Saturday, October 20, 2018

Artnotes: The Dog and Pony Show

Red Vines   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas   8 x 20″  20 x 50cm

Across the Panaro   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  15 x 12″  38 x 30cm

Golden Shadows  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  14 x 10.5″    35 x 25cm

Panaro winding through Fall  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  10.5 x 14″  25 x 35cm

Landscape near Villa Bianca  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas panel 13 x 16″  33 x 41cm

Famous Chef   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/newsprint   23 x 17″   63 x 41cm

Tomorrow we’re bringing our dog and ponies over to the Piazza in Rocca Malatina for the Castagna Festival.  Our stand will be under our orange umbrella, right next to our friend Piero, who is selling his honey.  Of course, we’re not selling ponies, but our artwork of the Modena/Bologna area.  

We dropped our last guest of the fall season off at the train station in Modena on Monday.  We had to go to the Questura to get our visa:  the jury is still out, but we’re looking good.  We needed to get a “denunciation” from the police next door because we lost our original receipt.  It’s the place one goes to cancel a credit card or report a theft or loss.  We were number five in that line, and were able to get through this phase of the experience in just 4 hours.
Our guest had a wonderful time, amazed at Italy and how many people interacted with each other.  The prior guest had a similar impression.   Although we have our fair share of “devices” here, Italians still prefer to speak belly-to-belly.
When I did marketing for our company, Pessemier’s Commercial Interior Design, in Seattle, last century, it was critical to talk to the decision maker, and meet them face to face, five times, in order to get the job.  I wonder how that works now?
We are part of the conversant fabric of our towns:  we visit with everyone.  People stop us and say, “was that you painting at the side of the road?”  Of course, we are the only people here who are painting at the side of the road.  “Let’s have a coffee.”
Color has been limited this fall – or maybe it’s just late shading the landscape.  The temperatures haven’t been cold enough:  no frost so far.  So the yellow have gone instead to rusty green.  The reds are getting stronger in the grape vines.
Truffles have been wormy this year, and the pasta store across the street has decided to forgo their usual super delicious truffle crespelli.  “Vermicelli,” he tells Blair, which in fact, is what the thin spaghetti was named for.  
We did get porcini mushroom crespelli at the Acqua Solferosa:  they were terrific.  It is a rather shockingly local restaurant where we bring visitors seeking a true Italian experience, a la Woody Allen.  Reactions range from enthusiasm to discomfort.  Wild game is served, caught by local hunters.  Tables with families of 20 line the walls; kids holler, men sing, women sit at the other end of the table.  The family, who lives upstairs waits on you.  There are just three small tables for us orphans.  It always costs 25 euros each for 5 courses and wine.
We had coffee at V + T’s house this week.  They are a couple slightly older than us, and we feed their dog treats every morning on our walk.  The give us tomatoes they grow.  The tomatoes are so sweet, it’s incredible.  We talk about the news, about the dogs, about the ever so minor changes around town.
It’s the time the benches are removed from the sidewalks for the winter.   Harika likes to sit by one up on the corner and keep her eye peeled for an arch enemy.  We sit there and someone stops by:  “who runs this show, anyway, the dog?”  We nod.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Artnotes: A New Idea

San Marco  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas 10 x 20″  25 x 50cm

The Flock   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  10.5 x 15″   27 x 41cm

Venetian Lantern  Blair Pessemier  24 x 12″  60 x 30cm  Acrylic/canvas

Fall by the River   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  10 x 20″  30 x 50cm

The sky went from sunny and blue to sunny and pouring in a matter of minutes.  Blair was headed to the Vatican to mail a package.  We have had our ups and downs with the Italian post (and Italian UPS, as well) so we’re trying the Vatican mail.  So far, so good, with attractive stamps and pleasant service – we’ll see when the package arrives.  Blair, drenched to the skin, raced back to the car (manned by me in a no-park zone). 

We made a day of it in Rome, following up with a presentation our painting workshop to a group. This pitch turned out to be a strike-out; the group wanted the workshop for free. But at least it got me to think about what the painting workshop is.

Our painting workshops are not just for those who want to improve their painting.  Of course, we love painters, and there is nothing more gratifying than to uncover a hidden talent.  Other painters inspire us, and hopefully we do the same for them.   But it can also be for people who want to learn how to see like an artist.  Painting unlocks the door to seeing color, to understanding form and composition, to hone one’s focus.   A museum will never be the same, once you know just an inkling of how painting works.

