Monday, September 16, 2019

Artnotes: Young Eyes

                Wens   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/Paper  17 x 25"  41 x 63cm  175.00
Blair's working on a new portrait:  final Painting next week
Sphinx Moth from the Front Porch   Laurie Pessemier  Acrylic/paper  13 x 17"  31 x 41cm  100.00

Butterfly from the Garden  Laurie Pessemier  Acrylic/paper  13 x 17"  31 x 41cm  100.00
Our car, the Villa Borghese, is back in action.  Blair took a cheap flight to Paris and then drove the car back to sunny Italy.  All in about 36 hours.  I am almost ashamed to admit how happy I am – it was a constant worry, the 50 days the car was out of commission.  Not for the car, really, did I care, but it was something I had responsibility for, and was awry.

Upon its return, we jumped in the car at once (actually Harika got in beforehand and spent a day sleeping in the back seat) and drove down to the Rome area where we will see two young friends today: at the Borghese Gardens.   I am writing from Stimigliano, to the tune of a donkey’s bray, punctuated by the shots of the “cacciatore” hunting rabbits and wild pigs.  The full moon made it like daytime and the hunter’s sounds began at 5AM.    Yesterday, we saw a very wonderful building for sale here in the walled borgo.   It is too much work for Blair and I but it is tempting, with two giant terraces overlooking the Tiber Valley.

Traveling is so pleasant.  I see things I’d otherwise miss:  a bicycle race, a field of sunflowers, a wedding.  We went to Vescovio to walk Harika on grass, and there was the photographer (our new neighbor here in Stimigliano) photographing families who had been at a wedding.  All the ladies above 12 and below 65 were wearing high-heeled, pointy shoes with ankle straps.  The women were of all shapes and sizes and colors of hair,all ultra-feminine in style.  The men wore jackets of varying cuts, but an almost tuxedo-like black, slightly oversized, was most favored.  Some jeans, some regular slacks.  Surprisingly few tattoos, except for a woman in a sheer dress of a terracotta shade, who had a sort of flying horse on her calf.  On our bench, we were in the center of it all, and Harika was disgruntled to leave, believing that the mass of folks had come to see her.
All the kids there were exhuberant.  I think that because everything is new for young people, they stay happy for a long time.  I try to find things that are new for me, so I can see with young eyes as much as possible. 

In my own backyard in Rocca Malatina, where I have spent a little too much time lately, I had one of those new, magic experiences.  On Wednesday, I saw gazillions of gnats flying around (in several clumps of a few hundred bugs each - swarming, really, or like starlings murmurring) in the yard.  It happens every fall...but today about 50 martinets arrived (like swallows) followed by a bunch of dragon flies, the two groups like airborne sharks, eating all the bugs.  It was something to see.
Not like seeing the sea, which is next on my agenda.  There, I can only imagine what is going on underneath.

Want to see with young eyes?  Paint with us on our 2020

Monday, September 09, 2019

Artnotes: Something Afoot

From Rocca Malatina:
Despite today’s rain and my hobbling gait (I have a cane, made of bamboo, a picturesque prop from this house), we went to the flea market at Savigno.  We’re looking for just the right kitchen clock, as ours gave up.  At the other house, we have an official “Campari” clock, but here, we’re looking for something more suitable to this character, more “paintable”. 

Why am I hobbling?  Because after a shoeless month of August, I put on a new pair of shoes and got extensor tendonitis, an inflammation of the instep.  They weren’t even great shoes.  Meanwhile, I try to keep my foot above my heart (just picture it).

I found a couple of nice outdoor chairs in the attic of this house, that I painted pictures of.  It’s mostly old stuff that makes for good painting – an integrity of materials, I think, and maybe not too smoothed out.

Driving to Savigno, I saw a very picturesque black woman carrying a baby on her hip.  She had gold jewelry and a lovely dress, and that baby sitting baby-style on her hip, chubby legs splayed around Mom’s middle.  They were good for a painting, but alas, a fleeting image.   Most people don’t look that good.  The day before, in Vignola, there were lots of people attending a back-to-school extravaganza, but somehow everyone looked like they were wearing plastic.

