Painting tutor of the month: Tom J Byrne
As we mentioned above, our English oil painting tutor Sarah Spencer is unable to make it to the Watermill this year, so a delightful, gentle Irishman has stepped into her shoes.
He’s Tom J Byrne and he’s our Painting Tutor of the Month.
Tom lives and works in Florence, Italy. Some time back, he was a pupil of our friend, Michael John Angel, Director of Studies at the Angel Academy in Florence – and ‘Johnny’ Angel was in turn a pupil of the great portrait and fresco painter Pietro Annigoni. So, he has an impeccable artistic pedigree.
We like his work so much we recently gave one of his paintings of Florence to a special friend for a special birthday present. Here it is (right):
Tom J Byrne is a landscape painter specialising in en plein air painting. He is from Ireland, where he studied and worked as an artist for 20 years, but for the last 15 years he has been living between France and Italy. In his workshop, Tom will demonstrate in both oils and watercolours.
He says:“The simplicity of watercolours means they are a fantastic way quickly to grasp the principles involved in seeing and painting. Oils give us a very robust and powerful painting which is more easily appreciated by an audience ”
Here’s some work in progress from Tom, another view of Florence (left):
Here’s some praise from former students. One said: “Tom Byrne is a charming host as well as a superb artist. He set up an easy and congenial atmosphere with fantastic food and plenty of wine. Tom is also an inspiring teacher. He’s serious and fun at the same time.”
Another said: “Tom Byrne made the experience a special one by creating a friendly, collegial atmosphere among the guests with relaxed, interesting conversations over delicious Italian dinners. There was comprehensive tuition tailored to suit all levels of experience. I was amazed how much I actually painted while thoroughly enjoying myself.”
Tom J Byrne will be with us from 3 to 10 June 2017 to teach in oils and watercolours. To learn more about Tom and his course at The Watermill, please visit his Tutor Profile Page
2017 Painting courses: the full line-up
As we said our places are filling fast, but we still have plenty of lovely bedrooms (all with en suite bathrooms) and apartment suites left.
Doranne Alden - three places left
13 May to 20 May 2017
To learn more about Doranne, her course at the mill and to see more of her pictures, please visit her Profile Page
Sandra Strohschein - fully booked, waiting list open
27 May to 3 June 2017
To learn more about Sandra, her course at the mill and to see more of her pictures, please visit her Profile Page.
Tom J Byrne - five or six places left
3 June to 10 June 2017
Oils and Watercolours
To learn more about Tom, his course at the mill and to see more of his pictures, please visit his Profile Page
Keiko Tanabe - one place left
10 June to 17 June 2017
To learn more about Keiko, her course at the mill and to see more of her pictures, please visit her Profile Page
Maggie Renner Hellmann - one or two places left
17 June to 24 June 2017
'Courageous Color Workshop’
To learn more about Maggie, her course at the mill and to see more of her pictures, please visit her Profile Page
Lea Nixon - five or six places left
24 June to 1 July 2017
To learn more about Lea, his course at the mill and to see more of his pictures, please visit his Profile Page
Terry Jarvis - course full, waiting list open
1 July to 8 July 2017
To learn more about Terry, his course at the mill and to see more of his pictures, please visit his Profile Page
Sue Ford - three or four places left
15 July to 22 July 2017
Watercolours, pastels, collage and mixed media plus acrylic
To learn more about Sue, her course at the mill and to see more of her pictures, please visit her Profile Page
Mark Warner - three or four places left
22 July to 29 July 2017
Acrylics/Watercolours incorporating conte/pastel
To learn more about Mark, his course at the mill and to see more of his pictures, please visit his Profile Page
Varvara Neiman - fully booked, waiting list open
26 August to 2 September 2017
Water-based oils, acrylics and watercolour
To learn more about Varvara, her course at the mill and to see more of her pictures, please visit her Profile Page
Mike Willdridge - fully booked, waiting list open
2 September to 9 September 2017
Watercolours and drawing (also gouache and acrylics with an emphasis on sketching and drawing on location)
To learn more about Mike, his course at the mill and to see more of his pictures, please visit his Profile Page
Nel Whatmore & Rebecca de Mendonça
- one or two places left
23 September to 30 September 2017
To learn more about Nel & Rebecca, their course and to see more of their pictures, please visit their Profile Page
Charles Sluga - fully booked, waiting list open
30 September to 7 October 2017
Watercolours (and acrylics and oils)
To learn more about Charles, his course at the mill and to see more of his pictures, please visit his Profile Page
Tim Wilmot - five or six places left
7 October to 14 October 2017
To learn more about Tim, his course at the mill and to see more of his pictures, please visit his Profile Page
Come and join us and enjoy the magic at the mill!
