Safely bring back your precious oil paintings from a Watermill holiday

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

Oil painting by Vicki Norman called September in Posara

Some of our painting guests that have told us that they are a little chary of trying oil painting on a Watermill holiday, because they are concerned about how they’re going to take their paintings home with them.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.Our oil painting tutor Vicki Norman has sent us some  tips on how to transport wet oil paintings in your luggage. It’s really a very simple and safe way to get your precious pictures home. 

All you need need of some map pins (or panel pins) and a roll of masking tape. Don’t worry if you forget to bring them, we can provide them at the Watermill. So, let’s begin:

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

The first step is to lay your wet painting on a stable flat surface and carefully but firmly push a pin into each corner. Then, balance another wet painting of the same size face down onto the plastic caps of the panel pins to make a pair. See above. Note: you only need pins in one painting from each pair!

Next: Insert pins into the front of your third wet painting and place it back to back with the uppermost painting of the first pair, then carefully balance another wet painting face-to-face and so on until you have created a stack of pairs of wet paintings:

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

Vicki says: “Then, use the masking tape to secure all the way around the outside edge of the stack, repeat this on each of the four edges until you have nicely secured block of paintings. Place the paintings inside a plastic bag or wrap them in some way so that no other item in your luggage can slip between the wet surfaces of the paintings.”

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

She adds: “I have transported up to 20 paintings in this manner in my suitcase checked into the hold on many occasions. If you are concerned you can carry them in your hand luggage where you can keep an eye on them.”

Vicki has made a one-page, illustrated PDF of these tips and we will send you one: just ask in the comment section below. Our thanks to Vicki for providing these tips.

Here are the dates and links for Vicki’s course here next summer:

Vicki Norman
20 – 27 June 2020 
Oils en plein air
To learn more about Vicki and her course at the mill, please click here
Painting by Vicki Norman, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
Vicki’s vivacious painting of Laundry Day.

Maybe (just maybe) we will go for a Lavinia Fontana bedroom

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

Lois commented some time back that in the naming of our Watermill bedrooms I’d failed to take account of the contributions of female artists in the Renaissance and Early Modern period in Italy. I succumbed when we created a new guest bedroom a couple of years ago, which we named the Gentileschi, after Artemisia Gentileschi, currently the feminist’s favourite female Florentine.

But I drew the line at Nellie, or to be precise, Plautilla Nelli, an earlier Florentine painter (she was active in the 1500s) “No guest of ours is going to sleep in a Nellie bedroom,” I said.

I have, however, just read a fascinating article on the online Hyperallergic website (https://hyperallergic.com), which might persuade me that any new bedroom we create could be called the Fontana, after Lavinia Fontana. She was Bolognese, not Florentine, as are our other bedroom artists, but I do like her work. That is her lively portrait of the Maselli family, above.

The Hyperallergic article tells me that in the late Renaissance, Bologna boomed with professional women artists, primarily painters. Of the 300 active painters in the city during the 1600s, around 25 were women — more than in any other Italian city. And Lavinia was the most prominent.

Self-portrait in tondo by Lavinia Fontana – Web Gallery of Art

The article says: Lavinia Fontana asked her fiancée to sign an unusual marriage contract before they exchanged rings in 1577. Fontana wouldn’t be providing a dowry, as was customary in her native Italy. Instead, the Bolognese artist committed to financially supporting her husband, as long as they agreed to live under her father’s roof and she could continue painting in her family’s workshop. Her husband agreed. And with good reason: Fontana was a phenomenal success”. 

Lavinia is considered the first professional female artist active in any European city. She competed with male contemporaries on the open art market, and her career helped pave the way for others. You can read more about her by clicking below:

This Self-portrait at the clavichord with a servant is considered her masterpiece:

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

We have no plans at the moment to create a new bedroom, but when we do Fontana’s name will be in the frame! In the meantime, our guests can continue to enjoy the Gentileschi bedroom, along with the Brunelleschi, Donatello, Bronzino, Ghiberti, Botticelli, Fra Angelico, Ghirlandaio and Uccello bedrooms, and the Lippi and Vasari suites.

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

Vibrant sketches from Joanna

Watermill guest Joanna Capelle, who was a student on David Taylor’s painting course a week or so ago, has just sent me a collection of vibrant sketches and paintings she made during her week here, and she is happy for us to share them with you. The sketch above was made in the marketplace of the nearby mediaeval walled town of Fivizzano where we go to visit the weekly market on Tuesdays. And here’s a colour version of the same thing.

