How to improve your painting and drawing: don’t hold on tight!
Here is a simple tip, but well worthwhile trying, from our new watercolour tutor Chris Hughes.
He says: “Holding your pencil and brush as high as you can, and loosely, will give you a much lighter and fluid stroke. If you hold low and tightly, your marks will be tight, too. A high, loose grip will help free you up and relax you from the shoulder. This is such a simple thing to try, but is well worth a go!”
Chris, who will be with us in June next year (details below), adds: “Spontaneous, fluid strokes with the pencil and brush are what we all strive for. It does feel awkward and a little out of control, but with practice it makes a massive difference. Just watch videos of good painters and drawers. They do not hold on to the metal ferrule of the brush, with their nose low over the picture. They are upright, relaxed, looking at their work and at the subject, making confident light and fluid movements, not tight, restricted ones.”
Chris will be joining us for a week teaching watercolours en plein air from Saturday 27 June to Saturday 6 July 2020 and he is keen to show you the watercolour and drawing techniques that he has developed over all his years as a professional artist: “By simplifying the stages of producing a painting, I’ll encourage you to develop your own style and create your very best work.”
As one of his students says: “Chris teaches his technique with patience, humour and generosity: he gave me the confidence to develop a style of painting I can enjoy and develop.”
Both beginners and experienced painters will benefit from Chris’s course, through watching demonstrations and by painting together. He says: “I believe in a laid-back, non-pressurised approach -- and being in the beautiful Tuscan countryside will make the creative experience even better.” You can find out more about Chris and his course at the Watermill by clicking here.
Painter of the month: Vicki Norman
This month’s featured Watermill tutor is Vicki Norman, who produces magnificent oil paintings (and watercolours) of the stunning countryside of Lunigiana, which surrounds the mill.
Her vibrant oil painting (above left) is of an olive tree in the gardens of the Convento di Carmine, an ancient monastery which is one of our venues during our painting weeks at the Watermill. This is just one of the stunning locations in unspoiled rural Tuscany we will be visiting during Vicki’s week-long painting course, in oils and watercolours en plein air, next June.
Vicki’s paintings seek to capture the essence of the day and the sense of place through the colour and play of the light. You can see this in the study of the Apuan Alps (above right), the stunning marble mountains of Carrara, which you will also paint during your Watermill week. Vicki says, “I wanted to record the colours of the hills as they receded. The bright yellow of the ginestra at the front contrasted beautifully with the lilac of the marble-capped mountains behind. I knew if I could capture the colours of the moment, I could use them for subsequent studio paintings at home.”
Another glorious oil painting of
the scenery near the Watermill
Vicki specialises in painting on location. She will teach primarily in oils and watercolours, but is happy to help with other mediums, too. Why don’t you come and paint the glorious Tuscan countryside with her? Vicky will be with us from Saturday 20 June to Saturday 27 June in oils (and watercolours and other mediums). Here’s a comment from one of our guests on Vicki’s week at the Watermill last year: “An excellent painting and holiday week. All the trips out to painting locations were well organised and Vicki was very good as a teacher and an inspiration due to her wonderful paintings.”
Our sympathetic, caring, inspiring 2020 painting tutors
We have exciting new tutors, as well as old friends, for our 2020 painting courses. Choose a tutor, a medium or a date that suits you best – but hurry, places are filling fast. And don’t forget: if you book as a participant on any one of our 2020 creative courses before 31 December 2019, you can enjoy our Early Bird discount of £75 GBP (seventy-five British pounds).
18 - 25 April 2020- still a few places
Drawing and watercolours en plein air
To learn more about Carl and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.
25 April - 2 May 2020 - still a couple of places
To learn more about Grahame and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.
Brienne M Brown - fully booked, waiting list open
16 - 23 May 2020
To learn more about Brienne and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.
30 May - 6 June 2020 - fully booked, waiting list open
6 - 13 June 2020 - fully booked, waiting list open
To learn more about Sandra and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.
13 - 20 June 2020 - still a couple of places
To learn more about Randy and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.
20 - 27 June 2020 - still plenty of places
Oils and watercolours (and other mediums)
To learn more about Vicki and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.
27 June – 4 July 2020 - still plenty of places
Watercolours en plein air
To learn more about Chris and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.
11 - 18 July 2020 - still plenty of places
Colourful Acrylics, Drawing, Pen & Wash
To learn more about Mark and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.
