Archives for January 2021

Touchy-feely and proud: learning more from the Italians about healthy living.

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

Continuing our series on 10 Italian lifestyle habits that add to the quality of daily living, we are looking today at two more suggestions from Patrick Browne in The Local, our Italian English-language newspaper. They are rather disparate topics, the first of which is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve in .)these restricted times: Habit #7: Be more tactile. The second is delightful (See below.)

Patrick writes: “Italians are very touch-feely and at first it can be a bit strange, but it’s a really positive aspect of how Italians socialize. If it’s your birthday expect a hug and a kiss from everyone around and don’t offend by getting embarrassed about it.

“When you’re with Italian friends expect them to put their hands on your shoulder, ruffle your hair and stroke you – just don’t forget to reciprocate!”

Quite right too, but in these days of masks and social distancing, a good Italian bracio e abbraccio (a kiss and a hug) is just a fond memory. We will know that we are back to normal we start hugging each other again.

Picture: Signore si divernta

As Patrick says: “Science suggests that being a bit more touchy-feely could make you happier, as physical contact with other humans produces oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that is central to intimacy and bonding.”

Habit #8 is to Develop a sense of local pride. The Italians call it campanilismo, a sense of identity, a loyalty to where you grew up, within the sight and sound of your own campanile (belltower).

A painting by Charles Sluga of the belltower in the nearby walled mediaeval town of Fivizzano.

Patrick writes: “Back in the UK, at least, local pride is almost looked down upon – and many people from small towns are embarrassed about where they have their roots. Very often people just lie and tell you that they are from their nearest large city. But many Italians from small towns will tell you exactly why their hometown is the most beautiful place in the world and why you should visit.

“They will passionately talk about the great local restaurant or spot where everybody goes. Why not take their advice?”

That is certainly true about Fivizzano, the beautiful, walled mediaeval town near the Watermill, and about Florence, where we live in the winter. The sense of local pride is palpable and is just one more thing that adds to the enjoyment of living in Italy.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Brunelleschi’s magnificent dome for Florence cathedral: who wouldn’t be proud to live here?

Paint a river scene in soft pastels with Rebecca

Rebecca’s soft pastel demonstration of a sunlit river scene.

Our passionate pastellist Rebecca de Mendonça returns next week with another online session, this time dedicated to a river scene, rather like the one that flows beside the Watermill. She will show you how to capture water, rocks and trees in soft pastels and the play of sunlight through the trees and on to the water.

Rebecca’s session is on Thursday 4 February, starting at 3:30 p.m. Italian time (2:30 p.m. British time and 09:30 am in the eastern USA). You can register for this relaxing and inspiring session by clicking here.  

Rebecca di Mendonça, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.

Rebecca will show examples and demonstrate how she uses soft pastels in a variety of ways to create different aspects of landscape painting. From the hardness of rocks, to the water gently rippling around them, and from twisting trees in the foreground, to the hazy sunlit distance, this demo will be full of hints and tips on how to capture the forms and the atmosphere of the scene.

Rebecca will also show how to simplify your reference photograph, and the importance of composition.

This session is suitable for beginners and more experienced students, whether you have used pastels before or not. Once you register, you will have access to the source photo and Rebecca’s sketch of the scene. If you are beginner, you will find it easier to use this sketch to create your own drawing from the photo.

Rebecca will be working quite quickly but you can ask questions during the demonstration and you can catch up with the video afterwards, in your own time.

When you register for the session you will be asked for a donation. (If you prefer to donate by direct bank transfer, please let us know.) Our Zoom painting demonstrations do take quite a bit of time in preparation and administration and your support is very much appreciated. With your generosity we can plan and run further sessions and, more importantly, provide a regular meeting place for creativity, camaraderie and fun. We hope that you enjoy the international, online painting community that we have created.

After successful registration you will be provided with two links. One is the Zoom link for you to join the session. The other is to a copy of the photograph that you will paint; an outline drawing for you to trace (if needed); a development of the drawing; and a list of equipment and colours for your palette.

