If you don’t like the weather…

2016-03-06-2432Almond blossoms   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  15 x 15″  40 x 40 cm

My father always jokes, a la Mark Twain, “if you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.”   This is soon to be the global mantra.

Snow in the Trees    Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas   12 x 15″    30 x 40 cm

The week began in Rocca Malatina with heavy fog, which cleared up by Wednesday morning, for Blair and I  to paint the almond blossoms and to lunch outside.  Not far from our house, we could see the Alps, 200 miles away.    That afternoon Blair bought two black cypress trees at the garden store (Ludovico, the gardener said, “ I’ll plant them next week.”) and I planted primrose and violets.    On Thursday morning we woke up to 4 inches of snow, which continued most of the day.  The eight or so inches froze, then we got the strongest winds  I have ever experienced, Friday evening through Saturday afternoon (Otto at the café assures me this is not normal).  Trees toppled, and the lids flew off our 4 foot tall terra cotta planters.  What happened to sunny Italy?

​Blossoms in March    Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 15″  30 x 40 cm

Friends from Corsica visited us on their way to Slovenia, and then on their way back.   The daughter had been making documentary movies in Slovenia for fourteen months, and worked in a refugee center.   She is the only person I know who has actually experienced the “refugee situation”, and it was surprising.   Competing NGOs and encouraging immigration were just part of it.   “Don’t believe the TV”, was her advice.   As time goes on, I think the media is constructing our reality, from world conflicts to politics, and I am careful what I read.  Right now I am reading “Nabokov’s Butterflies”.

They brought us dozens of bottles of Bordeaux and cheeses from France.  I don’t mean to complain, but I have had difficulty with Italian wines.   I can taste the heat in the wine, and it makes it hard for me to notice anything else.  Italian wine and duck?  I don’t know.  Of course there is the Barolo, at near 20 a bottle, “the king of wines”.  G, from Iceland, brought us slippers that her mother knitted, and Corsican sausages.   We had feasts and lots of laughs together.

​Through the Chapel Window   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/panel   12 x 12″  30 x 30cm

We took the Corsicans (Corsica is that marvelous blend of Italian and French)  to our favorite pasta joint in Modena:  Aldini.  It’s an upstairs restaurant, and fashionable diners eat delicious homemade food.    We get the combination of three pastas – if you are going to gorge pasta, may as well go all the way.  Tortellini in brodo; Tortelli with ricotta and spinach, Modenese style; we slipped in a Risotto, and finished with my favorite Lasagna.   Waddle waddle down the stairs and out.   We drank Sangiovese all around – a rather thin wine.

We took a walk through the woods that afternoon, eyeing the incredible amount of violets in bloom.  We were in search of butterflies, but there were none.  I guess they knew something we didn’t.

​Violets growing in the Rock   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas 10 x 14″   25 x 35cm

Today, the bird sings outside our window to put a good face on things.  Bravissimo!

Lunch on Sunday


2016-02-27-2417Potted Plants   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/wood  8 x 16″  20 x 40cm

In our backyard on Sunday , a guest recited Andrew Marvell’s poem, “To his Coy Mistress”,  in the period pronunciation in which it was written.  He spoke to illustrate the point of how pronunciation changes over time, and that can be suggested by the rhyming of poems.   In the back yard in the sunshine, it was a perfect digestif.    It seemed most timely to me as France is about to eliminate the circumflex, the little hat which sits above certain French vowels to insure their clear pronunciation.  What will future generations think when they see that?    I was touched by this guest’s giving of himself to all of us, and was speechless with joy.

​ First Cherry Blossoms   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/wood   16 x 24″  40 x 60cm

Another guest, a nurse, listened to my never ending lament about how we can’t go to the doctor here.  It has been a real catch-22:  we have private medical benefits, but only a few doctors, in the city, an hour away, have the mechanism to accept payment for services.  The doctor in our town will not see us because we don’t have a health card.  The next day, S, the nurse from the party, got in contact with us and researched a way we might get our card.  Sure enough, on Monday, 22 February, we got a health card, and were assigned a doctor in Monteombrara, just a couple miles from here.   This came at just the right moment, when we were due to pay 9,600.00 USDollars for another year of medical cover.

