Art Adventures

I just had to do it. I had to schedule a research trip for my upcoming Paint Costa Rica Art Adventure in February. Such a sacrifice. 😉

To arrive in paradise and spend five days meeting new friends, living Pura Vida (pure life), planning painting lessons, dining on beautiful local food, and practicing yoga? Yep. That’s the goal.

But in all seriousness, this time is well spent planning and finalizing my retreat for February. Not only am I figuring out our schedule, but I’m beginning to understand more about Costa Rica; what to expect, how to navigate, what the culture and wildlife is like, but also, what, where, and when to paint.

Since I arrived last night late, today was my first chance to see the area in detail.

I love the fact that we are staying at a yoga school. Yoga and painting are very symbiotic. How much more centered could one get, doing both each day?!

I can see why Vida Asana has been given glowing reviews. Sean and his staff are fabulous hosts. Breakfast was fresh and delicious: a super smoothie, rice and beans, eggs and guacamole. So so good.

After breakfast, I toured the property.

Then we did an hour and a half of yoga in the Shala.

The birds were singing, insects were humming, and a moist, perfumed breeze softened my Central Oregon skin. So peaceful.

We headed out for a hike before lunch. Although it was a short hike, it was fairly steep, very close to our lodging and packed a visual punch. When we got to the top, there was an old uncompleted hotel where we could look out onto Jaco and the ocean below.

We saw dolphins jumping out of the surf!

After an AMAZING lunch of fresh vegan kale salad with avocado, tomatoes and lemon dressing, mystery vegan soup (mystery only because I cannot remember what Adriana said she put into it, lol), and a mango smoothie (seriously, all simply done and to die for), I took Turquoise Bessie out for a ride to paint and explore the beach (my name for her, not theirs; but it seemed to fit).

Riding the bike on the road was a little dicey, as the road was fairly narrow with drop offs on each side as well as traffic coming and going, but it wasn’t far. And I felt like a kid. And it was fun, so…

When I arrived at the beach? Yep, Playa Hermosa, translated: Beautiful Beach. And it is so beautiful. Mostly empty, except for a few surfers and a guy on horseback, it was the perfect place to paint. Perfecto.

Now, I gotta tell you, since I mostly paint the Pacific Northwest, I really had to concentrate on exactly what the foliage was doing. It’s structure, color, and branching weren’t automatic for me. The ocean and beach are different colors than our Pacific NW coastline. Crazy. I’m going to go back tomorrow and work on it again.

I’m told that I should always be on my way back to Vida Asana before 5:45pm, as it gets totally black and is hard to see once the sun sets. So I didn’t watch the sunset today, and besides, the clouds were getting heavy and thunder began to rumble.

On my way back, however, I had to stop and take photos of birds with my zoom lens camera. I have a policy that I won’t paint a bird unless I’ve seen it in person. Plus, my bird app won’t download, and I need to figure out what they are when I get my hands on an actual paper Costa Rica bird book. Taking photos will help identification.

As I write this, it is 6:19 pm and completely dark. Although thunder boomed off and on today, it only just now began to rain. Hard. Love it!!

Until tomorrow, my friends. Namaste.


Fantastic day in Florence, our last day of Paint Tuscany. Heading back to the US tomorrow morning.

Above, the Church of Santa Croce, in Florence.

We met with a Silversmith this morning, Giuliano, of Ditta Carlo Cecchi. He has worked at this silversmith laboratory since he was 15. Fifty-six years later, he is still working and very passionate about his craft.

He creates intricate patterns and cuts them into the plate.

He then runs the block and the metal through a 150 year old press.


He also creates jewelry and other items using wax molds.


Our group, above and below.

Uffizi in the afternoon, rounding out the tours with medieval and renaissance art. Love!!

In the evening, we all got together one last time for appetizers, wine, and stories about the trip. I did a pop quiz, and everyone won a painting of mine.

We had such an amazing and wonderful time. I’m so proud of the growth and learning each person experienced in watercolor art. I pushed them hard and they learned so much. It’s difficult to say goodbye. We’ve enjoyed friendship, art, tours, beautiful country, Italian customs, Italian families, shopping, and exploring together.

If you are interested in joining us for Paint Tuscany 2019, please let me know. We are compiling our list of interested folks.



We left the country villa today. So sad! I want to live there and paint my days away!

But we had our wonderful Casanuova Di Ama experience to look forward to again this year!

At Casanuova Di Ama, the wonderful Daniela instructed us on how to make authentic bruschetta.

Yum. Made with her incredibly delicious olive oil, salt, and tomatoes with basil, it was such a treat! She also served us a dessert wine, with her yummy chocolate cake and cantucci. So good.