After the event, you are invited to email us with your painting to add to the gallery.

We will also send you a link to a video that will enable to you revisit Rebecca’s step-by-step teaching.

So come along and join us, and capture the sunshine sparking on water. That link again: just click here.

And if you enjoyed pastelling with Rebecca online, why not join her for ‘the real thing’ at the Watermill later this year?

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

Rebecca de Mendonça  One or two places left

Saturday 26 June to Saturday 3 July 2021 

Pastels and mixed media

To learn more about Rebecca and her week at the Watermill, please click here.

An array of bruschette, colourful and tasty Italian snacks

This colourful, mouth-watering picture is of bruschette, tasty Italian snacks that can be served as aperitivi or as a first course to an evening meal. (We enjoyed some of them last night when two friends came round to dinner, keeping up the Italian tradition of eating together and enjoying convivial company, sadly curtailed in present times.)

Traditionally, a bruschetta is a slice of toasted bread, rubbed with a garlic clove and drizzled with olive oil, but for the gluten-free you can use roasted slices of aubergine instead. We use the olive oil made by our friends Nick and Vivienne White in the village of Canneto near the Watermill. Lois proudly points out that she helped pick the olives at this year’s harvest and that her labours are present in every drop.

She’s been preparing bruschette with our friend Clare Budini-Gattai, from whose family estate in Chianti we buy our Watermill red wine, and who also have extensive olive groves. Together they created five different bruschette with a variety of tastes. In the picture you can see

  • Fett’unta – the traditional bruschetta:  rubbed with garlic, drizzle of olive oil
  • traditional tomato bruschetta: toast rubbed with garlic, then mix of tomato, basil, thyme, parsley and peperoncino, drizzled with olive oil
  • a mixture of cannellini beans, rosemary, garlic, lemon, olive oil, and topped with walnuts and another drizzle of olive oil
  • roasted aubergine with olive oil, white wine vinegar, garlic, parsley and mint
  • creamy goat’s cheese, with oregano, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, then topped with pine nuts, and drizzled with honey.

Each is seasoned to taste with salt and pepper.

Lois has made a short video son how these delicious Italian snacks can be assembled. It is part of a series of videos we are making called Italian cooking, Watermill style, in which we show you how to prepare the delicious dishes that we serve during our creative courses at the Watermill. It is in response to the clamour by our guests for a Watermill cookbook. Lois is busy making the videos at the moment and will tell you all about this project later in the year.

In the meantime, why not try a few bruschette for yourself? One of the secrets is to use only the very best olive oil. Even better, why not come on one of our creative courses and sample ours? More details of all that can be found by clicking here.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Lois and Vivienne and Nick, the olive picking team!

Learning more from the Italians about healthy living.

Picture: AFP Foto Tiziana Fabri via The Local

Continuing our series on 10 Italian lifestyle habits that add to the quality of daily living, we are looking today at two more suggestions from Patrick Browne in The Local, our Italian English-language newspaper.

Habit #5 is Drink less alcohol. One of the striking things in life in Italy is how little the Italian drink, compared with, say, the English or the Americans. Sure, they drink wine, probably every day, and they enjoy an evening aperitivo from time to time. Their drinking habits can probably be summed up as ‘a little, quite often’. As Patrick Browne says: Italians do drink – even to excess. But what most Italians consider ‘excess’ is what some people from other cultures might consider ‘just warming up’.

“At the beginning, changing drinking habits can lead to pacing problems when you go out with your friends – but eventually drinking less is kind of a relief. The night lasts longer, you have more money in your pocket and you cringe less as you recall the previous night’s antics.”

“When you drink is important too – Italians tend to drink with meals or in the evenings. Liquid lunches and post-work pints soon slip by the wayside. Thank goodness for that.”

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
You can’t beat the Italian aperitivo, but one is enough and you need nibbles and lively conversation.