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

I particularly like this study of people chatting over a coffee on market day:

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

And how about these three men indulging in the timeless pastime of chatting and watching the world go by, in the Piazza Anfiteatro in Lucca?

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

Here they are in colour:

I have put together these sketches and a few others in one of those speedy Facebook slideshows (less than 30 seconds), which you can see by clicking here. Please watch it and enjoy.

Thank you very much, Joanna, for sending these lively sketches to us, thank you too for your kind words. Joanna told us: “Thank you both for a brilliant week… You have a piece of Paradise, you all looked after us so well and the meals were delicious and varied. David Taylor was very generous with his time and expertise and we thoroughly enjoyed each new location. I’ve been painting for a long time, but I realise I still have a heap to learn about watercolour! We hope we will return one day!

Joanna’s watercolour of the Watermill courtyard.

However you spell them, Maggie’s painting courses are colo(u)rful fun

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

We are looking forward to welcoming back Maggie Renner Hellmann  (and her charming husband Lou) for not one, but two, of her inspiring ‘Courageous Color Workshops’ at the Watermill next year. We’d be delighted if you were to join us on either, or both.

Maggie’s week-long courses in oils, acrylics, watercolors* and pastels will run from 12 September to 19 September 2020 and from 19 September to 26 September 2020   *Maggie is American, so in this blog we are spelling color her way!

As well as leaving as a much better painter than when you came, you will also have great fun with like-minded people, enjoying the unique ambience of the Watermill. As one of our guests on this year’s painting course with Maggie said: “I just want to express my thanks and appreciation for such a wonderful experience staying at your beautiful Watermill! I loved my room and the meals were fabulous.

“Maggie and Lou were a delight and as the novice painter in the group, I always felt supported and encourage by both of them, as well as the rest of the group. I left with many warm and wonderful memories.  The Watermill is a very special place that will always be a part of me now.” 

The painting above, aptly titled Tuscan Magic, is a demonstration by Maggie, while below is a vibrant watercolour demonstration of the Watermill courtyard

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

Maggie Renner Hellmann is a contemporary California painter who paints with love, passion and energy. Her work is characterized by a unique blend of loose, energetic brushwork and strong compositions of exuberant color. Maggie says: “I love the joy of color and the poetry of brushwork.”

Maggie is also an enthusiastic tutor who has been teaching for more than 15 years – and loves it! Her workshop will cover oils, acrylics, pastels and drawing, sketching mediums including wax pastels and watercolour. She will encourage the beginner and challenge the more advanced painter. Maggie says: “In this plein air Courageous Color Workshop, we will paint in various spectacular Tuscan locations. Our emphasis will be on learning and practicing the core elements of successful paintings.”

Painting by Maggie Renner Hellmann, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
Work in progress: another of Maggie demonstrations, at one of our sensational locations, the castle at nearby Verrucola.

And of the Watermill she says: Tuscan heaven: 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.”

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!

The Watermill at Posara for painting, knitting, creative writing and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Students on one of Maggie’s courses showing off some of their work.

You can see more about Maggie and her course of the Watermill by clicking here.  

Capturing the atmosphere of Mike’s inspiring painting week

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

I’ve had a little bit of fun creating one of those short Facebook slideshows, this time trying in less than 30 seconds to capture some of the atmosphere on Mike Willdridge’s painting courses here. You can see it by clicking here. I hope you like it.

And, of course, you can capture the warm and welcoming atmosphere yourself as well as Mike’s enthusiasm and sense of humour if you join us next year on his watercolour course.

Mike will be with us from Saturday 29 August to Saturday 5 September 2020, giving tuition in watercolours (and also in gouache and acrylics for those who are interested), with a special emphasis on sketching and drawing on location.

Mike is particularly keen on all forms of drawing as a way of recording and responding to everyday events. He constantly uses a sketchbook and will encourage you to do the same, gathering speedy impressions and building up a visual record of your time at the watermill and among the mountains, castles, walled towns and hilltop villages of this unspoiled region of Tuscany.

Mike Willdridge works and 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. He will concentrate on watercolours, but is also happy to help with gouache and acrylics too.

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

We already have six people booked into Mike’s course, so now is the time to book your place, especially as you can take advantage of our Early Bird Discount Offer: £75 (English pounds) off this 2020 painting course if you book before the end of 2019. But early booking is advised as places on all our 2020 creative courses are filling fast.

We do hope you will be able to join us for this fun-filled, sun-filled, inspiring painting course. You can find out more about Mike and his course at the Watermill by clicking here

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

Watermill painting tutor Mark Warner loves to sketch – and he thinks you will too!

