Archives for September 2019

Catch up on the latest news from the Watermill – and reserve your place on a 2020 creative course.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

The latest Watermill newsletter is just out, telling you that our 2020 creative courses (painting, creative writing, knitting and Italian language) are filling fast and that now is the time to book and take advantage of our Early Bird Discount Offer. To see the newsletter, please click here.

There are also stories on

  • panzanella del mulinoc, the Watermill’s take on a classic Florentine dish
  • introducing the first two of our new painting tutors for 2020: Carl March and Grahame Booth
  • our knockout creative writing courses: we can’t wait for the sequel
  • stitch yourself into one of the last places on our knitting retreat
  • throw yourself like a fish into to our Italian language course.

Happy reading! We hope to see you here soon.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

Carry a sketchbook and create instant memories says Mike Willdridge

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

The sketch above by our enthusiastic and inspiring watercolour painting tutor Mike Willdridge is of the marketplace in the nearby mediaeval walled town of Fivizzano, where we go to on Tuesdays during our Watermill weeks.

Here’s another rapid sketch by Mike, of two of our guests enjoying sunshine and conversation in the Watermill courtyard.

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

Mike always carries a sketchbook with him wherever he goes and considers it a vital part of his artistic life. He’d like you to do the same. He says: It’s incredible how looking back on a past sketchbook will instantly remind you not only of the subject matter but also quite personal feelings you may have experienced at the time. Try it! I don’t keep a diary but my sketchbooks (I have a lot of them) are an instant recall of many, many memories.”

Mike adds: “Maybe a good analogy is that of ‘smells’. How often does a certain smell straight-away remind you of something in your past? I suggest that It’s much the same with a sketchbook.” 

Painting by Mike Willdridge, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy
Mike’s sketch of the peaceful Convento di Carmine, where we go to paint on Thursday during our week-long courses.
Painting by Mike Willdridge, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.

Mike Willdridge works and teaches in a wide range of media and is an enthusiastic and energetic tutor with more than 20 years’ experience. Although his classes are always light-hearted and fun, he is experienced enough to vary the level of ‘teaching’ to individual needs. For more about Mike and his course of the Watermill, please click here.

We already have six bookings on Mike’s course next summer, so now is the time to make your reservation, to be sure of a place ,and don’t forget our enticing Early Bird offer: there is a £75 discount on this inspiring 2020 painting course if you book before the end of this year.

Come with your sketchbook and create your own colourful and enduring memories!

Painting by Mike Willdridge, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
Mike’s sketch of the millstream bubbling back towards the river

A calm convent, but complicated, confounding curves!

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

On Thursdays, after the excitements of their Wednesday excursions, we take our creative courses guests to the calm Convento del Carmine, a little beyond and above the nearby town of Fivizzano, with views over the town and the surrounding hills.

The convent (that’s what they call it, although the former inmates were monks, not nuns) is of the Carmelite order dates back to 1568. The Renaissance-style building has cloisters with sandstone columns and lunettes decorated with murals attributed to Stefano Lemmi of the Bolognese school of artists. It is surrounded by lovely gardens and 17 secluded hectares of pines, walnut, chestnut, cypress and fruit trees, meadows and streams and is now used as a venue for romantic weddings. (Incidentally the President of Italy and the president of Germany lunch there recently when they were in this area to commemorate the tragic events of August 1944, a dreadful time in northern Italy as the Allies pushed back the Germans.)

The convent, which was closed down in 1782, certainly is calm and peaceful, and our guests enjoy the exclusive use of its cloisters, gardens and grounds, and a delicious, gourmet picnic.

Many of our painting guests prefer to paint in the gardens and grounds, finding the curves and the perspective of the vaulted cloisters somewhat daunting, but many rise to the challenge. Here, for example, is a lovely watercolour sketch by one of our guests, Robert Christopher.

And a few more guests concentrating on getting it right.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

Or you may prefer to enjoy fresh air in the gardens and paint the views. Lou Renner took these pictures on last week’s painting course tutored by his wife Maggie Renner Hellmann.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

Here is Maggie herself capturing the curves undaunted.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

Whether you want to tackle complicated perspective or just enjoy tranquil surroundings, you will find the convent a marvellous place to be. Why not join us and see for yourself on one of our sun-filled, fun-filled, inspiring painting courses. You can find out all about them by clicking here.