Habit #3 Gesticulate: Anyone who has spent any time in Italy, or even met just one Italian, will know that this far more to the Italian language than mere words. In fact most Italians find it impossible to communicate without a wide range of gestures to emphasise their point.

Someone who had nothing better to do with their time, once estimated at some 250 gestures are in common use.

Picture: The Local

It’s been suggested that gestures were used, rather like Cockney rhyming slang in London, as a way of communicating so that the powers-that-be didn’t know what was going on. Others reckon that it was a way of competing for attention in the crowded squares of Renaissance Italy. We rather think the reason is much more simple: Italians tend to speak quite quickly and use many-syllabled words. To help the rhythm of your flow, it’s vital to move your hands.

Patrick Browne says: “One thing is for sure: the longer you live in Italy the more likely you are to throw your hands into the air when making a point. And why not?

“While it may seem strange to drill your finger into your cheek after eating something good, gesticulating is a great way to display, and add subtle inflections to, the pleasures and dramas of everyday life.”

If you would like to learn more, we recommend doing this amusing video from an Italian chef: just click here.

Picture: Vincenzo’s Plate.

Join our online watercolour water painters and lap up the warmth

As we publish this Monday blog, almost 100 people have signed up for the latest of our online, interactive painting sessions with Mike Willdridge. Why not join them on Thursday and capture the double delight of reflected sunlight – as well as the warmth of convivial company as you paint along watercolours with Mike?

The painting boats session with Mike is on Thursday 28 January at 2:30 pm British time (3:30 in the afternoon European time; 09:30 in the morning Eastern Time Zone in the USA). You can register through our Eventbrite event organisers by clicking here.

That’s Mike reference photograph above. He says: “The fantastic, diffused early morning sunlight in this photograph looks so welcoming – especially after the snowy scenes we have painted in our last two sessions!

“I’ve chosen this particular photo because of the great reflected warm light. This will mean fun painting the washes (from blue to yellow) and the soft buildings in the background stretching from dark to almost invisible. Then there’s the gorgeous, reflected light on the water and the strong values of the boats themselves.” 

At first glance, the photograph may seem a little complicated, but one of the aims of this session is to show you how to simplify a complex scene. Mike’s trial demonstration picture below shows how this can be done.

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

Unlike many online painting programmes, Mike’s will not expect you to ‘look over his shoulder’ for a long demonstration, and perhaps be allowed to ask the odd question or two. No, you will be painting along at more or less the same time, trying out the watercolour techniques that Mike has shown you, step-by-step. He will demonstrate some basic techniques for only a few minutes before you start painting the same subject at home. Then, after you have had your turn, Mike will move onto the next part of the process.

Lois Breckon from The Watermill at Posara will be on hand during the session to feed your questions. The session, on Zoom, will last a couple of hours or so.

When you register for the session you will be asked for a donation. How much you give is entirely up to you. We like to think it should be like the dram of whisky you receive when visiting a Scotsman’s home: the size should neither offend the host nor the guest! Our Zoom painting demonstrations do take quite a bit of time in preparation and administration and your support is very much appreciated. With your generosity we can plan and run further sessions and, more importantly, provide a regular meeting place for creativity, camaraderie and fun. That link again, just click here.

When you have registered, you will be provided with two internet links. The first is the Zoom link for you to join the session. The second link is where you will find a drawing of the scene (Mike would like you to make your own drawing before you meet up) and a list of equipment and colours for your palette.

To recap: The painting boats session with Mike is on Thursday 28 January at 2:30 pm British time (3:30 in the afternoon European time; 09:30 in the morning Eastern Time Zone in the USA). You can register through our Eventbrite event organisers by clicking here.

When you’ve enjoyed working with Mike online, why not join him for real on one of his Watermill courses this year? Mike is an sympathetic and enthusiastic teacher who often persuades his students to be bold/take chances. He is particularly keen on all forms of drawing and constantly uses a sketchbook: he will encourage you to do the same.