Painting by Mark Warner, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy

Mark Warner, who is coming to tutor at the Watermill next summer, carries his sketchbook with him wherever he goes, even on his day off. The sketch above, for example, was made when he went to the wonderful walled city of Lucca, one of our excursion venues on Wednesday, which is technically the tutor’s day off. But, as Mark says, he never stops sketching. He says: “Sketching is at the heart of my work. It is important in the development of a piece and on many occasions, forming an integral part of the painting itself.” Here’s another corner of Lucca, captured with ballpoint pen and watercolour.

Mark Warner, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy

We are delighted to welcome back Mark Warner to the international team of inspiring and sympathetic watermill painting tutors. His course next year is called Colourful Acrylics/Drawing/Pen & Wash and those are the mediums in which you will be working. Mark’s course will run from Saturday 11 July to Saturday 18 July 2020.

Mark, from Shropshire in England, loves working outside – and he leads by example, creating a relaxed and encouraging environment for his students. He developed his passion for landscapes growing up in the West Wales and then moving onto the rolling hills of Shropshire enabled him to experiment further with colour, light and line. Mark says: “I adore using colour while interpreting the light, weather and a love for the materials. I work directly in the field (literally on many occasions!) and from sketches created outside as well as notes/photographs taken on location.” Here is a lovely demonstration picture, of the River Rosaro which runs beside the Watermill, made by Mark on his last visit here.

Painting by Mark Warner, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy

You can learn more about Mark and his course at the Watermill by clicking here. If you fancy capturing the stunning Tuscan countryside with your pen and brush, now is the time to book, particularly with 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, 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!

Find out all about the Watermill and our activities by clicking here.

https://watermill.net/
Acrylic and pen demonstration by Mark of the Watermill from the walled garden.

Laid-back painting tuition in the heart of rural Tuscany

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

We are looking forward to a relaxing painting week with Chris Hughes this coming summer when we are going to enjoy his tuition in watercolours en plein air. Chris has a unique approach to teaching watercolours (which he has been doing the best part of 40 years), which will help you to become a better painter and to develop your own unique style.

Chris, from Worcestershire in England, tells us: “During the week, I will show the watercolour painting and drawing techniques that I’ve developed as a professional artist over the last 40 years. I believe in a laid-back, non-pressurised approach and being in the Tuscan countryside will make the creative experience even better. By simplifying the stages of producing a painting, I’ll encourage you to develop your own style and create your very best work.”

Chris’s course will run from Saturday, 27 June to Saturday 4 July 2020 and we would be delighted to welcome you here. You can find out more about Chris and his course by clicking here. Don’t forget if you book now you can take advantage of our Early Bird Discount Offer: £75 (English pounds) per person reduction if you book before the end of the year. (But as our bookings for next year’s courses are flowing in, it would be wise to reserve your place as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.)

Painting by Chris Hughes, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
A montage demonstrating Chris’s paintmg and drawing skills.

Learn the secrets of successful scriptwriting with Laurence and Maurice

Samuel Johnson, writer, compiler of dictionaries, man about town and intellectual punch-up expert, once wrote: No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.” Watermill scriptwriting course participant Caroline Rixon is no blockhead (far from it), but she made it clear she was not writing for money when she made the comments below about her week-long course here earlier this year with scriptwriting guru Laurence Marks.

She writes: “It is so good I don’t want to share it! What a wonderful place to go and visit. This is my second writing trip and once again the team at the Watermill have made it a unique holiday. It is truly a magical experience. Lois and Bill have creatively combined the rustic charm of the mill with the sumptuous mod cons we all like to enjoy. And no, they have not paid me commission to say all this – I speak as I find and I for one, will most certainly be going back …”

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Members of this year’s Scriptwriting course with Laurence

Well, Caroline has already booked up for our Scriptwriting course next May, as have five others who attended Laurence’s week this year.

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

A comment from another of them, Carmen Gould: “You must consider coming on this course if you wish to write in any form, whether you are a beginner or whether you have already put pen to paper. It is certainly not easy: expect to have your work put through the ringer, but what comes out the other side takes you on a journey to producing something that means something … And. it may well be produced.” As for Laurence: “BAFTA judge, connoisseur extraordinaire of the business, an entertaining and incisive raconteur. The best of the best.”

Why not join our returnees and learn the secrets of successful (both artistic and financial) writing for screen, TV, radio and stage?

