Archives for November 2019

An Autumn walk will work wonders for your writing, says Jo

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Jo in the autumn countryside: when you walk, really look – and think.

Jo Parfitt, tutor at our inspirational Writing Your Life Stories courses at the Watermill, recommends an Autumn walk to add zest to your writing. She says in her latest newsletter: “This time of year is perfect for the writer wanting to flex their writerly muscles. Autumn, when the leaves are turning and falling there is so much to ignite the muse within.

“We all know the benefits of going out and walking in nature; it’s an antidote to the winter blues. For me, though, a walk in the woods at this time of year gives me time to think, to clear my head, to devise poems and lessons and to give my eyes the chance to focus on something that is not a screen within a few inches of my nose.”

Painting by Sandra Strohschein a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
Autumn acorns and oak leaves, by our painting tutor Sandra Strohschein.

And as she walks, Jo looks: “I mean really look, at everything I see. And after a second or two focusing on something I make myself come up with an unclichéd description of it. So, the bark of the silver birch could be like old white paint peeling off in sheets from a damp black wall. The spreading branches of the horse chestnut are not allowed to be like arms reaching to the sky because that’s a cliché, but they could be goddess Shiva’s arms or a hannukah candelabra. The few dried and shriveled leaves that cling to the ends of those same branches could be the scorched remains of love letters the tree can no longer bear to read but still clutches with the tips of his fingers.”

Jo concludes: “As you walk among the trees and footpaths, notice how some tree roots might be the feet of marching elephants, others the slender feet and ankles of a pair of ballet dancers, high in en pointe. Might the deciduous yew be jealous of the jeweled colours of the beech beside it, for we all know that green is the colour of envy? Trust me, when you start to play this game you’ll soon find there are 50 new shades of green and that nature and your writing comes alive.”

Painting by Sandra Strohschein a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
Wild spring flowers around the Watermill.

Jo will be with us in Tuscany this spring, where there will be even more sights to stimulate and inspire your writing. And, of course, Jo will be here every day to help you produce your best work, to find your true writer’s ‘voice’ and to write authentically.  Jo says: “You will be empowered to write in a compelling way, bringing your experiences to life.”

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!”

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

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

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”. And there’s more laughter than tears, with the warm camaraderie of like-minded people

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Sharing your experiences on the vine verandah

Come and learn 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. You can learn more by clicking here.

And if you book now, you can enjoy our Early Bird Discount Offer: £75 (English pounds) 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 eight people booked into Jo’s course, so we only have room for two or three more.

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’.

 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.

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!

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
A collage of conversation on Jo’s last course, compiled by Sue Reed.

Small is beautiful when you are out on location, says Chris Hughes

Painting by Chris Hughes, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
Small images from Chris Hughes’ sketchbook

Our new inspiring watercolour tutor Chris Hughes has been sharing some of his thoughts about painting in the wonderful locations around the Watermill.

He tells me: “We all like to paint decent-sized paintings, but painting outdoors is tricky and for that reason I advocate ‘small is beautiful’ for plein air painting, especially to begin with. Even in the beautiful Tuscan countryside you need to give yourself a chance to build up confidence to produce your best work. You will find it easier if you start by painting and drawing a few small pieces, rather than one big one.”

Chris, who will be with us in June next year (details below), adds: “On a week’s painting holiday, you will have plenty of time to acclimatise and get used to the surroundings, the light and the rhythm of the place. I would also recommend that you carry with you a small sketchbook (say about 7” x 5”, or even 6” x 4”), so that you can draw and do colour washes this is a great thing to do anyway and it will help you create a pictorial diary of your Tuscan adventure!”

Painting by Chris Hughes, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
Chris Hughes’ small (15 cm x 10 cm, about 6″ x 4″) watercolour of a Tuscan village nestling in the hillside
Picture of Chris Hughes, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.

