Artnotes Italy Daily

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Especially in Summer

View from Cetona  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/panel  16 x 20"  40 x 50 cm  Sold

​Houses at Cetona   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  16 x 20"  40 x 50cm  

​The View in Rain  Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/panel  16 x 20"  40 x 50cm 

​Wildflowers   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/panel  10 x 14"  25 x 35cm 

Chicken and Hollyhocks   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  15 x 18"  38 x 46cm  

We painted outdoors this week, with two wonderful painters in Cetona, Tuscany.  They were repeat students, who we’ve known for ever so long.   One we met shortly after her birth 17 years ago; the other is her sister of 14 years (we celebrated her birthday on Tuesday!).   We used to paint in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris together.
We stayed in a rental apartment in Cetona, with incredible views on all sides.  The air was perfumed with jasmine and little leaf linden.   I sold a painting I made there.  I also cooked a birthday dinner with 2 cakes (bought from delicious Italian bakeries, tiramisu and apricot sacher torte).  We had a wonderful time. 
Some of the most ancient human settlements in Italy were at the base of Mt. Cetona (then Citona), dating to the Paleolithic period.  Cetona itself was founded around 900.   It is a town built on a hill, and one climbs up or down wherever you are headed.   There was some significant urban dentistry performed here not so long ago, pointing building stones, smoothing out streets.  Vestiges of old hand-hammered iron handrails remained and the layout was still medieval.   The town is very very clean -- there was no gum, no cigarette butts; not even bird poop on the streets.  When I accidentally dropped a bottle of prosecco on the pavement on the way to the car, it was as if a bomb went off.   No windows opened.

There were sun and clouds, and the last day of our painting we stood on a hillside and painted.  The rains came, we all piled into the car; the rain stopped and we got out again.  Sheep grazed on the hillside, guarded by geese.   
We drove to Stimigliano afterward to put that apartment to sleep until September.  Everyone is outside there, trying to get cool. I am struck by how much they are like the birds, roosting and moving a few feet to visit with others.   The cafes enjoy serving drinks and ice tea to all.
We are at Rocca Malatina now, where our friend, I, is adding to our floral heritage.  She’s struck a positive note with Ludovico, our regular gardener, who doesn’t believe in weeding or fertilizer.  They are always picking mushrooms, and I pray nobody is poisoned.  I stick to store-bought.
We went to Miani, our local but very equipped nursery.  We got dirt and bark and plant food, to feed new yellow flowers (st john’s wort), hostas and sun-patiens.  I got my very own tarragon, known here as dragoncello (isn’t that a great name?), which I added to salmon I also bought in town.   While at the plant store, a man was throwing discontinued items from a neighboring store into the dumpster.  We stopped him and took a very large turkey platter, 13 champagne glasses and two coffee cups.   Blair was tempted by an espresso machine, but we held back.   
I am struck by how nicely this universe works, especially in summer.
Laurie and Blair PESSEMIER

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Artnotes: Water

Goose Yellow  Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/newspaper  17 x 24"   41 x 63cm 
​Blair and I celebrated 38 years of marriage this week.  Harika celebrated her 11th birthday:  steaks on the barbecue (for H) and lunch and a visit to Sestola (for us, H, and our guest). 

​Goose Green  Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/newspaper  17 x 24"   41 x 63cm

We’d originally hoped to go to the beach but the weather has been less than ideal.  It’s warm, barefoot temperatures, but daily thunderstorms plague Italy this summer; an unwanted dousing at the shore is no fun.  So we thought we’d go to Sestola where they have an “automated music museum” inside the Castello.

​Baby Bird  Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/newspaper  17 x 24"   41 x 63cm  

On the way, we stopped at the Recycling Store in Montese. It wasn’t open at first, so we were able to vacuum out our car at the adjacent car wash. The cream puff got new tires, new radiator hoses, and new brakes this week, in hope of extending her life for another year and a half. After that I am thinking Hybrid.
While the automotive work took place, we had a rental car for a week, and then borrowed a friend’s car for the rest of the time.  That car had as small setback, so we had been tethered to the house.  It was a joy to cast off our cabin-fever, and we hit the road on Friday.
 At Los Recicladores, Blair bought a dozen glass bottles (we have stopped buying water in plastic bottles and go to a water filtering center in Stimigliano), two futurist-style coffee cups, and a shirt.  I got a skirt and a blouse.  It’s a winding spaghetti road from here to Montese which I drove after getting carsick.

