Monday, October 14, 2019

Artnotes: How We See

We went to Rovigo this week.  Our friend says, “Rovigo, it’s a hideous town,” but when I go there, I think “this is a lovely business street, these are great coffee shops.  And the museum, Palazzo Roverello is fabulous”.   I think it is the artists in us that  see the beauty wherever we go.   My mother used to shake her head at what we “saw”.

This time, the “high” street was hung with Japanese umbrellas, in honor of the museum show “Giapponissmo”.  Giapponissmo celebrates the influence the opening of Japan had, art and otherwise, on Europe.  I honestly had never thought of the giant impact, or maybe it had never been presented as well as in this show.   There was Japanese art from the end of the 19th century, and start of the 20th.  It must have been really shocking, after the chiaroscuro of Leonardo da Vinci, to see these Japanese image which brought every detail to the forefront.  Looking at Japanese prints helps me figure out what to paint, instead of perspective. 

I’d like to see a subsequent show depicting how European art affected Japan; maybe it didn’t have much impact.

Sue and Richard, our friends in Rocca Malatina, are leaving to go back to England.  They’ve rehomed their goats, and the chickens and ducks are in line.  All the dogs and cats are going to the UK, papers in paw.  It’s sad, but a good lesson for me, who has left so many dear friends in order to pursue my dreams.   This may be the first time a friend has left me.  For that, I am lucky, I guess.   I am wishing them the best luck and happiness.

You can’t begrudge a person moving along their journey in life.  If something, someplace, is calling out, one must go.  I used to hate that Christmas movie, “A Wonderful Life”.  I never thought it happy at all, poor George always wishing to see the world, but held back in little old Bedford Falls.  I could never see the joy in it.

We’re thinking about Christmas.  We’d originally hoped to go to the USA, but a variety of issues (mostly money – that car repair put us behind) are holding us back.  So, if you’re looking for an Italian Christmas experience, consider coming here to help us stuff our turkey.  We have a tree with real candles, and a living nativity in the town next door; maybe even snow.  In January, we’ll be painting in Venice – we’ve got a couple of artists coming, and hoping for more. 

What is it about Fall that puts ones eye toward the future?   I like to think it’s the rebirth of the new year.  I actually like winter – naked trees, interesting light.    I have two new fig trees to plant, courtesy of our departing friends.

We’re having an open house for our artwork today, as part of the Chestnut Festival in Rocca Malatina.  Tuesday we’ll flee back to Stimigliano to start hunkering down for winter.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Artnotes: Exotic Animals

Fog in the Hills   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  13 x 30"

Peddling away   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  16 x 12"

End of the Season   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/paper  17 x 25"

Grandmother   Blair Pessemier  16 x 12"  

 Zinnias in Fall  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/paper  25 x 17"

 Butterflies on Gold Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/paper  25 x 17"
 Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/paper  25 x 17"

The New Dish  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/paper  17 x 25"

We went out to lunch with a friend yesterday, at Il Faro (the Lighthouse) restaurant up in the Sassi National Park not far (1 mile) from our house.  Although the building is a box, the situation is a bit like a lighthouse, hanging from the edge of the hill, overlooking the park.  It has a spectacular view, which we’ve painted numerous times.  It is most interesting when the lower levels fill with fog, and it is like looking over a large, white sea.  Only the great “Sassi” (rocks) protrude, and the highest mountains in the distance.

Harika didn’t come, not that she’s poorly behaved, but she isn’t really welcoming to other dogs, especially the larger varieties.  After a drive over to the historic Pieve di Trebbio, a 10th century church, we came home to let her out. 

30 minutes after she was out the door, she staggered, crying up the stairs. I sprang from my chair just as she started careening around the house on three legs.  I caught her.  Her front paw seemed broken.  Her heart was beating wildly: was she having a heart attack?  No, wrong side, and I am not sure it works that way with dogs anyhow.  She dropped into a stupor as we drove off.

There is something about the smell of the vet that makes a dog immediately improve.  Although she could not stand on that leg, she could muster her comportment.  First we described what she’d eaten that day “beef heart”; “you make that for her?” the doctor asked, smiling.  After the introductions, we got down to the physical bits.  “It’s the wrist,” the vet announced, “she’ll need an xray”.   We were shuffled to the waiting room and Harika led away on leash.  “She’s walking,” I cried;   Blair groused about the price.

In the waiting room, the doorbell rang.  It was a couple with a giant blue Macaw.  “She’s only four months old,” they cooed, as they tried to find a shelf strong enough to support the cage.   Then they got out the pictures to show her being fed a cheerio by their son, 2.  “She’s so gentle.”   By now Harika was with us again, eyeing the bird with great suspicion as we awaited results.

The Vet clinic specialized in exotic animals.  I tell them Harika has lived on three continents.  The clinic treats turtles – there are a half dozen outside.  And surgery on snakes and birds. 

“It’s not broken,” the vet announced.  She thought it likely Harika’s leg fell into a hole while running around the yard.   They gave her a blood test, with immediate results (like a young dog!).  Now Harika is on bedrest and anti-inflammatories.

We’ve begun preparation for the art exhibit at our house in Rocca Malatina next Sunday.   We’ve added our own pictures to the main entry room, and all the way up the stairs to the tower.   The music room will become the “works on paper” gallery.   The Art Show is in conjunction with the Festa della Castagna (the chestnut festival). 