Chris will be joining us for a week teaching watercolours en plein air from Saturday 27 June to Saturday 6 July 2020 and he is keen to show you the watercolour and drawing techniques that he has developed over all his years as a professional artist: “By simplifying the stages of producing a painting, I’ll encourage you to develop your own style and create your very best work.” 

As one of his students says: “Chris teaches his technique with patience, humour and generosity: he gave me the confidence to develop a style of painting I can enjoy and develop.” 

Both beginners and experienced painters will benefit from Chris’s course, through watching demonstrations and by painting together. He says: “I believe in a laid-back, non-pressurised approach — and being in the beautiful Tuscan countryside will make the creative experience even better.” You can find out more about Chris and his course at the Watermill by clicking here.

Painting by Chris Hughes, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
Sketches can be worked up into larger, more complex compositions.

The Vasari suite: a self-contained apartment in the restored 17th-centurymill, with an elegant sitting room and views over the Watermill cascades and the river

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

Today we reach the end of our tour of the Watermill bedrooms, with the second of our self-contained apartment suites, The Vasari Suite. As usual, I have made one of those short Facebook slideshows, which you can see by clicking here.

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

Giorgio Vasari, who lived and worked in Florence in the 16th century, was another of those great multitalented Renaissance men: painter, architect and town planner, as well as writer and historian. His most famous for his book, The Lives of the Artists, the first book on art history, in which he lauded Michelangelo as the apotheosis of artistic development.

He painted (with others) the inside of the dome of Florence cathedral, wonderful frescoes in the palazzo vecchio; he built the uffizi and in particular the loggia of the uffizi, creating a unique Renaissance street with unified architecture, the first regularised streetscape in Europe. Oh, and the Vasari corridor, linking above street level the palazzo vecchio with the Pitti place, so his Grand Duke, Cosimo 1 de’ Medici, wouldn’t have to mix with the hoi polloi on his way home.

And he built the Fish Loggia, one of my (many) favourite buildings in Florence.

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

The Vasari Suite at the Watermill has an elegant sitting room and a double bedroom, with views over the mill cascades and the River Rosaro. It is ideal for a couple, or two friends sharing. (We can make a bed in the sitting room for two friends sharing the apartment.)

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.

We’d be delighted to welcome you here for one of our caring and inspiring creative holiday weeks – painting, creative writing, knitting and Italian language. Come and join us and choose your favourite bedroom.

You can find out more about all our fun-filled, sun-filled, inspiring creative courses by clicking here.

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

The Lippi suite: a self-contained apartment with an elegant sitting room and views over the Riverside gardens and the river

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

Continuing our tour of the Watermill bedrooms we move today to the first of our self-contained apartment suites, the Lippi suite. As usual I have made one of those short Facebook slideshows, which you can see by clicking here.

The suite is named after Filippo Lippi and his son Filipino Lippi, painters in the mid-15th century. Filippo, a monk with a scandalous private life, was a sublime painter and, incidentally, taught Botticelli. Filippo’s Madonna and Child with two Angels (below) is one of my favourite paintings. I particularly love the smile of the angel of the right.

Filippo’s son, Filipino, was, among other things, responsible for some wonderful frescoes depicting the life of St Peter in the Brancacci Chapel in the church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence.

The suite has an elegant sitting room and two bedrooms: a larger double one and a smaller single. There are views over the Riverside gardens the public River Rosaro. It is ideal for a couple, or two friends sharing.

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

We’d be delighted to welcome you here for one of our caring and inspiring creative holiday weeks – painting, creative writing, knitting and Italian language. Come and join us and choose your favourite bedroom.

You can find out more about all our fun-filled, sun-filled, inspiring creative courses by clicking here.

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

Summer guest Tamara is still enjoying her Watermill painting holiday!

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

Tamara Zakon, who was with us for a painting holiday at the Watermill last June, continues to enjoy it, more than five months after she left. She shared with us this email she sent this week to her friend Antonia Hollingsworth, and other members of the group.