It made me think about a music workshop.  I have a tin ear, and a voice to match, but I love the idea of learning a little bit about the simplest instrument, or tempo, or how sound works.  I am surprised I rarely see a “music workshop”; and certainly never one for a peacock voice like mine.  Just because you are not naturally good at something, doesn’t me you can’t try it, or appreciate some aspect of it.
This week, we took a guest to see Venice for the first time.  Venice is magical -- I love to just ride around on the Vaporetto and sigh.  And it’s always nice to see a guest’s reaction to the city, which is inevitably positive.  We walked through San Marco square, but otherwise wandered the circuitous byways, lesser populated by tourists.  We took the traghetto across the canal, a 2 euro taste of a gondola ride.

Blair wore his “Venice” t-shirt, with his painted image of the city on it; one can be yours for 17.50, plus a little shipping (printed in the country of purchase).   We have an idea to create one for Rocca Malatina, and sell them at the Castagna (chestnut) Festival the next 2 weekends.  We’re always keen on a new idea.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Artnotes: Mosquito

The Panaro River in Fall  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 12"  30 x 30cm  300.00

Painting on the way to Vignola (Marano) Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  10.5 x 18"  27 x 45cm   400.00

Laurie at the Mediterranean (2016)  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  14 x 20"  35 x 50cm  400.00

Colors of the Adriatic (2017)  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas 8 x 20"  20 x 50cm    300.00

Monday, September 24, 2018


Borgo Samone  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas 16 x 24"   40 x 60cm   275.00

Love Lies Bleeding Flowers   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  10 x 14"  25 x 35cm  unstretched  95.00

Sunset from the White Dog  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  14 x 10"  35 x 25cm  unstretched  95.00  

Sliver of Samone   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  10 x 14"  25 x 35cm  unstretched  95.00

Begonia   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  10 x 14"  25 x 35cm  unstretched  95.00
The first day of fall is upon us.  Either one loves or hates fall.  I am in the latter camp.   There is a smell I associate with this season that reminds me everything is dying.  It’s a short season, fortunately, and soon I’ll see the trees in their naked beauty.  I can see the houses which have been obscured by foliage the last six months, and illuminated windows staving off the long night.   I like winter, and even more, springtime.

I should be painting landscapes, although we haven’t had a cold enough night to set the leaves a-color.   In fact, I’ve not been painting much at all.  There are some maples and oaks up here, which turn red and golden.  I might have to color them myself.  You can do that when you’re an artist.

This week we went to a different sort of event:  our local brewery, the White Dog, was having a barbecue and beer tasting.  It started at 8, when the last vestiges of light were leaving the sky.  We’ve had a touch of pollution which colored the lower bits reddish, and the upper reaches were all Maxfield Parish…  Blair and I and our friend (who was really the person who was invited, she being 10 years younger than us, and the crowd, in general 10 years younger than she) sat on a bench and looked over the Panaro river basin.  Because I have gout, my beer tasting is limited.  I convinced Blair India Pale Ale was the way to go and it was fabulously delicious.  I ate many cherries on my return to the house (cherries counteract the gout).

We’ve rearranged the house, which always sets me to rights.  I mean really re-arranged – we removed the library table to the former living room, along with the dining table, creating a super-long table which will seat 14 generously, possibly 16.  The big wing back chairs sit at either end of the table, and the chandelier looks quite grand.    The dining room is now the living room.  We moved the piano in there, so it’s kind of a music room, with the little velvet chairs arranged around a cocktail table: cozy.  Upstairs one could dance in the library, although I think it calls out for one of those artichoke seating pieces.   This set-up might last until after Christmas. 