I came home and made lunch for us and a friend.  We talked about starting a restaurant.  The other night, when I whipped up a frittata I was thinking it might be an interesting concept, a frittata-restaurant.  Honestly, you can do a lot with a frittata and a little other ingredients:  potatoes, artichoke hearts, ham; or butternut squash, red pepper flakes and gorgonzola; tuna, fennel and lemon.  I like to carmelize the ingredients at the bottom of the frittata – better than an omelet in that respect.  One of our favorite restaurants in Paris, Sancerre, served pretty much only omelets – and oysters, in season, and Sancerre wine.  Our friend has a chef who’s looking for a job.  We’d set up the concept and continue the development.  She’d find the spot and make the arrangements.  He’d run the day-to-day. Not too much standing on this foot.   Frittata, we’ll call it.  Watch out, Taco Bell.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Artnotes: A New Bag of Clay

Zinnias    Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/paper   25 x 17"  63 x 41cm  150.00

I owed someone near Stimigliano 20 euros, since June, and I told them I would be back in August.  So, despite stifling temperatures on August 27, we headed down that way.  The heat was worse than one could have expected.  Harika didn’t eat for the 36 hours we were there; we sat during the day in our apartment with the shades drawn; sleeping was really out of the question, and everyone else sat up all night in the town square, which was kind of fun.   I am really not a hot weather person.
It’s considerably cooler up here in Roccamalatina.  Still, it’s  90 this afternoon.  Just having my feet on the cold stone floor seems delicious.  Harika sleeps in the grass.  Mosquitoes are bad, but I have spray, and coils and plug-in deterrents.  Should I be bitten (already 100s of times), I have a special deactivating cream.  I think mosquitoes will one day rule the world. 
I took up my brushes again this week.  I really only like to paint on newspaper, so that’s what I am doing: 5 chickens and my zinnias.  I am planning my planting strategy for next year:  a field of flowers, including many sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, four-o’clocks, sweat peas.  I can always buy vegetables but I can’t find flowers.  They are so good to paint.

Blair has done another super duper portrait this week.  He’s been our breadwinner of late.  I love this picture, of a young man playing tennis.  It wings its way to America next week.  Bravissimo!
We decided to recharge our batteries with a trip to Faenza.  We have 5 free days of an airconditioned rental car.  There is an artist’s house/museum there I wanted to see:  I’d like to make my house a museum, and am looking for pointers.  Despite the internet site claiming it was open, it was closed.   Can we believe anything?

So we went to the International Ceramic Museum there.  It was a 70s type building, rather stifling inside but chock full of terrific pieces of pottery (from all over the world).   The traditional Majolica (that Italian Renaissance decorated pottery) was fabulous, of course, but the more contemporary work, from Italy and beyond, was fabulous.   Paper thin ceramic, big giant blocks of terra cotta, modern minotaurs.  highly refined finishes were all great inspiration.

I can’t wait to get up to Sandra of Zocca to buy a big bag of clay.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Night of Shooting Stars

I did it.  I put over 100 paintings for sale on my new website: via Etsy.  Its just perfect, for me, at least:  I could do it, and I can maintain it.  I may not be emulated for my website style, but my goal is to sell 100 pictures by Christmas, 2019. Next week, I’ll get the blog under control.

I finished my site just in time for the celebration of San Lorenzo, 10 August  – the night of shooting stars.  I never see any, something about concentrating too hard, I fear; I wish anyhow.  Doing split-second things, like falling asleep or taking a dive into the lake, elude me.  

There was a little two (4) person circus in the plaza last night.  A couple played instruments, sang, did acrobatics; with a bit of slapstick thrown in.  Their main prop was what looked like an oversized swingset with legs and bars that served as instruments.  The front left leg, for example, was drilled with a few holes and strung with wires, as a bass.  There were strings for a harp up in the top of the “A”, and long, metal xylophone bars for pounding.  It was a remarkable thing; reminding me how I used to hammer on my swingset at 65 Prospect Street. Their 12 year old daughter, emerging from the rolling piano,  performed acrobatic feats as an encore.

Almost every night in August we have entertainment like this.  It is very small and personal.  I think it is a particularly Italian event:  it rings of Fellini.  I alternate between thinking how silly it is, and being touched to the heart.   We don’t attend every show, and I love to lie in my bed late at night to the strains of the Zocca Folklorico group in the distance.   It is not too loud, or too flashy, but always romantic.

We have many images, sketches, ideas in our craw for painting these coming weeks.  It is just so warm out that painting, or doing anything, in fact, has limited appeal.  Warm is an understatement for what we are experiencing here – it doesn’t cool down even in the night, and we’re sleeping in 24 (75) degree temperatures.  And, this being Europe, there is no airconditioning. 

