Sketching in Tuscany


Wednesday September 24 ’14

The view to the peaked mountains is glorious.

Rich lilacs, lavenders and pinks in soft layers behind the intense greens coming forward.

Everyone is bright and early on their first whole day and enjoying the breakfast choices along with a tea or coffee.

Today in the Studio we would do our cube exercise. Firstly as you think you know it, on the board, and next as it actually is when looking from YOUR angle at the box in front of you.

This group of is already very able to get the angles and will be well ready when we go to the  mountain top village of Fornovolasco.

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Our timing is just right, arriving for our first coffee of the day, sitting outside the only cafe in town, and take in this beautiful compact little Italian piece of the countryside. The sketching choices are endless.

This bridge, that laneway, this window box, that doorway.  Everything is possible.

Our sketchers had cubes on their minds as they built their houses on the page before doing the detail. Making sure the angles were looking right. If they look right, they’re working. If you don’t see it, don’t put it in.

We have long enough to do several sketches so I’m not putting time pressure on for the first day. Well maybe a little.

I was thrilled and delighted that the sketchers have moved from lines which I call ‘pseudo pencil’ to full clean lines which show much more authority. And it’s quicker. Good work.


Lunch was ready and waiting on our return home, and as you know sketching makes you rather hungry.  Sketches were brought out and sitting at the big outdoor table in the shade of the hot sun, new ones started, or earlier ones completed.

There is something rather lovely about sitting sketching around a big table, with a group of likeminded people, looking out on the Tuscan backdrop, and helping yourself to an amazing lunch you haven’t had to make yourself. Several of our guests have commented on how lovely this is.

We were all fascinated by how different  all the sketches were when lined up for photos.

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Dinner was out tonight in Barga. We’d be dining at Trattoria di Riccardo, a well known Italian Scottish restaurant.  People don’t realise that there’s a big Scottish population in this part of the region. Tonight it was a little chilly so we were very happy to be indoors.

As always the menu is interesting and different enough to give our guests a lovely selection of Italian dishes.

Later before our chaffeurs arrived, we took a quick trot round the lower streets of Old Barga. Just a little tour before tomorrow.

Good night sleepyheads.

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Thursday September 25 ’14

Today was really fun. We started off feelng a bit chilly and discussed over breakfast what we’d wear and how many layers etc. Before heading off in the van we’d mostly gone more summer weight – our clothes, not us! That’s another story.

We would be doing tall cartons to represent the tall houses we would look down on high above Barga later in the morning.

I had to smile as Chris was way ahead me here, and had put out tall cone shapes, and an arch between the ‘houses,’ plastic cups upside down to be little turrets and a tiny cardboard man on top. Last week’s people will be in tears when they see this!

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We talked about the persecutive from above, how the roof lines are more shallow than houses we know, and they can be built at all sorts of angles, all of which makes them a Tuscan village.

I was so pleased with everybody’s efforts. All worked and hardly needed tweaking at all. Good work all, so let’s go to Barga and start with a good coffee.

We wove our way through the winding streets and laneways to Giovani’s and took ownership of a few tables.

As the coffees came out we decided to do the 30 sec hot coffee sketch. Go go go, ok colour down and now you can drink it. Oh they looked good and we certainly knew exactly what our coffees looked like.


Next we’d do the watercolour demo, starting with how to put your pure colours in the lid and work from there. No mixy mixy between the pans. Nope. Against the law that is. You want mud. Best way I know.

Pure clear colour applied in layers does it’s magic.

Now do a sketch of something you can see, and that will be where you’ll try this for yourself.

Silence as everyone worked away and began building colour.

This was so exciting for everyone, and using colour this way will be all you need to do, to get the loose way colour goes over a sketch. This is not a painting. Simple colour over simple lines.

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OMG is that the time! We hotfoot it the Duamo at the very top of the town. We have less than an hour to do the houses sketch and get colour down.

Nothing like a time limit to get you going.

A couple of English ladies stopped by one of sketchers, enthralled by what she was doing. They were so amazed that this was done in 20mins and wanted pics with the artist. You feel like a star.


Down we went to the restaurant the quickest safest way we could find. Head over heels we were trying to avoid. The outdoor balcony was set up for us and the afternoon was glorious. Pasta dishes, salads, pizza were all choices and we made short work of it when presented.

Sketching carried on as it tends to do. A little wine loosens the brush strokes. Oh this is so much fun.

We couldn’t believe the time had flown once again, and several sketchers happily wandered off to look at shops and just explore. Old Barga had woven it’s magic.

Home we went and soon time for aperitifs.

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Dinner was at home and of course was delicious.  I had to laugh as the laughter and conversation was so loud and happy I couldn’t hear myself think!  Yes occasionally I do!!

But that isn’t where the evening ended. We had Roy, a friend of our hosts, a Wine Somalier, present a short talk on 3 local wines and the differences between young and more mature ones, and how the making process is all part of the final taste to each person’s individual palette. Really interesting for all, even for a non wine drinker like me!

Another great day together and we are thoroughly enjoying our Tuscan life..

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  1. Gail Carrick

    I am feeling a part of your sketching group in Tuscany thanks to your posts Erin. Sydney is lovely and warm but Tuscany is where I would love to be.Gail


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