The chestnuts are almost ready to harvest, and the grapes are sweet and delicious.  The caretaker has abandoned all of the fruit this year, so we have enjoyed tasting them ripe, and right off the vine.  I am using them to decorate my fall table, and awaiting friends to share in the harvest.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Artnotes: Nice Fish

Fields near the Sassi   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas   20 x 14"   50 x 35cm  400.00

Fish for Lunch   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  10 x 14"  25 x 35cm  unstretched  95.00
Tilled Field    Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 12    30 x 30 cm     175.00
Painting in the Hot Sun   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas 13 x 16"   33 x 41 cm  275.00
Petunias  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  10 x 12"  25 x 30 cm  175.00
The Neighborhood   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas   18 x 11" 45 x 27cm 225.00
I just couldn’t get artnotes out in a timely fashion this week.  I got myself into a giant funk, and it took a visit from an old Paris friend to get me out of it.  As we picked  through the bones of two fresh orate (fish), we dissected the merits of Italy and France. 
Of course, it’s a futile exercise.  One place is never better than another -- only different.  We agreed on how wonderful the Italians can be; that Paris is an outstandingly beautiful, intellectual city.  Italy won hands down on the subject of coffee.  

I showed off my library, which never ceases to give me joy.  It’s walls are being primped in anticipation of paintings.  It’s unfortunately warm and humid in there right now – as it is everywhere near Rome.  Even the lady dispensing mortadella samples at the grocery store was bemoaning the heat and humidity.  In past years it has been hot and dry.  The humidity is a new level of Dante’s hell.

I knew things weren’t right for me when I turned down that mortadella – like when Harika is sick, I was “off my food”.  Food is my passion.  Creating new recipes and tweaking the old is my reason for being.  That is something I learned about in France.
Once I am off kilter here, it’s hard to get the washing machine in my head balanced again.  I can go to a doctor and explain a stomach ache, but something as abstract as feeling like a washing machine is harder to explain in another language.   And there’s the nuances:  is washing good or bad?  Am I brainwashed (as a child, I had a hard time grasping that concept)?
In any case, we hung pictures and made lunch and I got far enough out of myself to look around and say, “hey, nice fish!”
Laurie and Blair PESSEMIER

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Artnotes: Hospitality

Orsini Castello  Blair  Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  16 x 20"   40 x 50   

 Santa Severa  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 18'   30 x 45  

The Beach Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas   10 x 14"  25 x 35cm  

The Open Door   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  20" x 8"   50 x 20

In the Garden   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas   12 x 16"  30 x 40cm

We’ve been remaking the library/studio in Stimigliano this week.  I cleaned the fireplace.  We’re removing the hideous kitchen cabinets that line three sides, and sealing the ancient walls in their “patina-ed” state.  We’ll move the non-fiction to lower bookcases (maybe utilizing the ugly cabinets, refashioned), to hang artwork above. The large bookcase remains.  The books are their own kind of art.   We’ve decided to bloom where we are planted, and invite travelers visiting Rome up to Stimigliano for an art experience.
I’m listing my one day painting workshops “in the Roman Countryside” on Airbnb Experience (god willing they accept me).  In any case, I am promoting our work and workshop with Google Adwords.   Stimigliano is a very artsy town, in fact, featuring a gallery and a chapel   created by Mario Bagordo, who lives two doors away from us.
I visited with Mario this week, as he spruced up his modern chapel  (  He was upset that the waste bin by the commune (city hall) hadn’t been emptied in more than a week.  After yelling and jumping up and down, he took the artist’s approach, and put a sign “pop arte” on the side of the can, and posted it to the internet.  It was emptied in an hour.  The power of art (and technology).
Filling out my Airbnb application to offer an “experience”, I have to write what hospitality means to me.  It’s one of those trick questions like the one about team sports, that caused me to fail the essay section of my foreign service exam years ago, despite acing the rest of the test.   Hospitality can be seen from a variety of viewpoints, not only the pleasure of the one guest you are trying to please; if pleasing one involves the displeasure of others, that’s not hospitality.  Of course I didn’t say that on my application.   I know now.
I recall the gracious and fragrant hospitality of the Grand Hotel in Mobile, Alabama at Christmas. Another year we spent Christmas in the Warwick, New York, where we had our own Christmas tree and entertained nightly.  The porters made recommendations and arrangements for our dinners every night, including one at the Russian Tea Room.  In our hotel on the Copacabana in Brazil one summer, they polished all my shoes during the night, including my sneakers.  The Ritz-Carlton Atlanta anticipated our every desire; even if I was stressed from an overnight flight, they smiled and made it better. 
It’s been a long time since we stayed in a fancy hotel.  Airbnb threw a wrench in the works; economy is hard to ignore.  We rent apartments in buildings that were once inhabited by regular folk.  Our last two apartments in Paris were both converted into vacation rentals; in fact our last building was at least half transient.  It changes the complexion of a neighborhood.   Which brings me back to the fact, I must earn money so I can stay in those deluxe hotels once again: enjoying hospitality at my own expense.
I swam in the Mediterranean this week, at Santa Severa, a “free” beach with a castle and waves, on the Western shore near Rome.  It was great.  We both painted pictures, as Harika lounged in the sand. People and dogs of all ages, shapes, and colors were having a wonderful time.   Later in the week, a friend in Stimigliano let us use his pool, while the house wasn’t rented to vacationers.  Now that’s Hospitality!    

