Our guest Roger sketching on the patio at la Pietra.

The Art Experience - Rome and Tuscany 

Below is what I like to have with me for quick sketching/painting outings. The little Winsor & Newton pocket watercolor box is one of the most useful and handy I've ever seen. I always carry a sketchbook with the pen and pencil caddy, wherever I go, and it's often accompanied by a Moleskin watercolor book. I found the lovely wooden box containing a set of 4 small folding brushes in the Cortona art store. It was love at first sight.

Materials and Tips

Learning to draw and paint is really learning to see well. The challenge is seeing what the eye is seeing, not what the brain thinks it sees.


Judging one's own work is a common mistake. We should never think in terms of whether our drawing or painting is good or bad. Rather we should ask ourselves what we learned while doing it.


All art consists of our intention and the skill to realize that intention. As we strengthen our skills through constant practice we become more and more able to realize the images we have in our minds and thus fulfill our intention.


I am an advocate of a limited palette, especially on location, a warm and a cool of the primaries, and an earth tone. It's amazing the range of color this gives you, as well as unity. I stay away from commercial greens, and mix my own.


You hear a lot about the need for a focal point, or center of interest, in a painting, but equally important I feel is how the eye moves around the entire painting. Compositional elements must serve the entire work, rather than drawing the eye to one area or spot.


One of the most valuable lessons we can learn is to not give up on a painting when we think it's going badly. At the least it's an opportunity for experimentation. It's eye-opening how much we can discover when it seems as if all is lost. Play with values, try different color combination, vary brush strokes, and a whole new world may be waiting.

I've also  found my Guerrilla Boxes below very useful. The mini on the right is great for the quick 5x7" watercolors I like to do. I cut 300 lb. hard or cold press paper to size and carry a stack of them with me. I use the larger box on the left for oils. 9x12" panels fit perfectly into the lid, but it supports larger panels as well. Note that I've customized mine with a glass palette cut to fit and taped in place.

Artist/guests are encouraged to work in whatever medium they are comfortable, keeping in mind portability and ease of handling.  Our preference for plein air painting is watercolor, and I've posted a photo below showing a practical set-up, equally useful for pastels .Everything there fits comfortably into a small carrying bag  If you are traveling from abroad, it is not advised to bring oil paints, as they can create problems with airport security. As one can imagine, however, there are plenty of art supply stores in Rome and Florence, and even a small shop in Cortona with a somewhat limited choice of material.