29 August – 5 September 2020 - still a few places
Watercolour and drawing (also gouache and acrylics)
To learn more about Mike and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.
Rebecca de Mendonça
5 - 12 September 2020 - still a few places
Pastels and Mixed media
To learn more about Rebecca and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.
Maggie Renner Hellmann
12 - 19 September 2020 - still plenty of places
19 - 26 September 2020 - still plenty of places
Courageous Color Workshop’ in oils, acrylics, watercolours and pastels
To learn more about Maggie and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.
26 September - 3 October 2020 - still plenty of places
Pastels (and other portable media) en plein air
To learn more about Mary and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.
3 - 10 October 2020 - still a few places
To learn more about Milind and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.
10 – 17 October 2020 - still a few places
To learn more about Tim and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 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.
Knitting with Renée: the Genovese connection
Stefania and Giulia: locally produced yarns
Our new knitting tutor Renée Callahan has been busy planning the projects she will work on with her guests during her knitting week here this summer. As well as designing two exclusive knitting projects, she has also been talking to two local(-ish) yarn producers, Stefania and Giulia, who run a company called Lanivendole, based in Genova.
We are talking to them about providing yarn for Renée’s week and coming to talk to us about their work and their passions for locally produced yarns.
We’ll tell you more in coming blogs and newsletters, but to whet your appetite, you can find out more about these enthusiastic Italian entrepreneurs, by clicking here.
Renée Callahan, whose course runs from Saturday 15 August to Saturday 22 August, is a prolific knitwear designer from London, England, who loves to combine texture and colour to create hand-knit patterns that are enjoyable to knit and remain wearable for years to come.
She has always loved textiles and the technical challenge of knitting: she finds a real joy in producing something both useful and beautiful. Renée studied Fashion Design with Knitwear at the prestigious Central Saint Martins College in London.
Renée says of her Knitting and la Bella Vita Italiana week: “I am already planning some wonderful exclusive projects for the students, which will give us the opportunity to try out new techniques, such as brioche and slipped stitch patterns.”
As ever, the knitting week will combine expert tuition, like-minded company, wonderful food, the delightful ambience of the Watermill and outings into the surrounding unspoiled Tuscan countryside of Lunigiana. To find out more about Renée and her course at the Watermill, please click here.
Our other two knitting weeks next year have proved so popular we are almost completely sold out. The first week is with the celebrated cashmere designer and yarn producer Louisa Harding. We are already full but there may be cancellations, so if you’re interested, please get in touch and we will put you on a waiting list.
For our first ever knitting retreat, where you enjoy the convivial company of like-minded people and the renowned hospitality of the Watermill, but on which there is no tutor, we have just two bedrooms left. Here are the dates and links......
23 - 30 May 2020 - fully booked, waiting list open
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about Louisa and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.
4 - 11 July 2020 - two knitting places left
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about this retreat, please visit our 2020 Retreat Overview Page.
15 - 22 August 2020 - still plenty of places
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about Renée and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.
Don't forget your partner!
And don’t forget that your friend or partner doesn’t need to participate in the creative course, whether it’s painting, language or writing.
We offer them a range of Alternative activities for partners on all our 2020 courses, as well as a generous £GBP 250 discount if they share a room with you.
‘Relaxing and inspirational’: Jon’s Sunday Times verdict on our scriptwriting course
Our thanks to Jon Holmes for a delightful and amusing article a few weeks ago in the UK Sunday Times, about his time as our guest on Laurence Marks’ Scriptwriting course earlier this year.
Jon joined 10 other aspiring scriptwriters in September for an intensive week-long course to learn the secrets of successful scriptwriting for TV, screen and stage.
It was a fun-filled week and the participants enjoyed it so much that no fewer than six of them have already booked up to join Laurence (and his comedy partner Maurice Gran) for next year’s scriptwriting course in May.
In his Sunday Times article, Jon writes: “The Watermill at Posara is a collection of restored millhouses originating from the 17th century and set around a sunny courtyard, with a vine-clad veranda and a rose-covered pergola. It’s enjoying a second life offering creative holidays: week-long courses with experts imparting knowledge on everything from Italian language lessons to knitting and painting. Rather than a shawl or a watercolour of the watermill, however, my companions are aiming to create the new Fleabag by Friday.
“‘You’re not going to create the new Fleabag by Friday,' says Laurence, over home-cooked river trout with chestnut leaves and rosemary. The produce is local, and Bill and Lois, the expat owners, create fine Italian dishes, served with the region’s vino.”