Tamara says: “Do you remember the outing on the 7th of June, when the two of us were sketching in this secluded spot in Monte dei Bianchi, seated somewhat precariously with our easels on the uneven terrain? That day I managed to create one painting en plein-air, and five months later, on Nov 18, I painted another version in Montreal (homework for my current ink and watercolour art course).

“Winter this year started six weeks earlier than usual in Montreal, and a sketch with glimpses of Tuscan sun, as well as the memories from our week at the Watermill in Posara, are such a wonderful antidote to the snowy and grey weather.”

When I asked Tamara for permission to use her pictures, she very kindly also send me a couple of others she made during her week with us. Here they are:

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Tamara’s painting of the old mill with the river beyond, painted on her first day
The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Tamara’s picture of the narrow streets of the village of Verrucola, where we go on Mondays during our painting weeks.

We are glad you are continuing to enjoy your memories of the Watermill, Tamara, and thank you for sharing them with us. We would be delighted to welcome you back for another of our sun-filled, fun-filled, inspirational painting courses. Our 2020 courses are beginning to fill already, and you can see details by clicking here.

And don’t forget that if you book now you can take advantage of our Early Bird Discount Offer £75 (English pounds) per person off anyone of our creative courses, if you book before the end of the year. You will find it is a week that will last for ages, if not forever.

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

The Donatello bedroom: cosy and bright and with a terrace with wonderful views over the garden and mountains

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

The Donatello bedroom, appropriately enough, is next to the Brunelleschi, for Donatello was for many years his apprentice and accompanied Brunelleschi on their celebrated trip to Rome, where they rediscovered the secrets of classical architecture and sculpture.

Habakkuk: almost alive

Donatello’s sculptures, in both marble and bronze, were revolutionary, notably his St George for the Orsanmichele in Florence and his irrepressible bronze David, commissioned by Cosimo the Elder. Both can be seen in the Bargello museum and herald the rebirth of classical sculpture. My favourite Donatello sculpture is the grizzled Old Testament prophet Habakkuk, who Donatello nicknamed ‘pumpkin head’ and talked to it as if it were alive while he was carving it.

I have made one of those short Facebook slideshows with pictures of this bedroom, which you can see by clicking here.

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

We’d be delighted to welcome you here for one of our caring and inspiring creative holiday weeks – painting, creative writing, knitting and Italian language. Come and join us and choose your favourite bedroom.

You can find out more about all our fun-filled, sun-filled, inspiring creative courses by clicking here.

Not by Donatello, but Rinaldi’s sleeping Chatsworth Lion will keep you company in the Donatello bedroom

The Watermill bedrooms: Brunelleschi, towering genius of the Renaissance

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

Today’s Watermill bedroom is the Brunelleschi, named after Filippo Brunelleschi, one of my great architectural and artistic heroes.

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

Brunelleschi not only constructed the massive dome of Florence’s cathedral but also reinvented linear perspective. In fact, he is one of the characters in my historical detective novel A Matter of Perspective, set in Florence in 1425. He was also the mentor of Donatello, who reintroduced classical sculpture into Western art. That is Brunelleschi’s statue on the right, gazing up at his mind-boggling cupola.

The bright and airy bedroom has views over the Watermill courtyard and a terrace (which it shares, appropriately, with Donatello next door) looks out over the Watermill walled garden and the high peaks of the Apennine mountains beyond. You can see a Facebook slideshow of the Brunelleschi bedroom by clicking here.

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

We’d be delighted to welcome you here for one of our caring and inspiring creative holiday weeks – painting, creative writing, knitting and Italian language. Come and choose your favourite bedroom. You can find out more about all our fun-filled, sun-filled, inspiring creative courses by clicking here.

The Watermill bedrooms: celebrating Fra Angelico, a rare and perfect talent

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

Our Facebook tours of Watermill bedrooms continue today with Fra Angelico.

