Soon to be setting off: Randy’s Whistle Stop online, interactive painting session

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

All aboard! More than 70 people have already signed up for the Watermill’s latest online, interactive painting session, with the exciting American watercolourist Randy Hale. If you’d like to join them, don’t miss the train!

Randy calls the session Whistle Stop and that’s his trial picture above. We suppose in this instance Whistle Stop means a small sleepy town on a railway, rather than a rushed whistle-stop tour, for you will have plenty of time not only to watch Randy, but to paint along with him during the session, which will last for two to three hours.

Randy will concentrate on demonstrating the whys and wherefores of using negative shapes in watercolours. The session is on 10 December 2020 and it will begin at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, British time. (5 o’clock in the afternoon European time; 9 o’clock in the morning in Denver, Colorado, USA, where Randy lives.) ***Please note that this is a little later than our normal Thursday online sessions, to allow more of Randy’s compatriots in the United States to take part.

The subject, as you can see, is a railway siding, where trains will be loaded with coal to haul down the track. Randy says: “It’s winter, so I figured I’d add snow-covered peaks as a background: I wanted to work with some basic cube shapes.”

Randy says: “I’ve had several requests recently on how to use negative shapes to create strong value contrast.” So he has made this small graphite value study (a thumbnail without much detail) to help him work out where he wanted to save white spaces and where he needed to place darks.

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

Randy says: “Planning is all about making choices, visualizing, painting the painting in my head before I every put brush to paper.”

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

The online sessions, which will be hosted by Lois Breckon, will be full of inspirational tips. You’ll have an opportunity to ask questions during the demonstration as well as painting along with Randy. Please register by clicking here.

When you register for the session you will be asked for a donation. How much you donate is entirely up to you, but 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. With these Watermill online sessions we have created a truly international, online painting community, which we are sure you will enjoy.

When you register, we’ll send you a link to the Zoom session, the reference photograph and picture, plus a suggested materials list and colours for your palette. All those who register for Randy’s course will also receive, after the event, a link to a video of the session, for you to revisit his tutorial in your own time. You will also be able to add your effort to a gallery of participants’ paintings.

To recap: Randy Hale’s watercolour session ‘Whistle Stop’, emphasising the importance of negative shapes, begins at 4 o’clock in the afternoon British time on Thursday 10 December 2020. That registration link again: just click here.

And when you have enjoyed painting along online with Randy, why not join him for his fun-filled, sun filled, inspiring week-long course at the Watermill at Posara next summer?

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

Randy Hale 

Saturday 21 August to Saturday 28 August 2021 

Watercolours

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

We would love to welcome you here.

***I have made one of those fun, 30-second Facebook slideshows, with more of Randy’s paintings, which you can see by clicking here.

Painting by Randy Hale, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
Randy’s impression of the Watermill seen from the walled garden.

Convent calm inspires some of our ‘virtual’ guests’ best paintings

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Here’s how you do it! A still from the video of Mike’s paint-along session.

After Wednesday’s excursion to the seaside of the Cinque Terre, yesterday the guests on our online, interactive Watermill painting week enjoyed the tranquil calm of the Convento del Carmine, an ancient ex-monastery a few miles away from Posara.

And the setting, elegant cloisters (difficult perspectives!) and acres of secluded parkland, inspired some of their best painting yet. Above is a still from the video of Mike Willdridge demonstrating as participants painted along and absorbed his expert tips and techniques. Below is a montage of just some of the paintings they made:

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

A monster thank you to Mike and to Lois Breckon for the immense amount of hard work put in to making our ‘virtual’ painting week such a success.

Today, the final day of our week, we are off to the hilltop village of Monte dei Bianchi, with stunning views of the Apuan Alps, the towering marble mountains of Carrara. We are looking forward to another batch of wonderful paintings.

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

Day Four was market day for our ‘virtual’ Watermill painting group

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

Yesterday was market day in the small mediaeval walled town of Fivizzano near the Watermill and it was here that our international of painters on our online ‘virtual’ week with Mike Willdridge went to sketch and paint yesterday. The results were terrific and above is a montage of just a few of the paintings they sent in after the session. As usual, I have been able to show you just a few of them, chosen entirely at random.

And here are just a few of the many comments from our guests:

“I just want you to know how much this workshop has brightened my days and cannot wait for the next day. We all agree that this has been a great opportunity. You and Michael have outdone yourselves and I deeply thank you both.”