*** Why not bring your non-painting partner as well?
There’s a generous £250 discount for him/her if they share a room with you - and there’s plenty for them to do. Have a look at our Partner’s Activities Page for suggestions.
Use the 2017 programme link below to view the full list of our inspiring 2017 painting tutors
Very few knitting places left
Lisa Richardson’s name is instantly associated with the Rowan Pattern House. In addition to her designer role there, she manages the pattern editing process and mentors newer members of the design team. She says,“My biggest drive is to people create something that they will cherish for years to come.”
Lisa is also an enthusiastic tutor, winning much praise from her workshop participants. For her week-long course at the mill she has devised two specially designed projects for you to knit: one inspired by Italian lace work (see above (left), available as a knitting or crochet project) and the other (above right), a beautiful, colourful bag that fully justifies her label of ‘the slip stitch queen’.
Here’s a comment from one of our guests on Lisa’s week last year: “Just returned from an outstanding holiday in this most beautiful place. I have been looked after for a whole week and feel really spoilt. The whole experience has been such a wonderful treat. I was apprehensive as I have never travelled on my own before, but all fears were banished from the moment I arrived in the Mill. Bill and Lois are marvellous hosts and made all the group feel at home. Everyone had a lovely room. I had a room with outstanding views, and an en suite bathroom. The bed was really comfortable and huge. Everything is provided and nothing is too much trouble. The food is delicious and prepared from home grown and local produce.”
“Lisa Richardson, our knitting/crochet teacher is exceptional – generous with her knowledge, creative with her teaching and inspiring with her personality. I’ve made some beautiful projects which I can complete at home, made some new friends, and I’ve seen and experienced the breathtaking Tuscan countryside. I think I need to go again!!”
2017 Knitting courses:
Lisa Richardson - two places left (due to recent cancellations)
6 May to 13 May 2017
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about Lisa and her course at the mill, please visit her Profile Page
20 May to 27 May 2017- fully booked, waiting list open
8 July to 15 July 2017- one place left
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about Marie and her course at the mill, please visit her Profile Page
Sarah Hatton - one place left (due to recent cancellation)
16 September to 23 September 2017
To learn more about Sarah and her courses at the mill, please visit her Profile Page
And don’t forget that your friend or partner doesn’t need to participate in the creative course, whether it’s painting, language, knitting or yoga.
We offer them a range of Alternative activities for partners on all our 2017 courses, as well as a generous £GBP 250 discount if they share a room with you.
Why Tuscan roast pork is Greek to Italians
As you know, our new cookery course is called L’arte di mangiar bene, the Art of Eating Well, named after the inspiration for our course, the famous Italian cookbook of the same name by Pellegrino Artusi, published more than a century ago. Our exciting, enticingand appetising cookery course will run from Saturday 19 August to Saturday 26 August 2017.
The cookbook, as well as containing many classic Italian recipes, is full of amusing asides and anecdotes, which we have been sharing with readers of the Watermill bog from time to time. This month we wonder why the Italians call their wonderful Tuscan-style roast pork dish 'arista'. It would seem to make more sense to call it arrosto (roast) or even arrostito (roasted).