Places are filling fast for 2020, so if you’d like to reserve a place, now really is the time to book, especially as you can take advantage of our Early Bird Discount Offer: if you book before the end of this year there is £75 (English pounds) per person off any of our courses.

https://watermill.net/painting-holidays/index.php

A terrace with a view

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

On Tuesdays, after they have enjoyed the sights and sounds of the weekly market in the mediaeval walled town of Fivizzano, and savoured a panino and home-made ice cream in the gelateria in the town’s main square, our painting guests often like to wander down to the Piazza Belvedere, and the terrace with lovely views down the Valley of the River Rosaro towards our village of Posara.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

It’s quite a difficult subject to paint, but our guests go for it with gusto. The photograph at the top of this post is of Mary King, a guest on Maggie Renner Hellmann’s course, getting to work last Tuesday afternoon. And here’s Maggie’s demonstration picture in progress, already a colourful painting, even though it’s only half finished!

Painting by Maggie Renner Hellmann, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

Maggie describes her painting week as a Courageous Color Workshop and we are looking forward to welcoming her back next year for not one, but two, weeks, capturing the wonderful scenery of Lunigiana surrounding the Watermill in colourful pictures. Her weeks will run from Saturday 12 September to Saturday 19 September 2020 and from Saturday 19 September to Saturday 26 September 2020. We would love you to join us.

You can find out more about Maggie and her courses in 2020 by clicking here. As I always say this time of year, now really is the time to book to be sure of your place, and to take advantage of our Early Bird Discount Offer: £75 (English pounds) per person off either of Maggie’s inspiring Courageous Color workshops. Come for one week if you like, or double the fun by booking two!

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
A terrace with a view: Maggie shows how to paint it.

Making the ordinary extraordinary: Carl March captures the energy of a station concourse

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

Artists have the capacity to make the mundane interesting, to ‘see’ something we ordinary mortals pass blithely by. And at the risk of being accused the Brummism*, nothing could be much more mundane than the passenger concourse of Birmingham’s New Street train station in the Midlands of England.

But in a couple of pages of his sketchbook, Watermill painting tutor Carl March has turned the mundane into something vivacious. Above are the two pages of the sketchbook and below I have isolated and enlarged the left- and right-hand pages.

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

Carl tells me: “During the summer I entered some work for the Stratford Upon Art Society 60th annual exhibition. I was very fortunate to receive the ‘bronze award’ from the President of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, for an ink drawing of mine called ‘New Street Station passenger concourse’. I was chuffed to bits, especially as it was the first time I had submitted work for this prestigious exhibition.”

Carl March will be with us next year for a week-long painting course called ‘Drawing and Painting for Pleasure’. It will run from 18-25 April 2020.

 Carl March, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.

Drawing and design are Carl’s passions: he likes to experiment with various drawing mediums, combining them with traditional watercolour painting processes to create distinctively subtle works. They are regularly to be seen at the Royal Academy summer exhibitions in London. The evocative watercolour below is called Hotel Garden and was painted in Paphos, in Cyprus.

Carl is also a great teacher. He says: “I love the genuine satisfaction in passing on my knowledge to others. For example, demonstrating a ‘step by step’ exercise, then witnessing students repeat the exercise for themselves. Suddenly the penny drops, and it all makes sense. Surely this is the real reward for any teacher.”

Here’s a comment from a previous student: “Carl has a gentle but effective way of teaching and we have learnt a lot from. Most importantly, however, under his guidance the class always becomes a very sociable and happy group. Quite simply, his classes are not only well planned and informative but also great fun.” 

We already have eight people signed up for Carl’s 2020 course at the Watermill, so if you’d like to join us, now really is the time to book. And don’t forget our Early Bird discount offer: If you book before 31 December 2019 there’s a £75 (English pounds) per person discount on this fabulous 2020 painting holiday.

You can find out more about Carl at his course at the Watermill by clicking here. We would love you to join us.

(*For our American and Australian friends, Brum is a slang name for Birmingham and Brummies are natives of that city. I made up the word Brummism, antipathy to Brum, but I hope to see it in the Oxford University Dictionary in the fullness of time.)

Painting by Carl March, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
 ‘Garden on the Coastal Walk’, painted by Carl on a holiday in Muscat, Oman.

A colourful interpretation of Verrucola castle

Painting by Maggie Renner Hellmann, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.

I love seeing how artists interpret the landscape, adding colour and emotion to the scene before them. The picture above, by painting tutor Maggie Renner Hellmann, is a fine example of what I mean.

It’s a demonstration in progress of the castle and village of Verrucola, where we go on Mondays during our painting weeks. Aren’t the colours vibrant? That’s hardly surprising since Maggie describes a week as a Courageous Color Workshop. (She’s American, sorry about the spelling!) Here’s a photograph of the same scene, picturesque and imposing, but by no means as colourful.

