Wine, Women, and Watercolors (and Roberto!) - Painting in Italy - Part 2

Wine, Women, and Watercolors (and Roberto!) – Painting in Italy – Part 2

There is lots to show and tell–starting here with the finishing of Wine, Women and Watercolor (and Roberto!), and with the possibility of a sequel next year…

Goodness we’ve been on a tear, now finally hurtled back to New York, to the same shambolic apartment I left three weeks ago. Never mind that. There is lots to show and tell.

Harbor Scene, Porto Ercole, by Frances Schultz
Harbor Scene, Porto Ercole, by moi

As you recall the accomplished watercolorist and Professional Fabulous Person Mita Corsini Bland hosted a weeklong painting workshop at her charming family farmhouse in Tuscany. I imagine it was the shortest six months of her life.

Sometimes her dining room looked like you put it in a blender without a top.*

Mita's dining room. Creativity can be messy and often is.
Mita's dining room. Creativity can be messy and often is.

This summer’s Corsini royal academy included Renaissance woman Carolyne Roehm (aka Principessa), designer Adrienne Vittadini, a darling English rose and her equally rosy mother, two frisky fillies from Louisville, a Millbrook maven, a creative spirit from Florida, a glamourous European, and our wonderful, tolerant teacher Tish Seligman.

Painting in Italy - a lesson in water and clouds
Tish give a lesson in water and clouds. Photo by Mita Corsini Bland

I loved the days we painted on the water.

I went recently spaghetti-os over the exhibit of Sargent watercolors at the Brooklyn Museum (here). His bold strokes and brave color gave me courage.

Porto Ercole seascape by Frances Schultz
Porto Ercole Harbor, by moi

Here is another seascape by the prolific Millbrook Maven. She painted 72 pictures a minute. Possessed, she was. Judy Unchained. Bursting at the paintbrushes. Brava.

Painting in Italy - Seascape by Judy Benardete
Seascape by Judy Benardete

As the weather was not always bright, we brought in vegetables from the market in Uliveto and painted those.

Carciofi for sale at Uliveto Market
Carciofi for sale at Uliveto Market

Principessa is especially good at botanicals. It sort of goes without saying the girl is good at details… Have you seen her website for heaven’s sake?

Artichoke by Carolyne Roehm
Artichoke by Carolyne Roehm

We are tough. We eat what we paint.

Artichokes al fresco, at Mita Corsini Bland's in Porto Ercole
Artichokes al fresco, at Mita Corsini Bland's in Porto Ercole

I also loved CR’s olive tree.

Olive Tree by Carolyne Roehm
Olive Tree by Carolyne Roehm

Shoot I loved them all. Some were beginners and some more experienced, but everyone’s work had passion and joy.

The most exciting thing happened when we were put to the challenge of painting a picture in 15 minutes. No pencil drawing beforehand. Just go for it.

10-minute finial by ?
15-minute finial, by Someone Please Tell Me, painted in the Corsini family gardens, Porto Ercole

It’s amazing what happens when you get out of your own way.

10-minute pots on a wall by Mita Corsini Bland, In the Corsini family gardens
15-minute pots on a wall by Mita Corsini Bland

Keeps you from thinking too much. The point is to capture the essence of the subject, and merely to suggest details which the mind will complete on its own.

15-minute garden vignettes by Adrienne Vittadini
15-minute garden vignettes by Adrienne Vittadini

Here are two of mine.

15-minute finials by Frances Schultz, Corsini Gardens, Porto Ercole
15-minute finials by moi, photo by Mita, I think

I did a third of a statue of the Virgin Mary that looked like Ernest Borgnine in a bathrobe.

Painters in Porto Ercole
Let us show you our etchings... from left, Louisa (Weasy), Margaret, Teacher Tish, Mita, Carolyne, Judy, moi, Janey, and seated is Adrienne. Missing is the Louisville Filly Linda, who took the picture, and the English Roses who had to get back to London to the Chelsea Flower Show. Moi hiding in the back as was traveling that day, dressed in black, at risk of being mistaken for Sicilian widow.

That day we were in the lush tropical gardens of the family estate. The Corsinis are one of the most venerable noble families in Italy. Sadly their villa was destroyed in World War II. Older relatives recall at war’s end returning to these gardens to discover dead bodies of German soldiers. Mita remembers as a child playing “horsey” on what turned out to be an undetonated bomb. Lord.

On a happy note, as fellow painter Weasy Blodgett reminded me (see Comments), Puccini wrote part of the opera Turandot in these gardens during more tranquil times in the 1920s.

All this painting and storytelling works up an appetite. Have you ever seen such zucchini blossoms?

Zucchini blossoms await their battering
Zucchini blossoms await their battering

And now to have his way with these blossoms, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Roberto! A man for all seasonings and the most delicious lunches imaginable.

Roberto at the stove, frying up the zucchini blossoms
Roberto at the stove, frying up the zucchini blossoms and patiently conveying his methods to an eager audience.

Adrienne has promised to send us Robert’s recipes translated from the Italian. No pressure Adrienne, whenever it suits you, really, it’s fine, no really, if it’s no trouble, okay then.

Feast by Roberto, photo by Mita Corsini Bland
A typical feast by Roberto, fresh ingredients, simply prepared. Photo by Mita Corsini Bland.

One thing he did was chuck an anchovy into just about anything and let it dissolve into it. You have no idea how it gives a sauce a certain non conosco che cosa. You also have no idea it’s in there. Even if you hate anchovies, try it. Belissima, I promissima.

Sadly Roberto went home after lunch.

That’s when things got blurry in the kitchen. Mamma-mia…

This is what you call too many cooks in the kitchen
Too many kooks in the kitchen. Adrienne designs the salad dressing. (Her weird hair l is the camera and not her). Hostess Mita does her Chorus Line interpretation. Janey provides the laugh-track. Not pictured is Principessa at the back manning the stove.

Back at it the next day, until it was time to go…

Paintings by Mita Corsini Bland
Paintings by Mita Corsini Bland
Paintings by Janey Schecter
Paintings by Janey Schecter
Paintings by Linda Dabney
Paintings by Linda Dabney
Paintings by Louisa Blodgett
Paintings by Louisa Blodgett
Paintings by Frances Schultz
Paintings by moi

Ciao, Porto Ercole!

Charlotte Fraser, left, and instructor Tish Seligman, Porto Ercole
Charlotte Fraser, left, and instructor Tish Seligman, Porto Ercole. Photo Mita Corsini Bland
Porto Ercole, Italy. Photo Mita Corsini Bland
Porto Ercole, Italy. Photo Mita Corsini Bland

Ciao, bella! 

I had to say that sooner or later.

 * With thanks to Jerry Seinfield’s saying, “A 2-year-old is kind of like having a blender, but you don’t have a top for it.”

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