Pellegrino has the answer: “During the Council of 1430, convened in Florence to resolve some difference between the Roman and Greek churches, this dish, known by another name at the time, was served up to the [Greek] bishops and their entourage. When they found it was to their liking they began to cry ‘arista, arista’ (good, good).”
Actually, if the Byzantine bishops were speaking Greek, they would have said aristos, which means excellent or optimal (from which we get aristocracy, ‘the rule of the best’). No matter. The Italians, thinking the Greeks were describing the dish itself, heard it as arista and continue to call it so to this day.
There are those who question this story and say the Florentines called the dish arista well before the ecumenical council, but I like Pellegrino’s story better.
The Watermill’s Tuscan cook Mirella Musetti uses tender pork loin for this delicious dish and we serve it every week on our creative courses and we’ll also produce it – and tell you the secrets of its preparation — during our unique cookery week at the Watermill this Summer.
We’ll visit markets, vegetable gardens, olive groves and vineyards. The Italians are the healthiest people in Europe and this is due not just the quality of the food, but to la bella vita italiana, the relaxed lifestyle which means taking time to talk to friends and to enjoy their company, not least in convivial meals around the dining table.
Over the years, Lois and The Watermill team have built a reputation for the quality of their food and we’re keen to share our secrets with you, from antipasti to dolci – and dozens of mouth-watering, freshly prepared, health-promoting dishes in between.
You can learn more about this sun-filled, fun-filled, inspiring course by visiting the 2017 Cooking Programme
Lois Breckon and Team - Six or so places left
19 August to 26 August 2017
L'Arte di Mangiar Bene
To learn more about Lois, her Team and their cooking course at The Watermill, please click here.
The hands have it, in yoga and for the Italians
We only have three or four places left on Claire Murphy’s week-long yoga and meditation retreat Nourish - mind, body and soul, which will run from Saturday 9 September to Saturday 16 September 2017. You don't need to have any prior experience with yoga or meditation, and you can be assured of personal attention, too, as the group will be no bigger than 12 or so. We'll take care of every detail so that you can relax, renew, and spend the week being kind to yourself.Claire’s been sending us a few yoga and meditation tips for you to practice at home and here’s one of them which is particularly apposite in Italy:
As you know, the Italians use their hands a lot in communication – indeed it has been said that they had to make Italian telephone boxes larger than those in the rest of Europe, otherwise people were unable to communicate properly by waving their arms and hands about!
But did you know that hand gestures are an important part of yoga and meditation practice, too? I didn’t until our inspirational teacher Claire Murphy sent me another of her fascinating notes about some of the poses and practices she will be teaching on her yoga and meditation retreat here.
Claire has been telling us about mudras, gestures that are made with the hands – bringing the fingers into different positions that promote the stimulation of the five elements: fire, air, water, earth and sky. She says: “Our yoga postures, breathing and meditation practices promote balancing and normalising of the body/mind energy system and mudras encourage the same.”
Claire says:“We have a tremendous amount of energy in our hands and each finger represents one of the five elements: the thumb is fire (agni), the index finger is air (vayu), the middle finger is sky (akash), the ring finger is earth (prithvi) and the little finger is water (jal).” (The words in brackets are the Sanskrit terms for the elements.)
Claire will particularly be teaching her students here about Pushan Mudra: “We bring the tips of the thumbs to the two middle fingers.The other two fingers (index and little fingers) are extended.The mudra signifies accepting and receiving with one hand and letting go with the other. It is also said to be stimulating for the brain. Given that the mudra is dedicated to the sun god, it is suggested that it helps with the digestive system, which also corresponds to the element of fire (agni).”
Claire adds:“Unlike yoga postures and breathing practices, which are best understood by working with an experienced teacher, mudras are easy to learn and safe to practice solo.”
So, you can try this at home and prefect your technique during Claire’s week-long retreat at the Watermill this September.