She is known for her fabulous cooking and famous olive oil.

The bottom photo is a vat of her olive oil. 😊

She has beautiful wisteria blooming right now, as well as various potted plants and a colorful clothesline clip collection.

Another group shot. 😀

Alas, we had to leave for Florence eventually.

In Florence, Gina had set up a special lesson on how to make authentic gelato with the famous gelato maker of Gelateria Perche No!

His ingredients are very simple: fruit, sugar, water.

Gina and I worked our magic as he directed the process.

Incredibly good gelato. The best. And so simple! I loved the banana with no dairy. It tasted like it had cream!!

More adventures await tomorrow! Until then, my friends.

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Buongiorno from Tuscany!

Today I taught two painting lessons, since we did not paint yesterday. In this glorious morning at the farmhouse, we began by painting a Tuscan archway, with a view into lands beyond.

Here is my example.

Not everyone painted the same scene, but we painted it all step by step, starting with the drawing, a one-point perspective, then painting the arch on the inside, the facing wall, the bricks, the ground, and the landscape beyond.

Here are the final works.

We then took a break for lunch and a short drive into the country.

Returning in the afternoon to paint our final painting (sad… 😞) of the trip.

Given a choice of plein air or step by step landscape, all voted step by step. Although we did the same scene together, everyone had their own style. We marveled at how different each person’s work was from one another.

After wine and crackers in the late afternoon sun, we cleaned up, and collected ourselves for our final dinner at this amazing bed & breakfast farmhouse.

After dinner we took pictures with the family who owns this place and said our thank you’s. What a wonderful family at the fabulous Agriturismo di San Giorgio.

We presented Tina with a thank you gift, one of my flower paintings she loved. ❤️

We now love this family and feel as though they are part of ours.

More adventure awaits. So until tomorrow, my friends!

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On this cloudy warm morning in Tuscany, we toured a crystal factory. A small factory, it produces crystal products that are faithful to traditional manipulation of the material, free from molds, presses, and other mechanisms used in mass production processes.

The main ingredients in crystal are silica (sand-like, front part of the picture below), lead (pink), and sodium dioxide. These ingredients are heated together at a high temperature, shaped, and gradually cooled.

Crystal varies from glass in the percentage of lead in the product. Only glass that contains at least 24% lead oxide can be labeled as crystal.

Tuscan glass workers demonstrated their craft for us today. Crystal is heated in a furnace:

A rod paced into the furnace will have a blob of melted crystal on the end and is then is cooled enough to touch by running it under water using a nifty contraption:

And is then shaped.

Yep. That easy. 🙄 He made this cat so quickly!

To make an olive oil dispenser, these men perform a delicate dance of timing, collaboration, and intricate knowledge of their craft.

First, one man heats the crystal, and begins to shape a tube.

He hands it off to his neighbor, who shapes the tube into a vessel.

He heats up the vessel with a blow torch to its base. A hot mass of crystal is connected onto the vessel by another worker and a base is shaped.

The handle and spout are applied in the same manner. A puff of air at the end of the rod creates an air bubble within the crystal, which provides its hollow spout.

Isn’t that amazing?! And all without protective clothes, eyewear and gloves. We were right in the center of it, feeling the heat! Wowza!

After exhausting shopping (LOL), we headed off to Colle di Val d’Elsa for lunch.

This town has a long, narrow layout as opposed to the circular layout of the town we visited yesterday.

Some of the shops were actually underneath the street.

This crystal store had beautiful lighting and a ceiling above that was reflective of its location beneath the city.

Shots between the buildings gave a beautiful view of the surrounding landscape.

As with any other medieval town, over the years, wall stones crumble, and are replaced using anything on hand. Windows and doors change and become filled in with various bricks and stones that may or may not match surrounding material. Stones may be covered with stucco, which begins to weather and disintegrate with age. It’s all part of medieval structure appeal.

What a place to live!

We wandered around the beautiful town, ate lunch, and had a group shot post-lunch, post- wine. Time for a nap!

Until tomorrow, my friends!

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A beautiful morning here in Tuscany!

As sheep friends watched, we started painting bright and early.

To paint today, I taught how to discover which watercolor pigments are opaque and which are transparent.

Once everyone knew each of their paint properties, we dug in and began painting using transparent colors with a negative space concept to find flower shapes in a composition.

Aren’t they amazing? I pushed everyone hard to see and paint images behind the subjects and not just the subjects themselves. A difficult concept that they wrangled with, producing very intriguing, beautiful works. Love!!

We spent the afternoon in Lucignano, a medieval city in Tuscany known for its elliptical, concentric layout. The streets and buildings are organized in a ring, with the outer ring being at a lower elevation than the smaller inner ring.