Painting in the early 15th century, this Dominican friar is perhaps most famous for his sublime frescoes in the monks’ cells in the monastery of San Marco in the centre of Florence. Vasari describes him as having “a rare and perfect talent,” adding: “It is impossible to bestow too much praise on this holy father, who was so humble and modest in all that he did and said and whose pictures were painted with such facility and piety.”

Our bright and airy bedroom is rather less pious and rather more fun than the monks’ cells in San Marco. They didn’t have a modern en suite bathroom, either!

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

And we are not quite sure what Dominican Friars would have made of this watercolour by a friend of ours, David Jones, which shows the 19th century Impressionist painter Toulouse-Lautrec at work in his studio, with a 1960s girl in a pale blue dress sitting in front, looking out at us.

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

What does it mean? Come and see for yourself and let us know your thoughts.

We’d be delighted to welcome you here for one of our caring and inspiring creative holiday weeks – painting, creative writing, knitting and Italian language. Come and choose your favourite bedroom. You can find out more about all our fun-filled, sun-filled, inspiring creative courses by clicking here.

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

Make your own memories on Carl March’s pleasurable painting course this spring

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

I really like this atmospheric painting by Watermill tutor Carl March, which he calls Gateway to memories. Carl will be with us this spring for a course called ‘Drawing and Painting for Pleasure’. It will run from 18-25 April 2020. Why not come and join him and make your own memories of the Watermill, its gardens and the stunning unspoiled countryside of rural Tuscany which surrounds us. And, being spring, there should be plenty of daffodils:

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

There are more details about Carl’s course below, but if you’d like to book you’ll have to hurry: Eight people already booked in so we only have room for four or so more painters (and their non-painting partners, if they’d like to join them).

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.

Like most of our tutors, Carl likes to carry a sketchbook with him wherever he goes. Here a rural view. (I like the horse!)

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

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.”

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

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.” 

And another says “When I went on my first painting holiday with Carl, I had never picked up a paintbrush other than to paint a ceiling. But within a day I had produced my first ever watercolour and the result was beyond my wildest dreams. Since then I have spent two further holidays under Carl’s tutelage, each time learning new skills as well as refreshing my knowledge of basic techniques. Thanks to Carl’s endless patience and encouragement I have become an enthusiastic watercolour painter and look forward to further enjoyable holidays led by this inspirational teacher.” 

Here’s a watercolour sketch by Carl, called Sarah’s Lilies, a study showing great spontaneity.

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.

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

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

Painting by Carl March, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
This garden walk was painted by Carl on a recent visit to Muscat, Oman.

The Gentileschi bedroom: celebrating a 17th century female painter who achieved fame in a man’s world

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

Our Facebook tours of Watermill bedrooms continue today with the Gentileschi: celebrating the life and work of Artemisia Gentileschi, an early 17th century Baroque painter working in Florence, at a time when female painters were not easily accepted by the artistic community, nor by patrons. But she was highly successful and was the first woman ever to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Designo.

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

Artemisia has become a feminist’s favourite and while I appreciate her skill, I’m not the greatest of fans of Baroque painting in general. But in the naming of our bedrooms, it is good to celebrate women artists as well as the more well-known men of the Renaissance and Early Modern period.

We should celebrate two other artistic women, too: Vivienne White, our friend and interior designer, and Lois Breckon, who chose the colours and painted the animated freeze of dandelion puffballs.  The paintings above the bed are by a contemporary male artist, Michael Willdridge, and are part of a series of 100 paintings he painted in 100 days last year.

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

We’d be delighted to welcome you here for one of our caring and inspiring creative holiday weeks – painting, creative writing, knitting and Italian language. Come and join us and choose your favourite bedroom.

You can find out more about all our fun-filled, sun-filled, inspiring creative courses by clicking here and you can see slideshows of our other bedrooms on our Facebook page: please just click here.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy. Picture: Francesco Lastrucci
The door to the Gentileschi bedroom is open to welcome you in.