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

Mike Willdridge 

Saturday 7 August to Saturday 14 August 2021 AND Saturday 4 September to Saturday 11 September 2021 

Watercolours and drawing (also gouache and acrylics)

To learn more about Mike and his weeks at the Watermill, please click here.

You can also learn about all our renowned creative courses, in painting, creative writing, knitting and Italian language, by clicking here. We would love you to join us!

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Just click here to learn more.

:

More Italian daily routines to add to the joy of living

Continuing our series on 10 Italian lifestyle habits that add to the quality of daily living, we are looking at two more suggestions from Patrick Browne in The Local, our Italian English-language newspaper. Unlike the first two we discussed, going to the local market and eating fresh produce, these next two are more difficult to keep up in these restricted times. We have, however, laid the groundwork over the years. Habit # 3 is Get to know your local shopkeepers. Patrick says:In Italy it is not uncommon to go to several different shops on one shopping trip, which allows you to develop a relationship with the people you are buying your stuff from. The upshots of this are numerous.

“Firstly, your shopping trip becomes an opportunity to socialize. Why not catch up on the local gossip with your baker? Secondly, knowing your local shopkeepers makes life easier. Bought a dodgy product? Just swap it, no lengthy wait at the customer service desk. Strapped for cash? Pay next time! At the end of the day, we’re all friends here.”

Yes, we have made friends with our local shopkeepers both in Fivizzano, the mediaeval town near the Watermill, and Florence, where we live in the winter months. So while socialising may be curtailed by social distancing and mask-wearing, a cheerful ‘Good morning, How are you?’ works wonders for the spirits.

Staff in our local pasticcheria, cheerful, despite the restrictions.

Habit #4 is Eat together. Patrick says: “Not that people don’t eat together in other countries, but in Italy preparing and sharing food together happens all the time. The biggest difference is that dinner in Italy is not only offered via a formal invite – it often happens spontaneously. Make yourself at home!”

Yes, even these restricted times, we managed to have small lunches or dinners at friends’ houses, but with cafés and restaurants closed in the evenings and with curtailed service at other times, this is one of the things that we really miss, but we are convinced that very soon tutto andrà bene, all will be well.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy
Eating out in past times: guests on one of our previous Italian language courses.

We will feature more of Robert’s tips on La Bella Vita Italiana in the coming days, with the sincere hope that it won’t be long before you be able to join us and enjoy them, too, on one of our renowned creative courses at the Watermill. We would be delighted to welcome you here, and you can find out all about everything, both in the real world and online, by clicking here.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy
Eating together. Lunch at the Watermill in happier times: great food, convivial company.

Announcing another inspiring ‘virtual’ online painting week at the Watermill with Mike Willdridge.

Painting by Mike Willdridge, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
Mike’s demonstration painting of a street in Pisa, for our second virtual week.

We are delighted to announce that we are creating another exciting Watermill ‘virtual’ online, interactive painting week with Mike Willdridge. It will run from Saturday 20 February to Friday 26 February inclusive.

This follows the great success of our first ‘virtual’ week at the end of last year, when more than 120 people painted along with Mike each day for seven days. They ‘visited’ the stunning locations we enjoy during our ‘real’ Watermill painting holidays: an imposing castle, market day in a walled mediaeval town, a sunlit café by the harbour in a nearby fishing village, the cloisters of a quiet convent and a hilltop village with imposing mountains in the background.

And their response was overwhelming. As one participant said: “It was a fabulous week and over all too quickly. I can’t tell you how much I am missing being in Tuscany! It was the best thing I have done all year. Mike’s demonstrations were so clear and informative. I felt I learnt more in seven days than I have in seven years!”

Painting by Mike Willdridge, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
Mike’s demonstration picture of the little white chapel in the village of Verrucola, which we will paint on Monday.