“It is a real delight each day to be participating in such an international group, coming together with our love of Italy and the arts.”

“Thank you both for today — and thank you for letting me know what I would have purchased and eaten at the market!! Delizioso!!! Grazie!!”

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy
An optimistic visitor to the fish stall at the market. Picture: James Martin

Today our guests are off to paint in the glorious seaside villages of the Cinque Terre. We’ll keep you posted on their progress.

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

The December Watermill newsletter is just out…

… with lots of activity and fun: more online painting sessions for your diary, a bite-size Italian recipe, and cheeky new meanings for old words!

Read all about it by clicking here.

I’m in the newsletter too!

Rebecca’s next online session will get you in the festive mood. Will you wear a silly hat or just smile?

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

The celebrated English pastellist, Rebecca de Mendonça, is feeling very festive for her third online session collaboration with the Watermill, on Thursday 17 December. To get you in the holiday mood, Rebecca captures a timeless scene in soft pastels: children building a snowman.

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

But as well as having fun, you will learn a lot about the art of producing vibrant pastel pictures. Rebecca will show you how to draw figures and how to use soft pastels to capture their life and movement.

She says: “I’ll also show you how you can adjust and develop your reference photographs to suit your painting, with just a little bit of imagination and magic!”

Rachel adds: “The online session is suitable for beginners and more experienced students, whether you have used pastels before or not. I am providing a sketch to help those of you who are beginners, either to draw or trace it, so that it is accessible for everyone.”

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

You can ask questions during the demonstration, and a video will be available to watch afterwards, so that you can have a go yourself, in your own time. (As Rebecca will be working quite quickly, you may find it easier to just watch the demo, and then to have a go yourself in your own time, while watching the video afterwards.)

Rebecca says: “Come along and join us, and you can bring whatever form of festive cheer you fancy, be it a mince pie, glass of brandy, silly hat, or just your art materials and a smile!”

Rebecca’s online pastel session ‘Fun in the Snow’ will begin at 2:30pm English time on Thursday 17 December. Please register by clicking here. We ask you to make a donation to help with all the administrative and creative work involved in producing this session. The amount is up to you, but your generous support would be much appreciated

The session, which will be hosted by Lois Breckon from the Watermill, will be full of inspirational tips, as well as being good fun. Before the session, you will receive a materials list, a reference photograph and a sketch of the scene. Afterwards you will receive a link to a video of the session – and you will have the opportunity to display your work, with that of other participants in the session, in an online gallery. That link again to register. Please click here.

And when you have enjoyed learning from Rebecca, why not join her for her fun-filled, sun-filled, inspiring week-long course at the Watermill at Posara next year?

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

Rebecca de Mendonça  Three or four places remaining

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.

(And don’t forget you will be Cool and Green at the Watermill: there is air-conditioning in all the bedrooms, all powered by our photovoltaic cells, which make us self-sufficient in electricity. )

We would love to welcome you here.

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

A medieval village inspires our ‘virtual’ painting week guests on Day Three

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

The imposing Castle of Verrucola and its surrounding village inspired our guests on our ‘virtual’ Watermill painting week to another series of tremendous paintings. Here’s a montage of some of them (chosen entirely at random: I’m sorry if I haven’t featured your painting today) and you can see larger images on a Facebook slideshow, by clicking here.

As well as the painting sessions one guest was also inspired by the Watermill recipes we also supply each of our participants. Eric Drewery, writes: “Thanks again for a lovely afternoon. I am now going to have a glass of wine and look forward to a second helping of involtini di pollo – fabulous!”

Today we venture to the walled mediaeval town of Fivizzano, just up the valley from the mill, where Tuesday is market day. Here’s a sketch of a corner of the market made by Mike Willdridge a couple of years ago on one of our ‘real’ painting weeks with him here.

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

And tomorrow? We’re off to the glorious seaside villages of the Cinque Terre. Is there no end to these delights?

Painting by Mike Willdridge, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
A painting of a café in the village of Vernazza in the Cinque Terre, made by Mike Willdridge during a previous online session.

It’s an imposing castle for our ‘virtual’ guests today

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

Yes, the Castle at Verrucola, with a small fortified village huddling around its ancient walls, is the venue for our 100+ guests on our ‘virtual’ online, interactive painting week with Mike Willdridge.