I think it is actually better, if one is in reasonable health, to acclimatize to this heat.  It’s (partially) air-conditioning that’s created the pickle we are in now – those gases!  And, air conditioning inures people to the problem of the planet overheating:  if you can’t feel it, you really don’t notice it. 
I have my bathing suit on today, but not sure where to find fresh water. Pools abound, but I hate to swim where fish cant’ live.  The river is only about 3 inches deep.  I’ve been washing the floors to cool down the house.  I read about swamp coolers, but it seems a more difficult fix than the name implies.  For now, I soak my feet.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Artnotes: The Wrench

Boat Repair   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 12"  30 x 30cm  175.00

Tied up along the Seine   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  8 x 14"  20 x 35cm  175.00

Garden of the Bungalow  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas 8 x 16"   20 x 40 cm  175.00

 Hollyhocks  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas 8 x 16"   20 x 40 cm  175.00

Tomatoes!  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 12"  30 x 30cm  175.00

It seems like eons since I last wrote Artnotes:  in fact, it’s just a couple of weeks.  Much has happened, which might dispel any thought you might have that we live a charmed life.   Or maybe we do, just that this time we got the wrench charm.

I am not one to write about a bad turn, in fact, there were many good things which came out of the breakdown of the Villa Borghese (our car) on the high speed A13 highway north of Paris on 24 July:  we weren’t killed by a trailer truck for one.  Towed off the highway by the Police, only to be left for hours in 41/100 degree heat at the side of the road (we never really got our phones to work so well there), with our two passengers and Harika, we survived.   For those more recent subscribers to Artnotes, I’ve already bemoaned the lack of service in France in summer:  well, the car is still outside Paris, awaiting repair and we’ve trained it home to Italy.   We’re hoping for a 15 August repair; the car is still under guarantee.

It was wonderful how kind and generous our friends are:  we stayed on a few extra days with our Paris hosts. We will see them again when we go back to pick up the car.  A Tunisian/Parisian friend treated us to lunch at his restaurant.   An Italian friend picked us up at the train station; another lent a car.  It makes me think of how wonderful it is to be generous, and to receive generosity.  Like Portia’s plea (for mercy), “ It blesseth him that gives and him that takes”.   Thank you, thank you.

We had an extra few days to see two other friends, and we took a very inexpensive place outside the city so we could breathe.  It was a charming two room bungalow in a tiny overgrown vineyard by the Seine.  We both felt that despite how much we loved Paris, it was, health-wise, a good move to seek purer air.   We spent our days finding a car repair shop open in the summer.

Ultimately, we came back to Italy because it’s home: via the train, less than 100 euros each (Harika travels free) – it was actually kind of fun.  We’re having a show of our artwork in Zocca:  A Walk in the Garden.   We are watering our tomatoes, and building a website.  We’d like to remove the wrench charm from our bracelet, but it takes all kinds of experiences to make a life.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Artnotes:: A Big Dish

We are in Paris, visiting old friends.  And as we all get older, we all get wiser and I am delighted to banter about that wisdom.

One old friend recalls sitting at the table of an uncle born in 1870.  O has lived and worked all over the world, and has amassed a weight of experiences.  He is now writing down this information for his grandchildren.   We are hoping to get a copy.

T, a likewise wise and intelligent friend, is now working on Internet security (really, it doesn’t exist).  We bring him a cake (he really doesn’t want), and we sit on his sofa.  My first job in Paris was working for him, seeking American GPS partners for his mapping company:  1993. He is constantly thinking about philosophy and computing. We see each other every occasional and it is a highlight of our trip. I could spend days on end visiting with him, consuming up all of his words.

We have coffee with my friend Y, with whom I have online power meetings every Wednesday.  This Wednesday, we’re at the Rostand, near the Luxembourg Gardens.  There’s an attack cat in the cafĂ© that Harika has learned to ignore.  They are both powerful.  Yukie, Blair and I will go out together to draw/paint later in our trip.

We played Quiddler and ate fish with R and V.  They give us insights into what’s happening on the art and entertainment scene.  Friends from America have come to flesh out our museum visits, and fancy restaurants…  so far we’ve seen the Calder/Picasso show; the Orientale show at the Marmotton; the foundation Louis Vuitton.   It’s a big dish, and I am nearly full.

You can understand it is almost impossible to find that little period of calm time to paint.  So I am recycling some of our Paris images from our near-20 years here. 