This year there is an additional bonus: Laurence will be joined by his writing partner Maurice Gran, so you will enjoy not one but two ‘living legends’ (British Comedy Society).

They will be with us from Saturday 2 May to Saturday 9 May 2020.

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

Laurence and Maurice are famous for such TV hits as Birds of a Feather, Goodnight Sweetheart, The New Statesman and Shine on Harvey Moon. And in a new incarnation, they’ve written hit stage musicals, such as Dreamboats and Petticoats and Save the Last Dance for Me, as well as film scripts and award-winning stage, TV and radio plays. And it’s not just comedy: Marks and Gran are producing serious dramatic works as well. They are currently engaged in writing a series, with Michael Dobbs, (the creator of House of Cards) on Winston Churchill’s secret and mysterious wartime valet!

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

Their unique course at the Watermill will give you insights into writing comedy and drama, and it will help you to craft your work from original idea to final script. While the course will focus on scriptwriting, the insights into structure, plotting, characterisation, dialogue etc. are applicable to any genre. Laurence and Maurice promise you will leave a much better writer than when you came!

But if you want to bag your place, you’d better get your skates on: not only do we have those six re-bookers, but we are also expecting an article in the UK Sunday Times very soon, which is also likely to engender a great deal of interest.

So if you would like to learn the secrets of Scriptwriting from the masters, now is the time to book your place, especially as we have an Early Bird Discount Offer: £75 (English pounds) off this inspiring creative writing course if you book before 31 December 2019. (But as we said, it is probably wisest to book now, since we are expecting heavy demand.)

To recap: our Scriptwriting course with Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran will run from Saturday 2 May to Satutrday 9 May 2020. Come and join us on the road to scriptwriting success. To learn more, please click here.

As Carmen said above, the process is by no means easy, so let’s leave the last quote to the estimable Dr Johnson again: “What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.”

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Llistening to words of wisdom on the vine verandah.

Olive trees, vineyards, mountains, ancient buildings: come and capture the atmosphere of unspoiled Tuscany with Vicki Norman

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

The vibrant oil painting above is of an olive tree in the gardens of the Convento di Carmine, an ancient monastery which is one of our venues during our painting weeks at the Watermill. This is just one of the stunning locations in unspoiled rural Tuscany we will be visiting with Vicki Norman during her week-long painting course, in oils and watercolours en plein air, next June.

Vicki’s paintings seek to capture the essence of the day and the sense of place through the colour and play of the light. You can see this in the Italian study below, of the Apuan Alps, the stunning marble mountains of Carrara, which you will also paint during your Watermill week with Vicki. She says; “I wanted to record the colours of the hills as they receded. The bright yellow of the ginestra at the front contrasted beautifully with the lilac of the marble- capped mountains behind. I knew if I could capture the colours of the moment, I could use them for subsequent studio paintings at home.

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

Vicki specialises in painting on location. She will teach primarily in oils and watercolours, but is happy to help with other mediums, too. Her paintings seek to capture the essence of the day and the sense of place through the colour and play of the light.

Painting by Vicki Norman, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
An oil painting by Vicki called September in Posara
The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

Why don’t you come and find a shady spot and paint the glorious Tuscan countryside bathed in sunlight? Vicki Norman will be with us from Saturday 20 June to Saturday 27 June 2020, tutoring in oils and watercolours (and other mediums on request). You can find out more by clicking here.

Here’s a comment from one of our guests on Vicki’s week at the Watermill last year: “An excellent painting and holiday week. All the trips out to painting locations were well organised and Vicki was very good as a teacher and an inspiration due to her wonderful paintings.”

Now is the time to book and take advantage of our Early Bird Discount Offer: £75 (English pounds) off this holiday if you book before the end of this year. But our 2020 bookings are pouring in, so if you want to be sure of a place is probably best to book as soon as you can. We would love to welcome you here.

Painting by Vicki Norman, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
Vicki’s vivacious painting of Laundry Day.
Painting by Vicki Norman, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.

A dramatic evening picture from a Watermill guest

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

Rose Diamond, who was on Charles Sluga’s painting week recently, has just sent me this lovely and unusual picture of the Watermill courtyard with a dramatic evening sky behind it. Thank you very much for that, Rose.

Rose also comments: “I want you to know how special it was to experience the Watermill at Posara. Last week was magical on so many levels…magnificent setting, accommodations and meals, day trips, and painting instructor.”

We reckon we are in the happiness business and we are delighted if we can make our guests happy. Come and share the Watermill experience yourself: our 2020 creative courses are filling fast. You can find out more by clicking here.