: a lace scarf and a cable classic Aran project. She will also pass on professional tips and techniques to take your knits from ‘homemade’ to ‘handmade’.

Lisa Richardson head and shouldersLisa Richardson’s name is instantly associated with the Rowan pattern house. In addition to her designer role, she manages the pattern editing process and mentors newer members of the design team. She says, “My biggest drive is to people create something that they will cherish for years to come.”

Lisa is an enthusiastic, sympathetic and inspirational tutor, winning much praise from her workshop participants. For her week-long course at the mill she has devised two specially designed projects for you to knit: one inspired by Italian lace work; and the other that fully justifies her label as ‘slip stitch queen’.

How to find out more

Hatton cable projectSarah Hatton  Knitting and La Bella Vita

21 May to 28 May 2016 Course full, waiting list

AND 28 May to 4 June 2016 New course: four/five places

Please click here to learn more about Sarah and her courses at the mill.

Lisa Richardson bagLisa Richardson Knitting and La Bella Vita

10 September to 17 September 2016 Three/four places

Please click here to learn more about Lisa and her course at the mill.

 

If you’d like to book or find out more, please visit our Knitting Holidays website by clicking here. For more information or use our secure Knitting Holidays Enquiry Form by clicking here.

Treat yourself to Knitting and La Bella Vita Italiana! and maybe we’ll ‘yarn bomb’ as well!Knit Pandora and Claudia -reduced