​Rosy  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas   9 x 14"  23 x 35cm   
We went on to Sestola, the gateway to Monte Cimone.  In the winter it is a ski resort, but in summer, stores and restaurants are open, offering scenic outdoor dining.  We sat by the window and ate lemon prosciutto pasta and polenta with wild boar.  There was a giant cloud around the top of the mountain, where the snow once was – there was a sense you could touch it.  Our water in Rocca Malatina comes from here, and it always has the taste of snow.  It is as if there is a teensy-weensy piece of dust the ice forms around – I can always taste that mountain-ness in the water.   Like Switzerland.

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

We went to the Castello after lunch.  Will I ever get used to the fact nothing is open before 3PM?  In this case, the museum wasn’t open until Sunday, a piece of information forgotten on the website.  We walked a bit around the castle before driving home along the Panaro river (a straighter road).  I think about bridge paintings, but fish and fowl are more forgiving.
When I got home, I put our tap water through the Brita filter, filled two bottles and refrigerated them. Almost as good as wine.

​ ​Toes  Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/newspaper  24 x  17"   63 x 41cm  90

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Something to Talk About

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

 Bottle toppers in Terra Cotta  Laurie Fox Pessemier   app.  2 x 2"  5 x 5cm

Because I used to speak to my father every day, I made a point of finding and remember little odd bits of experience I would have, to add to conversation.   Some of that would end up here in Artnotes, but some was too trivial, or too personal, to put into writing.

Nonetheless, this week was chock-a-block with those sorts of things.  First, we went to a fabulous lecture by a Princeton professor at Blair’s alma mater, Notre Dame, in Rome.  He spoke, like a living book, about the “Winged Vision” of the architect/antiquarian Alberti.  I love Alberti’s Maltesta Temple in Rimini – one of my favorite pieces of early Renaissance architecture.   Alberti specialized in adaptive reuse of buildings, and he adored the OLD church, and past celebrations:  the soulful, rather than the ornate pageantry.

When we came out at 7:30, the city of Rome was bathed in that southern Italian golden light exclusive to the area.   Churches and buildings, formerly overlooked, were spotlighted in the light of precious metal.  I hoped for a traffic jam (we drove a rental car, as the cream puff is in for serious repairs).  It was all breathtaking, the light, the buildings (under the aqueduct adjacent to the Coliseum), the driving itself.

Later in the week, I arranged an escapade to the river, where I hope to launch my painting boat.  Blair’s idea of renting a painting boat is gaining ground – no responsibility.  We pulled the Fiat Panda in along the Tevere (Tiber) river at Nazzano, near Farfa, about 20 minutes from our house.  We were the only people driving along the dirt road giving way to boat launches and picnic areas.  Lush greenery hung out over the river.  The boats only give tours on weekends, but it was great to see. 

We stopped at an Agroturismo restaurant, not open on Tuesday, but saw a couple of juvenile boar, still with their striped coats, milling about the restaurant.  The idea of Agrotourism is that all the food comes from less than a kilometer away, and these wild fellows might have been marked.  They were outrageously adorable, and thankfully Harika slept through the experience.

Blair painted room names on the doors of a local B+B this week:  Deluxe, King, Gold.  I drew more pictures of locals in the streets.  Because it is so hot in Stimigliano, everyone sits outside most of the afternoon and evening.  Harika and I sat in a cafĂ© with Mario, our neighbor; he practiced his presentation on the the Rolling Stones and music from the sixties on us.  It’s quite a thing to see, this gathering of humanity, maybe 75 people of all ages clustered around the piazza, the old folks visiting on shaded benches, the kids playing in the sun.   Cliff swallows screech overhead, pigeons coo, and like the people on the benches, the crows cluster on the bastions of our castello, some chattering.

