Posts in Italy Retreat
Giro del Mondo

Though there are many stories rolling around my head post Italy, the one that is front and center has to do with the title of the Italy book I'm working on now. GIRO DEL MONDO. In Italian it means Tour of the World.

The narrative painting retreat took place in Cortona, Italy. It was all women and one man who accompanied his wife - a writer and watercolorist from Southern Oregon. He rode his bicycle daily while we worked. I cooked for everyone. One day, I decided to take a break from cooking. I offered to take everyone to lunch at the Plaza.

We were met by a very charming Italian waiter. Our languages were all over the map: English, Italian, Dutch, German. It takes a lot of trust to communicate from different languages and know you are understood if only by gesture and intent alone. This is what I love about traveling to new countries. This intimacy. It's precious.

Our waiter (here is he is)...

... asked where we were all from. Germany, USA, Holland.

Oh, "Giro del Mondo" he gestured with emphasis. "Tour of the World" he said as he poured our Rosé. "That's the name of our book" I said. Clear as day.

We had decided that morning that instead of creating individual books of each student's stories and paintings (plus photos I was taking of every experience we had), the book would be one book of all of it. So this title came in a very timely manner.

Here are a few more photos of this delightful lunch. We were so happy with our food, our waiter and our wine. I was blissed out to not cook for a meal.

We went on to paint the streets, people, bicycles, flowers, shops after this meal. But the sketchbooks were out before dessert was over. They were very inspiring.

If you'd like to see a few more pics... go to the updated Tuscany page.

To visit a couple student blogs that cite a bit of their work, here is Corinne Bekker's blog. And Kathrin Werner's colorful world.

Also, we have a FB page, Writing and Painting Italy. I'm posting news and you will find the 4-day practice challenge before the retreat. I'm always so stunned by how the subconscious makes these stories so effortlessly.

I'm busy designing and producing the Italy book to send to students. It's part of their package. As I do so, I'm also considering the next retreat and an online version of the course for 2015-2016. So stay tuned.

It was an amazing experience. Still learning from it. Still inspired by the work and Italy.


  Today as I worked on the welcome brochure and packet for the Italy writing retreat I committed to a fun gift incentive for registrants before April 1. But I'll get to that later. The idea, however, dovetails with an experience of social anxiety I went through this weekend while sketching in a crowd. It was San Francisco's history expo at The Mint building downtown. There were about 20 sketchers perched outside and inside. We sketched the character actors (loved the busty woman on the steps who kept saying "Hello handsome ... " to men walking by), the old bank vault in the basement, detailed art deco lanterns and more. I thought for sure I'd warm up and end up walking out of there having enriched my sketching brain with vital Ca. history stories by experiencing them with full on empathy (a required skill when fast images that are moving are in play). But two hours later, I had a stomach ache and a case of vertigo. I had to get out of there. Luckily the artists followed and we had Vietnamese ice coffee together and shared our work. Mine was the very worst of the bunch. I'm not just saying that. Apparently I am most at ease working solo, not with people over my shoulder taking photos and actors whirling by blowing kisses. It was just all too stimulating for my lil' artist heart.

Now onto why I'm writing about this. For the gift incentive to people who register for Tuscany before April 1 * ( because this makes the planning stage so much easier, having everyone's preferences logged ahead of time) ... I am offering a printed book of their work created in Italy. Fully designed with the intent of offering back a lovely package of their imagination and experience in one place to share with friends and loved ones. But then I thought ... what if they would rather eat barbed wire than to have their work presented in a book. Especially, since they don't know if they will love it yet? Fresh and raw thoughts from my experimental weekend.

Well, I intend to sketch with the SF Sketchers every week or other week until June. I decided the experience is just something that outlines where I am nervous and need to relax. And we humans are competitive by nature. I DO want to be a person who can draw in public and feel good not bad. I know people will relax into it as they settle and what they create will be a surprise (in good ways). It's designed for this and my teaching experience has shown this to be true.

I still think its a good gift. But perhaps I'll give folks the option of just their stories in words - or just their sketches/watercolors or something that I put together for them to mark the memory of our adventure together.

Shyness - ouch! Deep breaths. Try again. Get a hug. Drink a glass of good wine, pet a warm, cozy animal, sing loud into the wind when nobody is looking... tell that story, even if it's a pile of nonsensical words. Especially so!

Please forward this post to a friend or two who you think might love some art, story and Italian cuisine with 7 other participants in Cortona, Italy where the charming story "Under the Tuscan Sun" takes place. And I will be cooking many of her incredible recipes.

TUSCANY Writing/Painting Retreat

Register by April 1 and you will get a juicy book of your own work!

June Writing Retreat in Cortona Italy: What is narrative painting?

Getting pretty excited about Italy in June. It's now February, which means I will need to fill up that crazy child enthusiasm with substitutes until June arrives.

Questions are coming in about the retreat and sign ups are happening. There are 2 private rooms left. First come, first serve. But I must say a few things first about this retreat that makes it a bit off-beat from others. I mean you really need all the facts! You don't want to be in the clutches of a Italy-going-redhead with in Tuscan lands, a salt water swimming pool and 2 awesome kitchens to cook in unless it's your cup of tea (or wine).

What is Narrative Painting? How is it different from Story Painting?

Story painting is what I did in 2013 daily that fills the pages of The Art of Daily Cultivation. It begins with a painting of 'anything' that fascinates you in the moment. Once the painting is complete, the painting then serves as a prompt that inspires a micro-story. A few paragraphs. The painting can be a scene or a one subject piece. Character or scene... the story naturally unravels. Magic? Nope. Just making a bit of space in an otherwise hectic life for the natural muse to feel safe enough to come in for tea and express herself through the brush and pen.

I am calling the Italy Retreat "Narrative Painting" because our subject is chosen. It is Italy. And the lands of Cortona are paved with history, many stories from the past; many stories in the moment that we will be there. In the cafes, the Etruscan caves, Lake Trasimeno, the little wine shops and flower shops in the villa, the food, the panoramic views from the beautiful retreat home where we will live for these days. We as a group will add our sketches to the narrative already embedded in the land and culture of Cortona.

VOICE: Some folks in the workshop will enjoy the facts as prompts as much as their sketches and may write longer prose. Some will sketch and paint more than write.  I see this retreat as an opportunity to explore  Tuscany on its terms while amplifying and honoring what we experience and learn with our brushes and pens — and the sharp (and oh so fun) tool of imagination. I see the retreat as a writing retreat using illustration as a prompt and support.

People will go home with a full first draft of their Tuscany stories in words and images. And I just love that!

Here is a sample of a 'story painting' that I did for the book but it is about Italy. The fat pigeons in particular. It's silly and short. My quirky style. However, what I love about teaching this work is that everyone does something very different. The individual voice and style emerge as the story takes over.

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That's all. I hope you are all having a wonderful Feb. I'll be blogging about what I will cook next. Fascinated by Italian cooking.

Please visit me on Pinterest for inspiration. I have a Cortona Board started that will show you the close up and personal magic of this particular place on earth.

ps: If you live in Portland Oregon and if you are considering this adventure. Flights are low right now (about 700.00 less than average).


Photo of a fat pigeon in Cortona. See what I mean?

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