Encouraged by your enthusiasm, we decided to do it again, visiting the same exciting locations* but with completely different subjects to paint. If you have been before you’ll know how much fun it is, and how inspiring: join us again for more camaraderie and new exciting painting subjects. If you haven’t been before, now is the time to find out what the fuss is all about! (*Except that on Wednesday we will ‘visit’ the wonderful walled town of Lucca, rather than the Cinque Terre.)

Washing on the line in Monte dei Bianchi, the hilltop village where we will paint on Friday.

In your week you will enjoy daily live interactive sessions on Zoom. Full of fun, our sessions have become an international painting club where you can enjoy the convivial company of like-minded people. You will paint along with Mike every day from Saturday 20 February to Friday 26 February inclusive.

Each session will last two-and-a-half hours or so. It’s the next best thing to being here and it will bring Italian sunshine and memories of la Bella Vita to brighten your days.

And don’t be daunted, as well as being fun, Mike’s virtual week is very much a ‘mini course in watercolour painting’. He says: “We start easy and progress through the week and each day is related to the others, so it will benefit both the beginner and those with more experience.”

To help give you the real flavour (pardon the pun) of a Watermill painting week, as well as those live daily paint-along sessions, you will also receive mouth-watering Watermill recipes, for you to try out at home.

A montage of some of the Watermill recipes you can cook during our second ‘virtual’ painting week.

I have also made a short Facebook slide show with these images, so you can see them a little larger and tempt your palate even more. Just click here.

After each painting session there will be an exclusive video of Mike’s demonstration to refresh your memory. There will also be a daily gallery where you can post your paintings and admire the efforts of your fellow participants paintings. and you’ll even have a chance to win one of Mike’s outstanding paintings.

You could win a painting like this
Painting by Mike Willdridge, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.

Mike Willdridge works in a wide range of media and is an enthusiastic and energetic tutor, often encouraging his students to be bold and to take chances. His classes are always light-hearted and fun, with the ‘teaching’ tailored to individual needs. A comment from a previous painter: “Mike Willdridge is a most inspiring tutor whose energy and enthusiasm encourages students to develop both their visual awareness and confidence. His patience and good humour create an enjoyable atmosphere in which students thrive. Another said“Mike is a superb tutor and his online, interactive painting sessions are inspiring and fun.” 

Painting by Mike Willdridge, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
Mike’s demonstration painting of the village lane from the Watermill, made during our first virtual week.

Unlike many online painting programmes, Mike’s will not expect you to ‘look over his shoulder’ for a long demonstration, and perhaps be allowed to ask the odd question or two. No, you will be painting along at more or less the same time, trying out the watercolour techniques that Mike has shown you, step-by-step. He will demonstrate some basic techniques for only a few minutes before you start painting the same subject at home. Then, after you have had your turn, Mike will move onto the next part of the process. Lois Breckon will be on hand to feed your questions. Each session will last a couple of hours.

And there is more: Lois will supply you with recipes for some of the renowned mouth-watering Watermill dishes, from amaretto mouse ice cream to baked salmon with a pistachio crust.

And there is even more: At the end of the week we will put all the participants’ names into a lottery and the winner will be sent one of Mike’s original paintings from the online course. (To comply with the law there has to be an element of skill in a lottery these days, so were going to ask you a question about the Watermill and its painting locations.

The cost?

It obviously takes a good deal of time and effort to organise the sessions and in administration and personal communications with each of the participants. So we think the virtual painting week at the Watermill is incredibly good value for money: £70 (English pounds) for all seven daily sessions and all the add-ons. That’s just £10 for each one of these inspiring, interactive online sessions. (This is a block booking: If you can’t make it each day, you will still receive access to all the videos, the daily gallery and have an entry into the lottery for your chance to win Mike’s original paintings.

Here’s how to register

Please register for Mike’s virtual online, interactive painting week at the Watermill from Saturday 20 February to Friday 26 February 2021, using our online events organiser, Eventbrite. Just click here.