Jon says: “If creativity is your thing, I can see why this kind of holiday would appeal. The mix of work and play is about right, the setting is relaxing and inspirational, and time seems to stand still — save for the distant village bells, which serve as an hourly reminder that my page is still blank.”
Jon’s article is witty and insightful, and you can read the whole thing by clicking here.
For this year’s Scriptwriting course there is an additional bonus: Laurence will be joined by his writing partner Maurice Gran, so you will enjoy not one but two ‘living legends’ (says the British Comedy Society). They will be with us from Saturday 2 May to Saturday 9 May 2020.
Laurence and Maurice are famous for such TV hits as Birds of a Feather, Goodnight Sweetheart, The New Statesman and Shine on Harvey Moon. And in a new incarnation, they’ve written hit stage musicals, such as Dreamboats and Petticoats and Save the Last Dance for Me, as well as film scripts and award-winning stage, TV and radio plays. And it’s not just comedy: Marks and Gran are producing serious dramatic works as well. They are currently engaged in writing a series, with Michael Dobbs, (the creator of House of Cards) on Winston Churchill’s secret and mysterious wartime valet!
Their unique course at the Watermill will give you insights into writing comedy and drama, and it will help you to craft your work from original idea to final script. While the course will focus on scriptwriting, the insights into structure, plotting, characterisation, dialogue etc. are applicable to any genre. Laurence and Maurice promise you will leave a much better writer than when you came!
If you would like to learn the secrets of Scriptwriting from the masters, now is the time to book your place, especially as we have an Early Bird Discount Offer: £75 (British pounds) off this inspiring creative writing course if you book before 31 December 2019. But if you want to bag your place, you’d better get your skates on: we have room for only two more.
An Autumn walk will work wonders for your writing, says Jo
Jo Parfitt, the tutor for our inspirational Writing Your Life Stories courses at the Watermill, recommends an Autumn walk to add zest to your writing. She says in her latest newsletter: “This time of year is perfect for the writer wanting to flex their writerly muscles. Autumn, when the leaves are turning and falling there is so much to ignite the muse within.
“We all know the benefits of going out and walking in nature; it’s an antidote to the winter blues. For me, though, a walk in the woods at this time of year gives me time to think, to clear my head, to devise poems and lessons and to give my eyes the chance to focus on something that is not a screen within a few inches of my nose.”
And as she walks, Jo looks: “I mean really look, at everything I see. And after a second or two focusing on something I make myself come up with an unclichéd description of it. So, the bark of the silver birch could be like old white paint peeling off in sheets from a damp black wall. The spreading branches of the horse chestnut are not allowed to be like arms reaching to the sky because that’s a cliché, but they could be goddess Shiva’s arms or a hannukah candelabra. The few dried and shriveled leaves that cling to the ends of those same branches could be the scorched remains of love letters the tree can no longer bear to read but still clutches with the tips of his fingers.”
Jo concludes: “As you walk among the trees and footpaths, notice how some tree roots might be the feet of marching elephants, others the slender feet and ankles of a pair of ballet dancers, high in en pointe. Might the deciduous yew be jealous of the jeweled colours of the beech beside it, for we all know that green is the colour of envy? Trust me, when you start to play this game you’ll soon find there are 50 new shades of green and that nature and your writing comes alive.”
Jo will be with us in Tuscany this spring, where there will be even more sights to stimulate and inspire your writing your writing. And, of course, Jo will be there every day to help you produce your best work, to find your true writer's 'voice' and to write authentically. Among other things, you’ll discover the secret of SPICE, the seven steps to writing life stories and making them leap off the page. You learn how to:
- Let it flow
- Write about childhood
- Write about people
- Write about places
- Write on a theme
- Write humour
- Write complete stories, with beginnings, middles and ends
Jo says: “You will be empowered to write in a compelling way, bringing your experiences to life."
As one of our previous guests said: “It is a very special and beautiful place, and everything was organised so perfectly. Jo is a great tutor and we all had an amazing time.” Another said: “It was a great week: Beautiful setting, perfect weather, delicious food and some super outings, who could ask for anything more -- and I did quite a bit of writing!”
On the left are some members of Jo’s writing group earlier this year sharing snippets from their lives. One of the group, Sue Reed, tells us: “The vine verandah at The Watermill has been the perfect place to gather to write and share our stories. Last night we all shared a funny story, and the laughter rang out. My life feels so much richer for having met and shared stories with these wonderful people.”