Our guests on Maggie’s course seem to be having a colourful week and we are looking forward to welcoming Maggie back next year for not one, but two, weeks, bringing the wonderful scenery of Lunigiana surrounding the Watermill, two glorious life. Her weeks will run from Saturday 12 September to Saturday 19 September 2020 and from Saturday 19 September to Saturday 26 September 2020.

We would love you to join us. You can find out more about Maggie and her courses in 2020 by clicking here. As I always say this time of year, it really is the time to book to be sure of your place, and to take advantage of our Early Bird Discount Offer: £75 (English pounds) per person off either one of Maggie’s inspiring Courageous Color workshops. Come for one week if you like, but thinking of birds, just think what toucan do! (Sorry about that!)

A painting group beneath the steps of Verrucola castle

Admiring our painting students’ work

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

Every Friday evening on our painting courses we have an impromptu and informal exhibition of the work our students have produced during the week. It’s very relaxed and unpressurised and we add to the enjoyment by providing a glass or two of prosecco to give even more sparkle to the proceedings.

Our guest Jennifer Horn, who was on Claire Warner’s lovely painting course a week or so ago, sent me some pictures of the animated proceedings, like the one above. Thank you very much, Jennifer.

And here’s our manager, Karsten Muller, admiring some paintings with tutor Claire.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

And here’s Bill Breckon, looking as if he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to art!

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

Why not put your pictures in the picture and join us on one of our sun-filled, fun-filled, inspiring painting courses next year? We would be delighted to welcome you here. You can find details of all our courses by clicking here.

Bookings for next year are already flowing in, so now is the time to book your place, especially as you can take advantage of our Early Bird Discount Offer: £75 (English pounds) per person off any of our creative courses in 2020, if you book before the end of this year. If you want to be sure of a particular date, however, or a particular tutor, or a particular bedroom, it would be wisest to do so quickly, as we are beginning to fill up.

We will raise a glass of prosecco to you too!

Painter turned writer: what Maggie Renner Hellmann has to say about Tuscan heaven at the Watermill

Maggie explains that the Watermill studio, with the dramatic still life study ready to be painted.

I couldn’t have put it better myself! Here’s what our lovely painting tutor Maggie Renner Hellmann had to say about the first couple of days of her painting week at the Watermill.

“In Tuscan heaven, enjoying all the delightful painters in my Courageous Color workshop at the gorgeous Watermill in the hills above Cinque Terra! Sumptuous multi-course meals, neighbouring village trattorias, ultra-comfortable accommodations and painting instruction with demos! And sharing and stories, some history and some just plain fun! Oh, and the wine!  The weeks off to a Great start! Next year’s dates are filling up now! September 12-19th and/or September 19-26th, 2020. First come first choice of rooms!”

And she’s sent me some wonderful pictures too.

Our first dinner together: a taste of Tuscany in a local trattoria
Maggie showing how it’s done in the Watermill studio
The tutor’s bedroom
Examining part of the ancient mill
So many things to see and paint.

That’s just about sums it all up perfectly except to tell you that you can find out more about Maggie and her course by clicking here, that now is really the time to book to be sure of your place and to remind you that if you book now you can take advantage of our Early Bird Discount Offer: £75 (English pounds) per person off either one of Maggie’s inspiring Courageous Color workshops.

Come and be inspired  — and join in the fun!

Follow me into the bamboo forest beside the river.

Here’s something fishy about the Italian language – and trust us, we know our chickens!

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

The Italians are rather fond of fish, not only to eat, but to invigorate their language. For example, if you are going to engage enthusiastically in any activity, you throw yourself like a fish: buttarsi come un pesce.

That’s just what you’ll be doing if you join us on our inspiring Italian Language course at the Watermill next August. Not only will you improve your Italian on our unique, interactive course, but you’ll also enjoy la bella vita Italiana in the heart of rural Tuscany and savour the Watermill’s warm hospitality. In fact, we’ll treat you like ‘un pesce grosso’, a big fish, or big shot, to us English and Americans. (And we promise never to trattare a pesci in faccia, literally to treat with fishes in your face, to show you disrespect.)

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

With the Florentine language school Langues Services and our old friend Francesca la Sala, we’ve designed a week in which you can learn Italian in the most natural and enjoyable way ever, meeting Italian people and interacting with their everyday lives. it will run from Saturday 22 August to Saturday 29 August 2020. Not only will there be formal lessons under the vine verandah (some 20 hours in the week), but we’ll also be making trips and excursions to enjoy the natural beauty of Lunigiana, the area surrounding the mill, to explore its history and culture, to sample its traditional foods – and above all, to meet the people, speaking Italian, practising what we’ve learned.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, knitting, creative writing, Italian language, personal development and yoga holidays/vacations/retreats, Tuscany, Italy.