Monday, September 03, 2018

Artnotes: and an Olive

 Rainstorm from via Dante  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  16 x 12"  40 x 30 cm 

 Castello Orsini  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  20 x 16"  50 x 40cm

 Tiber from via Dante  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas   16 x 20"  40 x 50cm 

 Blue/Black Hen   LaurieFox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 16"  30 x 40 cm

 Swimming at the Panero   Blair  Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas   18 x 36"  40 x 80cm

Trees end of August   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  16 x 20"   40 x 50 

At coffee this morning we joke with the barman about the tonneau of gentian liquor on the bar.  “Is that Vladimir’s brew?”  of course.  He makes liquor from a local plant.   I tell him how it brought tears to my eyes.  “Do you not drink alcohol?” he asks.

We are back in Stimigliano after months in the USA and in Rocca Malatina.  We’re actually only here for a short visit, and even though we’ve been gone just 2 and a half months, we’ve had a rousing welcome.  Ignatio gave us tomatoes, cukes peppers and an eggplant.  Dario brought the mail he’s been collecting: strictly bills.  He rearranged our lemon trees (which he waters) for maximum sun.  We have a half-dozen big green fruits in place.  We wish a hearty “Buon Giorno” and “Salve” to all.

The road which circles the town is open again – it’s been closed for years for construction.  Now one can double back up behind commune, formerly a medieval church, and find parking.  It leads to our Dutch friend’s house, where Harika thinks she belongs, with Monet’s garden and the infinity swimming pool. The fields are mowed, and the wheat has given way to tilled earth.  There could be another planting this year.

The view from our apartment is fabulous, the Tiber taking on a flat green shade.  The trees are thick alongside, a result of our very rainy spring.  I am itching to take a boat ride, available from near Poggio Mirteto.

A friend from far away just asked me about Stimigliano, and I told him, “it’s nowheresville”.  And it is nowhere.  Nothing big will happen here, but it’s a good place for getting things done.  In Blair’s and my case, we write, we paint.  For 4 euros, we can take the train into Rome, something on the agenda this week.  I promise to send my friend pictures, and info on some houses for sale (they range from 35,000 Euros upward), and a little written piece, which you are reading, about the town. 

Amazingly, we are really part of this Italian hill town.  Because there are less than 50 of us living in the borgo, we all know one another.  There are a few people we don’t take to, or they to us, but mostly, we’ve been woven in, like a couple of bright stray threads, into the fabric of the place.  We don’t agree with everyone’s politics (maybe no one’s), but that’s the case throughout Italy.  Politics doesn’t matter as much here.  In fact, where can one go where philosophies are to our liking?

Blair tells Gianfranco that I drink wine.  I suggest to him we develop a Gentian cocktail.  “A cocktail?” he asks. “With Vermouth, or Club Soda,” I reply. Yes, we’ll call it “The Stimi”.  And add an olive from Sabina.

ps.  in fact, gin was the thing -- and a touch of aperol for fruitiness

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Artnotes: November

Cosmos  Laurie Fox Pessemier    Acrylic/canvas    12 x 16"    30 x 40cm   

Beehives  Blair Pessemier  acrylic/canvas  12 x 12  30 x 30 cm  

Fog Lifting   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 12"  30 x 30 cm  

le Grande Caniche  (resting, standing)   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper  17 x 24"  41 x 63cm   

It was foggy this morning.  That’s nothing new for November, but a bit unusual in August.  The outside world was covered with a soft dew that also imparted a coolness to the air.  It seemed like heaven, although the same situation another time of year could suggest hell. 