Monday, September 30, 2019

Artnotes: A Kiss in the Dark

Ship in the Night   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 12"  30 x 30cm   195.00

Under the Bridge  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  16 x 20"  40 x 50cm   230.00

At the Borghese   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  13 x 18"  33 x 41cm   275.00

Filagree  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas panel   14 x 10"  35 x 25cm  225.00
In Stimigliano, where we are this weekend, there is a little pathway called the Vicolo del Bacio:  the Way of the Kiss.  It’s a little secret shortcut street that might provide cover for a romantic tryst.  Currently, Mauro, an artist from Rome, has an art installation there – red and pink paper hearts lead the way to his little stand, and at night candles direct you.   He has paper and pencils and invites visitors to make a little poem for the street – the best poem will win a painting of his.  He really spruced up the alleyway, normally a hangout for the street cats. 

Of course, Blair and I always kiss when we go that way. Blair submitted a poem and I am thinking about it…  I am not such a poet, and contests don’t thrill me.  Blair loves contests, ever since he won the coloring contest on the back of the Post cereal box in the late 1950s.  He joins whatever competitions he can.  He got a t-shirt from la Poste’s poetry contest in Paris in 1994.   I hate losing.

It’s been a kissing week.  I have seen photos of (the recently passed) Jacques Chirac kissing many ladies’ hands.  I remember the first time a man every kissed my hand.  I was in the Frick museum, I was 18 or 19 years old, and a man who worked at the museum took my hand ever so gently and kissed it.  It was still the days when I could blush, and I did so, ferociously.   It made me smile then, and I smile as I write this.
Since then, I have had the pleasure of having my hand kissed, many times, in Paris, often by French men, but equally perhaps by men of Eastern European heritage.  Maybe by an Italian or two. It’s the greatest thing.  Most American guys just can’t do it.

We’ve been visiting with friends in Rome.  We took them on a painting foray in the Borghese Gardens yesterday.   I have absolutely loved painting there, and this Saturday was no exception.  We painted the “aviary” near the Villa Borghese, with its filigree bird cages on top. It was a challenge.  We drank prosecco to dampen the stress.

Then we walked (a little too far) over to the little pond and had lunch.  Now that I live in the country, seeing people from all nations, some beautiful dressed, is the most exciting thing I can think of.   I saw a woman, a bit heavy set, in the most beautiful blue patterned dress with a lacy shawl; another skinny girl in a white t-shirt that hung on her shoulders just like it was on a clothes hanger – somehow it looked great with the shiny little black skirt she wore.  I listened to a man from Iowa talking to a man from Chicago; a Chinese family took photos of one another.  The Bangladeshi selfie-stick sellers were everywhere.  I’ve developed a new tolerance for all this humanity, and in fact, I embrace it.

Today, we’re taking our guests for a drive in the Sabina countryside.  We’ll go to Farfa, one of my favorite spots and eat lunch.  And touch humanity.
Paris Cafe Birds   Blair Pessemier  Pen/paper  10 x 7"  100 each 175.00 pair

Want to paint with us in Rome?  Send me an email at, or check out all of our painting workshops: 
Was this email forwarded to you?  Sign up for your own subscription to Artnotes.


Sunday, September 22, 2019

Artnotes: Maybe Next Week

Pond, Borghese Gardens  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  11 x 18   27 x 46cm   250.00

Pond at Borghese Gardens   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas   Sold

 Madagascar Circus   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  14 x 29.5   35 x 75cm  325.00

Circus Vignola   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas 16 x 24  40 x 60cm 395.00

Chickens  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/paper  17 x 25  41 x 63cm

Last Beach Day Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  14 x 16"  35 x 40cm 295.00

Portrait by Blair

There’s the most attractive moth on our front doormat right now.  He is a camel color with totally fuzzy head and long backward turning antennae (I try to find his technical name on Internet, but moth information is somewhat limited.  As near as I can tell, he’s a Wainscot Moth, or Mythimna pallens).  It’s the time of year insects are struggling to live, to reproduce, to last as long as possible or hunker down for next year.  Butterflies, bees, and whatnot are extracting the last bit of nectar from the flowers that are just barely hanging on.   Yellowjackets are after my lunch.

It happened overnight, it seems, this transition from sweltering hot to surprisingly cold.  I look forward to taking walks in the morning again, and am happy to be wearing socks.   Mosquitoes are diminishing. 

 I am getting ready for a big show at our house on the 13 and 20 October, to coincide with the Castagna (chestnut) festival.    I am trying to figure out how to leave doors open for light and air, but keep the heat inside.   I’d like to find a yurt (ger) I can set up in our dining room and live in it, here, for the winter.

We’re painting outside again, and yesterday we stood on the street to paint the circus tents in Vignola.  Everyone from the circus came and admired our work.  They asked us to be their guests at their performance, but we had a prior engagement at a show in Guiglia, part of an event there.   I refer to it as “The Gruel Festival”, but in fact, it’s the Sagra della Polenta, where you eat tasteless corn based slop covered with ragu or cheap cream, served in a plastic bowl with a plastic spoon (washed down with bubbly red wine: Lambrusco).  People here love it.   It makes me think of prison (but that would be gruel without topping), or something medieval, not totally inappropriate in the shadow of the 13th century castle in Guiglia.

I actually like polenta, prepared and served well, which is a rarity.  I prefer grits, the Southern US “polenta”.  Grits are made with white corn (hominy), as opposed to polenta, which is made with yellow corn.  Grits have a finer texture, and either grits or polenta can easily be made to resemble wallpaper paste.  One of my most memorable meals, eaten with my friend Vicki, in High Point, North Carolina was a Shrimp and Grits dish.  Those grits had the slightest crunchiness, the shrimp were perfectly cooked, served with a grinding of coarsely ground pepper.  I can still taste it.

I’d love to take all this Italian food like Mama used to make, and add fresh, new 21st century tastes.  Pizza with duck breast and cherries; a tuna and lemon frittata; polenta with shrimp and ground pepper.   Maybe next week.

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.