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Artnotes: Painting by the Sea

The Yellow Rock (view from our house)  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 12"  30 x 30 cm  195.00​

Phew!  What a week it’s been!  We drove a whopping 16 hours from Roccamalatina, Itay to Concorneau, France, stopping for the night just steps from the geographical center of France.   Harika has been a trooper, to indulge her family’s penchant for seeing friends (and the sea).

We have not been to France for more than two years – I am amazed how well I can understand the language!  Not so much for speaking, but luckily, our friends, a French/German couple, speak English.  In fact, we played Scrabble, in English.  I love to play games.

​The Garden (after a visit to the museum)  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 12"  30 x 30cm  195.00

As we wound our way to an unknown destination, we passed through Italian tunnels, by stone mountainsides, with cascading water;  flat fields of grapes and grain; hawks.   At about 10 hours, the ride was too long, and we were delighted with our clean, brilliantly painted hotel room, with restaurant on premises.  We ate Andouillette, and beef carpaccio (Harika thrilled with our choices),  in wooden cabanas on the grass; wine accompanied, followed by ile flottante. 

​View from Chez Jacky (memory) ​Blair Pessemier Acrylic/canvas  20 x 48"  50 x 120cm  400.00  (rolled canvas)  

But this fare was nothing to compare with our delights from the sea in Bretagne.  We ate at one of the ten best restaurants of my life:  Chez Jacky, an oyster and seafood bar/restaurant/store jutting out over an inlet to the Atlantic.  Here, seafood was harvested in its own beds and served to the customers, with bread and wine.  Simple, fresh and ever so delicious:  giant pools of oysters and crabs and big blue lobsters.   We liked it so much we ate there twice.

​The Spider Crabs at Chez Jacky  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas 32 x 22"    81 x ​56cm   375.00 (rolled canvas)
Of course, we didn’t overlook the crepes of Brittany:  our host was a native of the area, and knew just where to find the best crepes (mine with onion and seaweed).   With our hostess (am I allowed to say that?) we visited a show of “the last of the impressionists” and the local collection in Concarneau – all wonderful.  The next day we went to Pont Aven, home of Gaugin, and where many of his works still remain.  We bought a painting (not a Gaugin) and a dish (that might have come out of one of his paintings) to demonstrate our continued lack of self-control.  Then Chez Jacky.
​Birdie Rock  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas   12 x 14"  30 x 36cm  275.00​

We barbecued sardines, and tuna (fabulous – 5 euros a pound); and I made a sea bass with lemon pasta.  We covered numerous topics from the US to France and beyond; we are all in a transitional period of our lives. They are thinking of leaving Paris, too.

We saw fireworks over the ocean, the night before the Fete Nationale, and in the car once again to drive 5 hours to Paris.   And yes, we found a little time to paint.

​Boulders by the Sea   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 12" ​ 30 x 30cm  195.00

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Artnotes: Summer Reruns

Checking out the Beach  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas 9.5 x 13″  24.5 x 32cm  250.00

Man in the Park   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acyrlic/canvas  12 x 12″  30 x 30cm  225.00

Minding the Baby, Luxembourg Gardens  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas 13 x 16″  33 x 40cm   225.00

Playing Cricket in Paris  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 20″  30 x 50cm  225.00

Swimming Fun   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas panel  13 x 18″   33 x 45cm  225.00

​Playing Cards  Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/cardboard panel  7.5 x 11″  19 x 27cm  180.00

Resting After Play  Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/wood  7 x 12″  17.5 x 30cm  160.00

 Paddling  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas panel  16 x 20″  38 x 50cm  275.00

Back when there were only 3 or 4 TV channels, summer viewing was made up of “reruns”.  It was most troubling for those shows with a plot twist, because you already knew who dunnit. But some programs were really good to watch a second time.  That said, I hope you’ll like my summer reruns of old pictures.

We drove, in the hottest temperatures ever, down to the Rome house.  Our very good friend Kamal and his twin children were visiting Italy and wanted to make a stop to see us before leaving out of Fiumicino.  We see one another usually once a year, in the summer (we were neighbors at the Seaview Apartments in Seattle in 1996).  We made an arrangement for them at an Agriturismo lodging near our apartment.  In view of the weather, we chose a place with a pool.  Seven-year-olds are inevitably happy with a pool.

​It turned out to be a super-duper place.   After a 15 minute drive to Collevecchio, we got to the Agriturismo San Gio before them. It was many acres, with a main house with a porch as large as our apartment.   This shady cover was populated by happy children, playing the piano, foosball, dolls and games.   Ages of the inhabitants ranged from 5 months to 80 years, all enjoying the warm breeze.