You know how it is, don’t you?  You wait, you plead you beg for summer and before you know it you are like, “ok, already! Let’s cool down.”   And the same in winter, when one is mad for the sun and warmth.   I don’t mind the heat during the day.  We can sit in the shade, work on indoor projects, go for a walk after dinner with Harika, when the sun goes down.  But the nights have been quite warm, and I like to shut the windows against barking dogs and passing cars at night.
My flowers are fabulous, but I have a scale bug infestation on my oleander.  I have chopped back, sprayed with soap, and killed many with my bare hands, but I really can’t do anything else until May, when I can spray oil.  In fact, I will try the oil treatment when they are relegated to the basement in November. 
You can see I am thinking about November, when one can open the front door and gasp from the cold air.   Socks.  A sweater.  The frozen dew on the lawn – Harika’a grass gelato.  And we’ll move down to Stimigliano.

I am not the only one thinking cool.  Last night, Ludovico, our caretaker, talked about cutting the pomegranate trees down to bush size in November.   He says we need to change the soil for the oleanders.  The line painters painted the white lines on the sides of SP623 this week, in anticipation of our November fog (in fact, the white line is sometimes all one can see in the fog).   We can only take so much summer.

It’s due to be warm this week here in Rocca Malatina.  I have had the best summer here ever, in any case.  We made new friends, visited with old friends, and played hard in the yard.  We opened the living room to make an indoor/outdoor house:  we have large doors and panels at either end of the room, and when they are both open even butterflies fly through.  I met a musician from New Orleans (was born here and visits in the summer) and we’re taking about a NOLO concert and barbecue in the yard next summer.   Meanwhile, we take our meals beneath the parasol out back and listen to the radio.
It will be November soon.

  PS.  I've been painting a dog for somebody, but just can't hit the mark.  He's a cutie, and offered at a very good price.

Sunday, August 19, 2018


 Roses in a Wicker Basket  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  16 x 14"  40 x 35cm

 View from the Tower Windows   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 24"  30 x 60cm

Trees from the Tower  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  14 x 18"  35 x 45cm

 Roses on a Dark Background  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  16 x 19.5  40 x 50cm

 Harika en Guard  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  10 x 14  25 x 35cm

 Oleander  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  19.5 x 16"  50 x 40cm

 Mown  (Pieve di Trebbio)  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 18"  30 x 45cm

 View From Pieve di Trebbio  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  16 x 24"  40 x 60cm

Rock-hard Pears   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 18" 30 x 45 cm

Today we painted at the Pieve di Trebbio, an old church site at the edge of Rocca Malatina.  We’ve been painting with a new found friend here in Rocca.  She is from Milan, only here for the summer, but she has been a dream.  While Blair and I can paint together, sometimes a third person gives us the impetus we need to GET OUT THERE.

Rocca Malatina has been agog with activity.  We just celebrated Ferragosto, the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.   There was a procession, with men bearing the Mary statue on their shoulders, followed by the Rocca Malatina band, and a collection of “the faithful”.  That evening there was a community dinner (in fact, the fifth night of community dinners), followed by dancing and fireworks.   On Sunday last we went to see the clowns, who entertained children and adults alike.

We went to lunch on Ferragosto at a friend’s house.  There were 28 at the table, which gives me confidence for the 9 I have scheduled tomorrow.  

I have been astounded that we have so much personal interaction here.  In fact, we were never so busy in Paris.  People stop by with baskets of tomatoes and zucchini, or just to visit.  Of course, there are the Moroccan “touts” who come by with rolling baskets of dish towels and Kleenex, underwear and potted plants.  I almost always buy something.

Harika had a traumatic visit this week from a German shepherd who was “on the loose” – the big dog chased Harika, crying and barking, around the yard, before Blair was able to remove it.  Harika barked for over an hour and seems permanently affected (PTSD).  The next day a friend, who has multiple dogs, came by and had a remedy.  It is a bottle which plugs into an outlet, giving off a vapor (all natural, of course), to calm the pet.  Harika became unusually docile and quite affectionate.  I had to turn it off during the night.

We’ve painted all around our yard with our painter friend.  She helps me see what used to be just a boring rock-hard-pear tree in an entirely new light.  Whenever I paint a lot, especially outdoors, I see beauty everywhere.  Yesterday I found myself admiring how good the flies look in the golden sunshine, against a dark background:  yikes.


Assumption  Acrylic/newspaper  Laurie Fox Pessemier  17 x 24"41 x 63cm