I still talk to my father when I am alone in the car or my room and I tell him the extra things I don’t mention here.  It gives the mosquitoes something to talk about.

Saturday, May 26, 2018



 Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/newspaper  17 x 24"   41 x 63cm
 ​Trees Panaro Spring   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  23.5 x 15.5"  60 x 40"
 Dovecote  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  16 x 13"  41 x 33cm 
​Trees at the River  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  16 x 13"  41 x 33 cm  

​Oratorio Monteorsello  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  13 x 18"  33 x 46cm 

My Dad, “Foxie”, passed away this week.  I had just been there to see him alive, and talked to him only 24 hours before he left us.  It’s a remarkable thing, after 63 years together, he isn’t there anymore.  He was the first person that loved me; he was a witness to all I did, good and bad.   He was my sounding board, and I decided at an early age, if I couldn’t tell him what I was doing, I probably shouldn’t be doing it.  I trusted him.

I feel grief, but I feel more relieved he won’t be stuck in his bed any longer.  He used to run seven miles a day, three times a week.  When he couldn’t do that anymore, at age 70, he walked (“I see so much more,” he admitted).  And he walked up until a few weeks before his death, when he broke his pelvis.  Being in bed just wasn’t something he could tolerate.

Anyway, services are taking place without me being there.  I can’t face, physically nor financially, another trip to the USA with our annual summer pilgrimage looming on 26 June.   The actual burial will be “put on ice” until I arrive, end of June.

Back in April, I made an earlier reservation than usual for our American summer trip.  It also puts us in the Northeast USA in time to be at the Brimfield Antiques and Art Fair in Brimfield, Massachusetts.  We’re sharing a “double” booth with an artist friend, Michael Ince.  He makes prints and wood sculpture and it will be a good fit alongside us.  We are selling our Baseball Show, my Newspaper Paintings, and our usual collection of Fine Art Paintings on canvas.  I have made a couple of catalogs: ;

I am under pressure now to divest the paintings in our storage locker in the USA; without my Dad I have no real place from which to maintain what’s there.   So, we’re “selling out to the walls”.  There may be an art bonfire on the beach at Highland Lake on the 24 July.  I hope not.

I am looking forward to our artshow.  It’s terrifically nerve-wracking but standing face to face with interested buyers satisfies my gambling gene (from my mother, Shorty).  All this week I have been painting, promoting, and eating and drinking ferociously.  I am overwhelmed with an urge to live.   And, when we get back here in August, we’re showing our Italian work in Zocca.   Anything can happen. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

On the Wing

In New England last week, I saw a Pileated Woodpecker.  He was enormous, maybe one foot tall, and I can only think of Woody Woodpecker when I see him.  That dates me, for certain.   I was in Connecticut for five days to visit my aging father, and to boost my sisters’ spirits, who spend so much time taking care of him.

It was a short jaunt, with numerous delays on Air Canada, one of the few airlines providing service from Rome to Hartford, Connecticut.   The leg of our journey from Toronto to Hartford had no lights in the cabin of the dash-8, the flight attendant using her cell phone to decipher coca cola from ginger ale in the beverage cart.   She had that wonderful lilting French Canadian voice which announced “we’ll be flying in the dark.”

I made dinners, drank wine with my sister, shopped at the thrift store, and spent many hours sitting in the rest home.  I thought about building Monet’s painting boat, and the importance of fulfilling all I want to do in life.  I recalled traveling along the Tiber (Tevere) in the train from my house to the airport:  a middle-aged woman embarking and bursting into a loving smile as she encountered a man she’d not seen in an awfully long time.  His harsh demeanor melted and the two were so happy I could feel their warmth.  It’s so important to connect with people, in person.