Of course, there’s not only laughter, but tears, too, as members of the group share emotional experiences from their lives, but in the secure and sympathetic surroundings of the Watermill, this sharing can become life-enhancing. As Jo says: "The course at the watermill will provide a safe haven in which to unlock your creativity, write from your heart and hone your writing craft”. And there’s more laughter than tears, with the warm camaraderie of like-minded people.
(Left) Some of Jo’s group last year on the steps of the castle at Verrucola,
a lovely village where we take a lunchtime break (Right)
So, come and add spice to your life stories and learn the secrets of compelling writing, when Jo returns next year. Her Write Your Life Stories course will run from Saturday 9 May to Saturday 16 May 2020. You can learn more by clicking here. Hurry, because we only have a couple of places left.
Jo Parfitt is an author, journalist, teacher, blogger, conference speaker and poet. She has published 32 books herself, has helped more than 100 authors into print and more than 1,000 people to begin writing. Jo's a compassionate, inspiring, and encouraging teacher: her motto is 'sharing what I know to help others to grow'.
The workshop will include several methods and genres and is perfect for anyone wanting to write about their own lives for an effective journal, memoir or blog. If you would enjoy an injection of inspiration in a safe and supportive environment this course is for you. It is appropriate for students of any level.
Our enriching 2020 writing courses
Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran
2 – 9 May 2020 - fully booked, waiting list open
To learn more about Laurence and Maurice and their course at the mill, please visit their 2020 Profile Page.
2 – 9 May 2020 - still a couple of places
Write the stories of your life
To learn more about Jo and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.
In the fresh air or in jail? Be careful when you tell the Italians you’d like to be al fresco
It’s commonplace or us expats to use the phrase al fresco when we want to eat or enjoy an aperitivo at tables outdoors. Since fresco means fresh, it seems to make sense that we’re asking to dine or drink outside in the fresh air. But be warned, fresco as an adjective usually means ‘chilly’ or ‘cool’, and as a noun it is used to describe a cool place: Metti il vino bianco al fresco, put the white wine somewhere cool. And the phrase al fresco is used colloquially to mean ‘in prison’.
So, potremmo essere al fresco? might just be translated as ‘Could we be cool?’ but is more likely to be understood as ‘Could we be in jail?’
An indoor lunch:
cool but not in jail!
We are indebted to a recent article in the The Local, an English-language Italian newspaper, which tells us while the phrase stare fresco literally translates as ‘stay cool’, in Italian it has negative rather than laid-back connotations: getting into trouble, or waiting in vain. Se continui così, stai fresco, ‘If you carry on like that, you're in trouble’. Or Se ti aspetti che quello ti aiuti, stai fresco, ‘If you expect me to help you, you'll be disappointed.’
If you want to be outside it’s best to say a fuori, or perhaps all'aria aperta, ‘in the open air’.
Learning Italian a fuori
on the Watermill vine verandah
You will be able to distinguish open-air dining from a jail sentence, and much else besides, when you join our Italian language course next year.
We are teamed up again with Langues Services and our old friend Francesca la Sala for a week in which you can learn Italian in the most natural and enjoyable way ever, meeting Italian people and interacting with their everyday lives. The course will run from Saturday 22 August to Saturday 29 August 2020. Not only will there be formal lessons under the vine verandah (some 20 hours in the week), but we’ll also be making trips and excursions to enjoy 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, speaking Italian, practising what we’ve learned.
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.
To recap, our Italian Language week will run from Saturday 22 August to Saturday 29 August 2020. You can find out more by clicking here. If you’d like to join us and be sure of your place, now is the time to book especially as we have an Early Bird Discount Offer: if you book before 31 December 2019 there’s a £75 (British pounds) per person discount.
Langues Services and Francesca la Sala
22 - 29 August 2020 - still a few places
Learning Italian with the Italians
To learn more about Francesca and her
2020 course at the mill, please click here.
Everything's included in your watermill painting holiday, creative writing holiday, knitting week or Italian Language course
Don’t forget that everything is included in the cost of a painting holiday, writing, 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.
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.
We very much look forward to welcoming you to the mill and, for those of you who have already tasted the many delights at The Watermill at Posara, we look forward to welcoming you back.
With very best wishes a tutti
Lois and Bill Breckon