Your immersion into the language and culture of real Italians will be customised for you, to suit your curiosity and your interests, helping you to treasure everything you learn and make it a seamless part of who you are. You will have the perfect opportunity to make new friends in the company of like-minded people learning and improving their Italian language skills… and enjoying unspoilt Italy and, of course, fantastic food and wine.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

This exciting language course is suitable for all levels of ability, because of the special approach of the Langues Services language school. Its philosophy and method are inspired Professor Bertrand Schwartz of Paris University, who overturned the concept of teaching to adults, with an approach that develops not only theoretical knowledge but practical know-how as well. The aim is to enhance the personal qualities of each student, tailoring the teaching to their needs and ambitions and establishing mutual, active and confident relationships, where the student is the true protagonist in the course. The motto is ‘action first, knowledge after.’

One previous course participant said: “A super language week: well organised, giving us a taste of the ‘real Italy.’ Despite the disparity in ability our tutor managed to help all of us towards a better understanding and production of the Italian language. The lessons were fun, interactive and helped me enormously.” Another added: “Our tutor was fantastic and designed a course that we could all follow at our own level.” 

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Learning the language under the shade of the vine verandah-

Everything is included in the cost of your holiday at the watermill: tuition, accommodation, pre-dinner aperitifs, all meals and wines (including outings to charming local restaurants) and all local transportation. You get to Pisa, Italy, we do the rest!

To recap, our Italian Language week will run from Saturday 22 August to Saturday 29 August 2020. You can find out more by clicking here.

We already have eight people booked into this course, so we only have room for four or so more. If you’d like to join us for this unique course, to be sure of your place now is the time to book especially as we have an Early Bird Discount Offer: if you book before 31 December 2019 there’s a £75 (English pounds) per person discount. Nothing fishy about that!

Sharing stories from your life: laughter on the vine verandah

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

Here are some members of Jo Parfitt’s writing group earlier this year sharing snippets from their lives on the vine verandah One of the group, Sue Reed, tells us: “The vine verandah at the Watermill has been the perfect place to gather to write and share our stories. Last night we all shared a funny story, and the laughter rang out. My life feels so much richer for having met and shared stories with these wonderful people.”

Of course, there’s not only laughter, but tears, too, as members of the group share emotional experiences from their lives, but in the secure and sympathetic surroundings of the Watermill, this sharing can become life-enhancing. As Jo says: “The course at the watermill will provide a safe haven in which to unlock your creativity, write from your heart and hone your writing craft. You will be empowered to write in a compelling way, bringing your experiences to life.”

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

And there’s more laughter than tears, as well as the warm camaraderie of like-minded people. As one of our previous guests said: “It is a very special and beautiful place and everything was organised so perfectly. Jo is a great tutor and we all had an amazing time.” Another said: “It was a great week: “Beautiful setting, perfect weather, delicious food and some super outings, who could ask for anything more — and I did quite a bit of writing!”

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

You, too, could be sampling the delights of the Watermill and learning the secrets of compelling writing, when Jo returns next year. Her Write Your Life Stories course will run from Saturday 9 May to Saturday 16 May 2020.

And if you book now, you can enjoy our Early Bird Discount Offer: £75 (English pounds) if you reserve your place before the end of the year. But to be sure of a space it is probably wisest to book sooner rather than later. We already have six people booked in, so we are half full already.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

Jo Parfitt is an author, journalist, teacher, blogger, conference speaker and poet. She has published 32 books herself, has helped more than 100 authors into print and more than 1,000 people to begin writing. Jo’s a compassionate, inspiring, and encouraging teacher: her motto is ‘sharing what I know to help others to grow’.

Her course at the Watermill is designed to help you produce your best work, to find your true writer’s ‘voice’ and to write authentically. Among other things, you’ll discover the secret of SPICE, the seven steps to writing life stories.

The workshop will include several methods and genres and is perfect for anyone wanting to write about their own lives for an effective journal, memoir or blog. If you would enjoy an injection of inspiration in a safe and supportive environment this course is for you. It is appropriate for students of any level.

You can find out more about Jo and her course by clicking here.

Everything is included in the cost of your holiday at the watermill: tuition, accommodation (including all linen and towels), pre-dinner aperitifs, all meals and wines (including outings to charming local restaurants) and all local transportation (including transfers to Pisa airport and an excursion by train to Lucca or the Cinque Terre). You get to Pisa, Italy, we do the rest!

Hurry now! Take advantage of that Early Bird discount.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Finding a quiet corner to start writing your life’s stories