Art Adventures

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.


Preparing and packing for Paint Tuscany 2018! I had no idea three years ago when Gina and I created Paint Tuscany workshop and tour adventure that we be able to continue to offer the trip annually. It’s a dream come true! Ahhhh…Tuscany. Love! Can’t wait to return next week!

I’ve been compiling new painting lessons this month, all Italian themed, while I dream of the rolling hills of Tuscany.

Take off in one week! And I still haven’t packed my clothes. Paints and brushes? Yes. Clothes? Later. 😃

I’ll be posting daily blogs as I’m there. Check in or follow me to get posts on our adventures. Who knows, maybe you join us next year!

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