Each of our guests has received some notes on every location will visit during the week. Here’s a bit about Verrucola:

This castle was first documented in 1044, but there has undoubtedly been a stronghold in this strategic spot much longer and there are Roman traces at the base of the castle walls. In the 13th and 14th Centuries the castle was the family seat of the Malaspina family, who controlled much of the area. The Malaspina lands in the mountainous regions of the Apennines gave them control of (and tolls from) the highways linking the Ligurian and Tuscan ports to the cities of North Italy, making them rich and powerful. Verrucola commanded the road to and from the pass of Cerreto through the Apennines. It was here in the 14th Century that the Malaspina Marquis Spinetta the Great dreamed of conquering and unifying all the Lunigiana, an ambition ultimately dashed in a bloody battle with Castruccio Castracani, Lord of Lucca.

There are many theories about the origin of the name Malaspina, which means ‘bad thorn’.  The most compelling concerns the young noble Accino Marzio who in 540 AD avenged the death of his father by slashing with a thorn the throat of the sleeping Teodoboerto, King of the Franks. The dying king cried; “Ah Mala spina” before expiring. The family motto is Sum bona spina malis; sum mala spina bonis, which sort of means I am a good bad thorn; I am a bad good thorn, which, as mottoes go leaves a little to be desired.

Wish you were there?

Yesterday was a relaxing day painting around Watermill. Here’s a montage of some of their efforts:

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

So you can see these lovely paintings a little larger, I made one of those short Facebook slideshows, which you can view by clicking here.

I also made another Facebook slideshow to try to capture some of the ambience of the Watermill. You can view it by clicking here:

Tomorrow, our guests are off to the nearby walled mediaeval town of Fivizzano, to paint and sketch in and around the weekly market.

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

After arriving at Pisa, our online ‘virtual’ guests are painting at the Watermill today

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

After painting in Pisa yesterday, the international participants on our online, interactive ‘virtual’ painting week going to be enjoying the ambiance of the Watermill.

The week certainly seemed to get off to a flying start yesterday (they ‘landed’ at Pisa airport and painted near the leaning tower), with fulsome praise from the 114 people who are able to join in the session. Some comments:

“I really enjoyed it and I am looking forward to tomorrow. I usually paint with oil and struggle with watercolour and Mike is helping a lot with his explanations and generosity in teaching. The Watermill looks fabulous and hope to one day come for either a painting or language course”.

“It’s been a lovely start to the virtual Watermill week, taking me well away from dark, soggy Manchester, and is going a little of the way to make up for missing the real week with you in September this year. Looking forward to Posara tomorrow!”

“I enjoyed the class so much! I am pretty new to art and have never painted with watercolor over ink and love this technique. I haven’t been to the watermill though I hope to one day when travel is more of an option.”

“Thanks for offering these classes.  Of all the Zoom art classes out there, these are the only ones that helped me actually do art.  When things open up I hope to come to the Watermill for classes “

“An absolute delight, can’t wait for tomorrow!”

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

At the top, there’s a montage of some of the Pisa paintings sent in by some of our guests. As usual, I have selected them entirely at random, so my apologies for those omitted. I have also made, as usual one of those 30-second Facebook slideshows, so you can see the images a little larger. You can view it by clicking here.

We are looking forward to seeing what our international group of painters makes of the Watermill (virtually at least). More news about that tomorrow.  (Incidentally, talking about the international group, the production team is also international: the tutor, Mike Willdridge is in England, the host, Lois Breckon and publicist Bill Breckon are both in Italy, while the video of Mike’s demonstration, made available to all the participants, is edited overnight in New York by Lydia Breckon. What a team!)

Another sighting of our Japanese nightingale

Here’s another fine picture of that beautifully coloured visitor to the Watermill walled garden. It’s what the Italians call an Usignolo del giappone, a Japanese nightingale. A bit of a misnomer really, because these birds are native to southern China and the Himalayas, although there’s been a small population in Japan since the 1980s. The species, technically Leiothrix lutea, was also introduced into Italy and there are major populations in Tuscany and Liguria.

I am told that the bird is normally quite secretive and difficult to see, but this guy found our persimmons irresistible. The golden orbs of the fruit and the bird’s plumage made a colourful subject for our gardener Flavio Terenzoni. The picture above is a still from Flavio’s short video, which you can see by clicking here.

So, as well as our inspiring teaching, our beautiful setting, our delicious food and wine, and our warm and welcoming hospitality, you will also enjoy communing with nature during your creative course at the Watermill.