When you’ve enjoyed working with Mike online, why not join him for real, on his Watermill course next year?

Painting by Mike Willdridge, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
Mike’s watercolour of our millstream bubbling back towards the river
The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

Mike Willdridge

Saturday 28 August to Saturday 4 September 2021 AND Saturday 4 September to Saturday 11 September 2021

Watercolours and drawing (also gouache and acrylics)

To learn more about Mike and his week at the Watermill, please click here.

You can also learn about all our renowned creative courses, in painting, creative writing, knitting and Italian language, by clicking here. We would love you to join us!

Come and join us! For more about 2021 painting holidays, please click here.

Ten Italian habits that add to the quality of life

Fresh produce, local market: two of the secrets of Italian well-being. Picture: The Local.

One of the many frustrating aspects of the restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic has been the way in which many of the daily habits and routines that add the sum total of human health and happiness have been put on hold,

I was reminded of this reading an article by Patrick Browne in The Local, our Italian English-language newspaper. Patrick listed 10 Italian habits that lead to benessere, well-being, and I thought I’d share a couple of them each day or so in the coming week. Some we can still enjoy, despite the curtailment of our daily lives; others will have to wait a month or so before, hopefully, we are back to some semblance of normal.

So let’s begin at the market and with food shopping. Habit #1, says Patrick, is Go to the market more. He says: “Most small towns in Italy have a market at least once or twice a week, while in the larger cities you can find a market on almost any day of the week. But why make a trip to the market part of your weekly routine?

Red chili peppers on a stall at the Campo di Fiori food market in central Rome. Photo: Andreas Solaro / AFP.

“Apart from the fact that most markets offer everything you could wish for, they also get you outdoors and plunge you into natural light. The world feels like a better place when you’re not under the fluorescent glow of a supermarket bulb.

“The market can save you money too – you can buy the exact quantity of whatever item you need and even haggle over the price if you feel like it.”

A natural follow-on is Habit # 2: Eat local, eat fresh.

Fresh celery and squash (as much as you like) on sale in the Sant’Ambrogio market in Florence. Picture: Bill Breckon

“This is kind of an obvious one when you do your shopping at the market. For sure, Italy is great when it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables as it offers fantastic produce all year round and lets you keep your diet interesting by eating seasonally.”

Robert adds: “The country has also managed to turn many a tomato-hater into a tomato-lover. Who can resist all that flavour?

“A diet based on fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables is normal in Italy and being a “locavore” isn’t trendy or hip, it’s just the norm.”

The Watermill at Posara for painting, knitting, yoga, cookery holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
Tomatoes fresh from the Watermill garden. Picture: Bill Breckon

Happily for us to market in Fivizzano, the walled mediaeval town near the Watermill, continues on Tuesdays and in Florence near our apartment we have the wonderful Mercato Sant’Ambrogio, still thriving in these exacting times.

A picture of the St Ambrogio market taken before the compulsory wearing of masks and social distancing.

Tomorrow we will feature two more of Robert’s tips on La Bella Vita Italiana with the sincere hope that it won’t be long before you be able to join us and enjoy La Bella Vita Italiana on one of our renowned creative courses at the Watermill. Find out what’s on offer by clicking here.

Just click here to find out all about the Watermill’s activities.

I bet this picture makes you smile! Join Charles at the Watermill and smile some more.

We have just received the latest newsletter from our friend and Watermill painting tutor Charles Sluga and I couldn’t resist passing on this wonderful picture of three boys. Charles says: “One of the things I love about my paintings is that they connect with people of all ages and backgrounds.”

These three boys were allowed to purchase a print of their choice for their bedrooms. They chose “Robot”, “Biggles” and “Batman”. They had them framed by Charles’s studio and this engaging image was taken on the day they collected their prints. Charles says: “I can’t help smiling looking at this. This kind of response makes it all worthwhile – just love it!”

Well, we couldn’t help smiling, too, and we hope you’ve done the same. I particularly like the expression on the face of the boy on the right, and the socks of the boy in the middle.