I returned to Rome, four hours late, to guests from America.  We had a jolly time touring the Sabina countryside for four days.   We visited one of the two best rose gardens in the world, located just 20 minutes from our house, if one knew where one was going.  It had over 3,400 varieties of roses, most of which were in bloom, among 6,000 plants.  We were the only people in the garden wandering about the grounds, on account of the kind, handsome gentleman who let us in without a “reservation”.   The garden experience was intoxicating, visually and olfactorally.  We drove on to lunch at Casperia, on the recommendation of the rose man.

On the drive we saw, for the very first time, one of my most coveted birds, the European Kingfisher.  They are a tiny bird, mostly beak, adorned in blue and orange feathers.  The entire bird is the size of the Pileated Woodpecker’s head.    He was sitting in the middle of the road, looking brilliant, before he flew off.  

I would have liked to paint him at once, but my brain was still someplace over the Atlantic.  I’ve neglected artnotes for two solid weeks.  I can’t let go of the string long enough to let my spirit soar.
On Wednesday we drove up to Rocca Malatina, hopefully this time for most of the summer.    Just as we pulled in the drive a brightly marked pied-wagtail (or ballerina bird) welcomed us.   She jumped with her long spindly legs, and flew on to more adventure.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Where you grew up

 ​Il Casale   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  15 x 18"  38  46cm

 ​Civita Castellano  Blair Pessemier  Acryic/canvas  15 x 18"  38 x 46 cm 

 Fuschia Geranium  Laurie Fox Pessemier ​Acrylic/newspaper  17 x 24"   43 x 61cm 
 Pansy   Laurie Fox Pessemier ​Acrylic/newspaper  17 x 24"   43 x 61cm  
 Laurie Fox Pessemier ​Acrylic/newspaper  17 x 24"   43 x 61cm 

 Laurie Fox Pessemier ​Acrylic/newspaper  17 x 24"   43 x 61cm 
 Laurie Fox Pessemier ​Acrylic/newspaper  17 x 24"   43 x 61cm 

 Laurie Fox Pessemier ​Acrylic/newspaper  17 x 24"   43 x 61cm 
 Across the Street to Vescovia  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  16 x 24  40 x 60cm

​Grape Vines  ​Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acryic/canvas  15 x 18"  38 x 46 cm  

“If Italy could get its tourism act together, it would be the most visited country in the world,”  a friend expounded over drinks on Friday night.  We all have the best tourist experiences here.  We were recounting to him our visit to Tarquinia, which externally had all the romance of visiting a series of cow sheds, but the Etruscan tombs beneath the ground were extraordinary.

We drove to Tarquinia via Viterbo, with friends, and onto Cerveteri, with a lunch outdoors, all a stone’s through from the Tyrrhenian Sea.  An unpopulated beach, with a couple of charming Sengalese selling whatever you might need, was a perfect respite from the hot, sunny necropolis’.  Our guest and I bought flower-lined umbrellas from a Bangladeshi confined to the restaurant.   A perfect day, all within an hour of here.  We dropped our friends off at Fiumicino airport. 

Blair and I enjoy the area, with or without visitors.  Yesterday we went to Orte to paint.  The sun was in the wrong position.  I forget, I admire it from the highway coming from Florence, which means it is at least after 1PM when I see it.  So we pressed on, looking for other painting sites.  On the way, we passed near a local streetfood truck, serving sausage and broccolini sandwiches, and we couldn’t resist.    In the end, we painted quite close to our own town.

We visited the peony garden on Saturday.  There were more than 600 varieties of peonies and 200,000 plantings over about 40 acres.  We were almost the only car of people there, because unless you were in the know, you’d never find the place by the directions on the internet.  It claimed to be in Vitorchiano, near Viterbo, but in fact it was four miles away.   The delightful fragrance announced the place.  The preponderance of bused-in older folk made me feel like a teen-ager.

We’ve been sitting on the benches in Stimigliano, drawing pictures of the locals, something they seem to enjoy as they sit around rehashing local events.  We visit while drawing (I’ll include some pictures next artnotes).  A local, 68 years old, tells us how his son works in Chicago, USA.  “And he says Americans never stop:  they’re always working, always earning money”. 

I guess it all depends where you grew up.