Campanile Vescovio Blair Pessemier Acrylic/canvas 18 x 13 46 x 33
Fields at Vescovio Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/canvas 12 x 24" 30 x 60cm
Back of Church at Vescovia Blair Pessemier Acrylic/canvas 12 x 16" 30 x 40cm
Dog in the Road, Farfa Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/canvas 18 x 13 46 x 33 cm
The Street at Farfa Blair Pessemier Acrylic/canvas 12 x 24" 30 x 60 cm
The priest raised his finger to his lips to indicate “hush.” Then he proceeded to bless the room, us and our paintings. We were painting in Farfa, Italy, an abbey-town about 30 minutes from our house, and from Rome. There were six of us, our first week-long painting workshop of 2018.
We were painting on the porch of a trattoria, where we were to have lunch. It was raining cats and dogs. In fact, Harika refused to leave the house the weather was so bad.
A woman from the restaurant brought out a plate of cookies that she made. This is my image of Italy: a smiling woman with a plate of food coming my way. “Everything will be alright.” The blessing may or may not have helped my painting: city views, with their tight perspective, are always a challenge for me. It could have been worse.
It has rained every day in the month of March here, near Rome. Antonio, a Stimigliano local, points out “last year not a drop for 4 months!!!” I tell him this is a disaster, we are entertaining four painters from the USA, intending to paint “en plein air”. He shakes his head.
Our first day was slightly better – we painted at Vescovio. Again, the restaurant where we were to eat lunch generously opened their terrace to our easels. By the afternoon the sun had some out and we could paint in the nearby fields, transferring the colors of the Italian spring onto our canvases.
Sunday was not as lucky for painting. Instead, we visited the Palazzo Farnese in Caprarola (named after the goat herders who founded the town). It is an exceptional place, started as a fort, but finished in the second half of the sixteenth century as a summer house for the Farnese clan. I am astounded how modern the Renaissance could be: we took pictures of murals to inspire our own walls.
I haven’t painted outside in a long time, and felt challenged by the task, particularly in the cold and rain. Luckily, each day the restaurants we have eaten at have fireplaces, to cook at, and to impart the feel of light and warmth. The best part of our trip together may have been our lunches: not just for satisfying ourselves, but to see all the people around us. Italy is so much about breaking bread with those we love.