Notice the different color stonework at this window.

Lucignano, a piece of authentic Tuscany, remains strong with traditional activities, handmade items, and agriculture of oil, wine, and honey.

The town has a stunning medieval tower, of which I couldn’t get a good picture, but I did get a cute one of Gina in front of this structure.

And here is most of our group near the entry of the town.

Lovely day.

Until tomorrow my friends.

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A beautifully sunny, warm day here in Tuscany. We drove to locally owned and operated winery, Castello Poggiarello, a castle and estate of serene and magnificent beauty. It’s difficult to describe, but the utter joy and peace we all felt on the grounds was indescribable.

The first traces of documents referring to the castle date back to year 1100 a.d.

At that time, the structure was used to provide military control of the territory to the southwest of the Siena Republic.

Around the 16th century, the property became part of the Chigi family and was transformed into a fortified noble residence. As successors continued to make changes, the establishment eventually became an agricultural producer of wine and olive oil. It’s current owners produce high-quality, award-winning wine and is committed to organic and sustainable wine growing.

Among the organic gardens, wisteria winds atop stone and brick walls of the medieval castle.

Courtyards with doors looking out to the pastoral vineyards, olive trees and forest view were straight from a novel.

We tasted their wonderfully rich, elegantly layered wines.

As a boar watched over us.

After purchasing wine to be shipped back home to the states (who wouldn’t…?), we took photos in the winery gardens.

Our group, below.

Gina and I with Sveva. ❤️

Such a fabulous winery and estate. Before we left, the owner mentioned she had a studio in the tower overlooking the grounds. What!!?? I can imagine painting away the day up in the tower. In fact, hmmm….maybe I’ll propose to be their permanent artist. 😀

We headed home, had a picnic lunch,

And began painting.

We finished textured vases.

Worked on Cyprus trees,

And began a tomato.

An idyllic place to paint, really.

What a day. ❤️

Until tomorrow, my friends. ❤️🍷


As if our trip could not get any better. We drove to a countryside home away from home today and could not be happier with our new digs.

Look at this beautiful building. Our apartments contain a small kitchen and living room, two bedrooms and private baths. ❤️

We saw horses on the horizon when we arrived!

Even the bathroom windows are gorgeous!

Look at this serene view from the main house:

After we arrived , we bought supplies for a picnic outside. Can’t complain about the weather!!

Once our tummies were happy, we dug into watercolor painting. So amazing to paint outside in Tuscany with birds, sunshine, trees, and a soft breeze!

We painted until early evening, then took a break with a glass of vino and crackers.

Dinner at the farmhouse. Simple, wholesome, fresh ingredients from local gardens and homemade wine topped off our wonderful day. ❤️

Now to settle down for sleep in a luxurious farmhouse bed, with a chorus of frogs and a nightingale to serenade us to sleep. Heaven.

Until tomorrow, my friends.


Our day in Florence was filled with perspective drawing,

Scarf purchases at Torre D’ Arte,

And a leather school, Scuola del Cuoio.

At the leather school, all products are locally crafted. I purchased a small leather bag for my paints.

To monogram my bag, gold leaf is placed on the leather while letters of my initials are selected and heated in a small fire oven.

Next, the heated letters are forcibly pressed into the leather with hand pressure.

Then the remaining gold leaf is wiped away and recycled, and monogrammed initials remain.

Bella, Bella! And my paints fit! Bonus!

View into the leather school courtyard, below.

Isn’t it beautiful!?

Tomorrow we head to a farmhouse in Tuscany, where I will teach daily painting lessons as we tour the countryside and hill towns.

Until tomorrow, my friends!

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Ahhhhh..,back in Florence. Although my heritage is strictly Scandinavian and Northern European, I feel I’ve arrived home when I land in Tuscany. There is something magical about this city that calls to a distant being who resides inside me.

Oh, and there is this:

The view from my room. That calls to me too. 😄

As part of our tour, today we visited a local goldsmith workshop, Laboratorio Nerdi. Daniela, the goldsmith, shared her process with us.

She uses a very small saw to create intricate patterns into gold.

And a mallet to hammer fine silver or gold rings for bracelets and necklaces.

A few of us purchased much-needed jewelry at the shop as Daniela wonderfully demonstrated her passion and love for her art.

Next, we headed to Zecchi, for drool-inducing art supplies. Drool-inducing, that is, if you are an art nerd like me. 😀 Best art shop!!

After a spritzer, food, and a glass of wine, it’s time to retire to my room, where I’ll fall asleep with the window open, warm Tuscan air on my face, and the echos of Italian conversation floating in on the breeze.

Until tomorrow, my friends.

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