We like to keep you up-to-date every weekend with the availability of our 2021 creative courses. They are booking fast: we have more than 215 bookings for next year out of a theoretical total of some 250/260. So why not beat the coronavirus blues and book your place and enjoy pleasant anticipation during the winter months? Below is the latest availability of all our creative courses for 2021.

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

Our inspiring painting weeks

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

Keiko Tanabe Places available

Saturday 17 April to Saturday 24 April 2021 

Watercolours 

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

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

Mary Padgett Fully booked, waiting list open

Saturday 1 May to Saturday 8 May 2021 

Pastels (and other portable media) en plein air

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

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

Carl March  Fully booked, waiting list open

Saturday 15 May to Saturday 22 May 2021 

Drawing and watercolours en plein air

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

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

Grahame Booth  Fully booked, waiting list open

Saturday 22 May to Saturday 29 May 2021 

Watercolours

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

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

Sandra Strohschein (1)  One or two places remaining

Saturday 5 June to Saturday 12 June 2021 

Watercolours

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

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

Sandra Strohschein (2)  Fully booked, waiting list open

Saturday 12 June to Saturday 19 June 2021 

Watercolours

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

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

Paul Talbot-Greaves Places available

Saturday 19 June to Saturday 26 June 2021 

Watercolours

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

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

Rebecca de Mendonça  Three or four places remaining

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.

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

Vicki Norman  One or two places remaining

Saturday 3 July to Saturday 10 July 2021 

Oils and watercolours (and other mediums)

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

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

Sue Ford Places available

Saturday 10 July to Saturday 17 July 2021 

Watercolours, pastels, collage and mixed media plus acrylic

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

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

Caroline Deeble Places available

Saturday 7 August to Saturday 14 August 2021 

Watercolours

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

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

Randy Hale Places available

Saturday 21 August to Saturday 28 August 2021 

Watercolours

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

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

Mike Willdridge  Recently opened, places available

Saturday 28 August to Saturday 4 September 2021 

Watercolours and drawing (also gouache and acrylics.)

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

Mike Willdridge One place available

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.

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

Milind Mulick  Places available

Saturday 11 September to Saturday 18 September 2021 

‘Colourful Watercolours’

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

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

Brienne Brown one or two places remaining

Saturday 18 September to Saturday 25 September 2021 

Watercolours

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

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

Tim Wilmot One or two places remaining

Saturday 2 October to Saturday 9 October 2021 

Watercolours

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

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

Ali Hargreaves Two places available

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.


Our elevating knitting weeks

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

Norah Gaughan Places available

24 April – 1 May 2021 

Knitting and la Bella Vita

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

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

Louisa Harding Fully booked, waiting list open

29 May – 5 June 2021 

Knitting and la Bella Vita

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

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

Knitting retreat Three or flour places remaining

17-24 July 2021 

Knitting and la Bella Vita

To learn more about our knitting retreat week at the mill, please click here.


Our illuminating creative writing weeks

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

Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran Places available

8 -15 May 2021

Scriptwriting

To learn more about Laurence and Maurice and their course at the mill, please click here.

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

Jo Parfitt Two or three places remaining

14 -21 August 2021

Writing your life stories

To learn more about Jo and her course at the mill, please click here.


Our impassioned Italian week

Francesca La Sala Two or three places remaining

16-23 October 2021

A novel approach to learning Italian

To learn more about Francesca an her course at the mill, please click here.



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Ready for the off

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

Good morning from virtual Italy! And a warm welcome to Pisa to the 120 people signed up for our unique, online, interactive ‘virtual’ Watermill painting week. We are looking forward to a fun time with an international group of painters.

Our group will be arriving this afternoon and we are going to be sketching and painting around this charming statue in the Piazza dei Miracoli, in which you will find the cathedral, the baptistery and the Leaning Tower.

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

It is probably now a little late to commit to joining our guests for the seven daily sessions, painting along with Mike Willdridge at the Watermill and beautiful locations in the local area. (But if you are keen to do so, please contact us personally at info@watermill.net and we’ll welcome you to the party.)

Perhaps, instead you’d like to join our next online session, with the exciting American watercolourist Randy Hale, whose Whistle Stop railway siding is just waiting for you to paint it.

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

You can find out all about Randy’s session, which takes place on Thursday 10 December, by clicking here. We’d love you to join us!

Meanwhile, we will keep you posted of progress at Posara on our ‘virtual week’. Have a good weekend – and happy painting!