We had a wonderful feedback from Claire’s first-ever yoga and meditation course here last year. Here are a couple of comments: “I've just come back from a yoga retreat at the Watermill at Posara and I was extremely impressed by the beauty of the Watermill itself and of its location. The buildings are beautiful and comfortable and the location is green and luscious, with a stream running nearby and plenty of walks available around the mill.”
“The yoga studio is airy and peaceful and the yoga tutor was all we could have hoped for. Also, great food and wine. And all, and I mean all, even a meal in a local restaurant and transfers to/from Pisa airport, is included in the price you pay, no hidden costs”
Claire Murphy - three or four places left
9 September to 16 September 2017
Nourish - mind, body and soul
To learn more about Claire and her course at The Watermill, please visit her Profile Page
A lovely Good Housekeeping write-up for our Italian language course
We are very pleased to report on an excellent article in Britain’s prestigious Good Housekeeping magazine about last year’s Italian language course, written by the magazine’s Travel Editor David Wickers.
David is full of praise for the course, not just the teaching at the Watermill, but the ability to practice the language and savour the true Italian lifestyle. He says: “Wherever we went, we had encounters with real Italians in the hopes of making ourselves understood in the real world as well as in class.”
You can read the full article in the March issue of Good Housekeeping.
This year’s Italian language course runs from Saturday 29 April to Saturday 6 May 2017.
This really is ‘a course with a difference’. Not only are there formal lessons on the vine verandah (some 20 hours in the week), but we also make trips and excursions to savour the natural beauty of Lunigiana, the area surrounding the mill, to explore its history and culture, to sample its traditional foods – and above all, to meet the people, speak Italian, and practise what we’ve learned. We’ve teamed up again with the prestigious language school in Florence, Langues Services, to design a week in which people can learn Italian in the most natural and enjoyable way ever.
You’ll meet Italian people and interact with their daily lives. Your immersion into the language and culture of real Italians will be customised for you, to suit your curiosity and your interests, helping you to treasure everything you learn and make it a seamless part of who you are.
You will have the perfect opportunity to make new friends in the company of like-minded people learning and improving their Italian language skills... and enjoying unspoilt Italy and, of course, fantastic food and wine.
Giulia Balestri - four or so places left
29 April to 6 May 2017
Italian language week
To learn more about Giulia and her course at The Watermill, please click here
Everything's included in your watermill painting holiday, yoga retreat, or knitting week
Don’t forget that everything is included in the cost of a painting holiday, yoga retreat, knitting or language holiday: tuition, accommodation (including all linen and towels), pre-dinner aperitifs, all meals and local transportation (including transfers to Pisa airport; an excursion by train to visit the ancient walled city of Lucca or the stunning seaside villages of the Cinque Terre). All you have to do is to get to Pisa airport and we do the rest. Prices depend on which room you choose. They start at £(GBP) 1,445 per person per week (based on two people sharing), with a discount of £250 GBP for a non-painting or non-writing partner. Single rooms start at £ (GBP) 1,575.
Whether you're travelling alone or with a partner you can be sure of a warm welcome, and that you'll be well looked after. We have built our reputation on the comfort of the mill and the care we provide.
Become a friend of The Watermill at Posara
Visit our Friends Website (Link below). Just follow the instructions to Register as a Friend and then Log In to enjoy special privileges. If you become a ‘Friend’ (it will cost you nothing) you’ll enjoy many exclusive benefits, including dozens of practical and inspiring tips from our international painting and creative writing tutors and recipes from the watermill’s mouth-watering menus. And there will be exclusive offers for Friends to make our courses and holidays even more attractive.
Make a retreat of your own
The mill is a very special place, offering tranquillity and seclusion but at the same time within easy reach of good company and restaurants should you want them. When we're not running courses you can retreat to one of our three self-contained apartments; unwind in the walled garden and by the riverside; and indulge yourself with delicious local food and wine.
All that remains is to wish you a Spring-like from all the team here in Italy. We look forward so much to welcoming you to The Watermill at Posara this year!
We would love you to join us.
With very best wishes a tutti
Lois and Bill Breckon