“Walk around,”  Marion, the hostess, suggested.  We strolled by the pool and the numerous apartments which might have served farm workers at one time.   Up a slight hill was a tree surrounded by a tent, as large as one might see in the circus.  The tree itself was too big around for five arms;  it was planted 400 years ago, from a seedling that came from Rome.  There were statues of satyrs and saints all around the grounds.  They made for painting fodder:  part of our annual visit is to paint with the kids, one of whom was thoroughly delighted to discover “paint”.   We unfortunately forgot our paintings.​
The children made friends with the other kids – language was less of a barrier for them than for us adults.  They played, we all swam in the pool.  We made a picnic from yesterday’s food and a few things from our local store.  At night there was a barbecue that kept on until midnight.  We talked to Neapolitans who wanted to open a pizza restaurant in America; heard life stories and recipes for a happy life from everyone around the table.   There were grapevines, and kittens and rabbits and a breathtaking view.  We were sorry to say goodbye after 24 hours of solid fun.​
As you likely know, we are experiencing outrageous heat here – it was over 100 for two days when we decided to drive back up North.  Our Stimigliano apartment is part of the “walls” of the hill town and absorbs the heat for a good 8 hours a day.   It is in the (cooling?) 90s here in Rocca Malatina (it was 44C = 111F in Bologna yesterday)…  Harika is suffering and we spent a sleepless night last night to the tune of here maniacal panting.  I toweled her off and held cold compresses on her belly.

I could use a rerun of a cold, rainy summer, and look forward to our foray to Brittany.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Artnotes: Bowling with Shorty

Bowling  at Laurel Lanes  LFP  12 x 12"  

 Yard Frieze  Laurie Fox Pessemier  12 x 101"  30 x 254cm

Firefly in the Library  LFP  acrylic/paper  17 x 25"  42 x 63 cm

Hey, Shorty, how’s it going?  We’re having a whopping thunderstorm – and when I was small, my mom, Shorty, used to tell me “the angels are bowling”.  We all spent a fair amount of time at the bowling alley, so I can testify that the sound of the ball and the scattering of the bowling pins is the spitting image of thunder.  Lightening?  That’s a strike, for sure.

I have never been as grateful for rain as today, after several weeks of hot, sunny weather.  This is the perfect rain:  soft, steady, penetrating the dry earth.  Blair and I will get out there with the shovel after this and plant a few sheltering hedges around the back yard.   Despite watering, my smaller specimens, like lobelia, withered on a particularly sunny afternoon.

For the first time we are focusing our summer in Italy.  Formerly, we traveled to the USA, which we all loved – but this year we can spend “project” time at this house.

Our first and foremost project is to organize all of our artwork, get it onto selling website, and away we go!  We have chronicled more than half of what we have here in this big house.   I think I am going to choose a web-based art selling venue called  It has a “print” option for paintings that I could sell over again and for less; framing is also possible.  There’s the opportunity to let people see how a piece of artwork would look on your very own wall.  It sounds and looks fabulous, but I am not really sure it’s worth the extra investment.

Blair’s project is to get his drivers license.  He takes the test at least a dozen times a day.  He improves regularly, but isn’t perfect yet.  Driving rules are written in a complicated Italian grammatical style – our difficulties are more in understanding the words than remembering the driving rules.  I say our difficulties because I try to study, but I am not sure I am going through with the exam.  I have great difficulty with left and right, and much of the test, written and practical, involves direction.  It isn’t free, either.  It will cost more than 1000 euros each to get a license.

A firefly was flying around our library the other night.  It went into the bathroom and corridor, before Blair opened the hall window to let it out.  Our house is very dark at night and it was so beautiful -- magical, in fact.    For years, I lived in the city and thought it was all happening there.  It wasn’t.
I have been walking, and gardening, but most of all pursuing art work.  Ours is an indoor/outdoor house with wide open doors on three sides.  It never gets too hot inside, except maybe at night.

On Wednesday we had hardly-known guests arrive.  We had met the woman more than ten years ago, and never knew her husband.  They had visited Venice, trained and then drove up from Bologna.  We had a terrific visit, over lunch at the Faro restaurant and a visit to a 10th century church and Montecorone.  She is a great supporter of my art, and an artist herself (part of the mosaic).   I was just finishing up my garden frieze, and thinking how neat it would be if everyone could enjoy summertime painting here.