There will be plenty of smiles and much laughter, too, on Charles’s watercolour painting course at the Watermill this Autumn. Come and join us for inspiring teaching, a beautiful setting, wonderful scenery, delicious food and the convivial company of like-minded people. After a difficult year it’s time to look ahead and give yourself a treat.

Painting by Charles Sluga, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
A painting by Charles of the demijohns in the Watermill courtyard.

Charles 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. The paintings above are of a quiet convent, and the wine demijohns in the Watermill courtyard.

Charles is also skilled in acrylics and oils and is happy to teach in those media, too. He not only teaches technique, but also how to think and see as an artist. His friendliness, sense of humour and willingness to impart his knowledge makes his classes relaxed, informal and inspiring.

Painting by Charles Sluga, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays, Tuscany Italy.
Lunch in Lucca by Charles Sluga

A comment from a previous student: “As well as being a talented artist, Charles is an extremely capable teacher:” Another said: “The most relaxing holiday I have had for a long time: lovely accommodation, exceptional food.”

Come and join us for inspiration and laughter. (I made a little 30-second slide show of some of Charles’s work, which you can see by clicking here.)

Charles Sluga  Places available

Saturday 25 September to Saturday 2 October 2021 

Watercolour and drawing (also gouache and acrylics)

To learn more about Charles and his week at the Watermill, please click here.

Get those creative juices flowing, painting with Ali

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

This is the last of our articles featuring the new inspiring tutors on the Watermill team in 2021. We are delighted to welcome an English painter, Ali Hargreaves, who will be joining us for a week-long course in watercolours and ‘mixed media’, from Saturday 9 October to Saturday 16 October 2021.

Her watercolour above, of jugs on steps, captures the sunshine by exaggerating the lovely warm colours. And of the picture below, simply called ‘Window’, Ali says: “I love trying out different techniques and, in this painting, I used an old credit card to produce the textures in the stone work and to print the window frame. I’m always experimenting and believe that this is how we evolve as artists. Therefore, I encourage my students to do the same.”

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

Ali, from Poynton in the county of Cheshire in England, started her working life as a primary school teacher, but after 20 happy years, she changed direction and followed her passion for art. Ali enjoys painting a wide range of subjects and in a range of different media. Her favourite technique is ‘mixed media’, using watercolour as a base and adding all sorts, such as collage, pastel, pen, acrylic and print.  

Ali is also very keen on sketching. She says: “A big part of painting holidays is the wonderful and exciting variety of sketching opportunities. I encourage all my students to sketch as part of the course. It makes us observe what is around us and gets our ideas flowing.”

A quick sketch by Ali of some gentlemen chatting in a town square in Spain

As well as being a great artist, Ali is also an enthusiastic teacher, running classes and workshops that are fun, vibrant and informative. Here’s a comment from a previous student: “Ali is an inspiration. I love her teaching/demonstration style. I learned so much in a short time and I continue to follow her and be inspired by her. I’ve already signed up to join her in Italy next year. Can’t wait.” And from another: “As well as having contagious enthusiasm and making the work fun, Ali also has the ability to demonstrate numerous creative multimedia painting techniques. She works tirelessly on behalf of her students to provide an informative, inspiring and thoroughly enjoyable learning experience.”

Painting by Ali Hargreaves, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
A vibrant watercolour of some houses in Burano, Venice.

I have made one of those fun, 30-second Facebook slideshows with more of Ali’s vibrant images. You can see it by clicking here.

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 (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!

And you will be Cool and Green: all our rooms are air-conditioned, powered by photovoltaic panels which make us self-sufficient in electricity..

Ali Hargreaves, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.

Ali Hargreaves  Only one place left

Saturday 9 October to Saturday 16 October 2021 

Watercolour and mixed media

To learn more about Ali and her week at the Watermill, please please click here.

Come and join us and make 2021 a year to remember.

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