​ Deep purple primrose   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/wood  16 x 8″  40 x 20cm

Immediately, I found a way to use part of that savings:  primroses.  As an English friend, an occasional Sunday guest, says, “Miani is a proper garden shop!”  It has the most wonderful potted flowers, and trees, and tubs, and bulbs – I feel as happy there as I did in Monet’s garden!   I got out my paints at once.

​Violettas  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/wood    8 x 16″  20 x 40cm

I went to the doctor this week, seeing as I could.  He spoke English and asked, “who will the candidates be in the next US election?”  We each told him what we thought, and he said, “I always wanted to go to America, you were the greatest nation.”    He is from Nigeria, educated in Italian and French medical schools, had a practice in England, and now works just 5 kilometers from our house.  He made me wax pensively over the USA and this current, disturbing presidential race.  I worry about education, loving our neighbor, being fair.

I reflect on what I can do:  VOTE, keep on with my own convictions and encourage others.   Meanwhile, in our little country here in the Apennines we welcome all nationalities for lunch on Sunday.

​Branch with yellow Blossoms   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/wood  16 x 12″  40 x 30cm

Laurie and Blair PESSEMIER


2016-02-20-2409Spring Snow   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/wood  24 x 16″  60 x 40 cm

I woke up on Wednesday morning to the sound of SNOWPLOWS!  I hoped the lily-of-the-valley I put in the ground two days before could stand it.    I wasn’t altogether disappointed, however, because I felt a bit cheated of the opportunity to paint snow in February.    We ran up the hill (after Harika, who LOVES snow), built a snowman and I slipped and slid back down the hill laughing hilariously.  I am not laughing now, as my sciatica is intense, and I am seeking a witch doctor (acupuncturist) here.

We brought our paints to the Italian teacher’s house.  She has great views from her windows, and she is an artist herself.  The three of us set up and painted nearly the same scene, with drastically different results.

​Snow from Antonella’s Window   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  13 x 16   33 x 41cm

We stuck with our plan to go to Florence on Thursday – and we were rewarded with sunshine and warmer temperatures.   It seems we are in a rainy season, and as our trips to Florence are mainly for painting, we have been limited.

This time, we went for the Oltrarno side of Florence – across the Arno from the Duomo, Uffizi, etc. and up on the hill looking down.  We both painted there amid the tourists:  from all nations, really, and surprisingly uninterested in what we were doing.  My approach was like that of a bird, seeing the monuments of the city, and the snow covered Apennines behind.

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​Bird’s view of the Duomo   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/wood  16 x 24″  40 x 60cm

Those deep reds and yellowy stuccoes predominate, like a Renaissance painting.  I kept having to pinch myself – yes, we’re really painting Florence!  It was thrilling.   We made a small detour to San Miniato afterward, but the church was closed.  The outside is really impressive, though, with bands of green and white marble,  and a gold mosaic over the portal.

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​View of Florence   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/wood  16 x 24   40 x 60cm

Now it is time to sell paintings, and I spent the other days of the week making posters for our show (25,6,7,8 March), and brochures to give to furniture stores.  If you have any show ideas for this summer in the USA, send them along.

Nearer to home, we planted red gladioli after the snow, and windowsill herbs.  We’re hoping the weather holds now, but as the days get longer, spring can’t be far away.

​Quince Blossoms  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/wood  24 x 16″  60 x 40cm  300.00

Blair and Laurie Pessemier

If this is Friday, it must be Florence

2016-02-06-2391Monte Cimone February   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  8 x 10″  20 x 25cm


It was a week of catching up, and getting done those things we’d been meaning to do for ever so long.  We each got library cards; we introduced ourselves and our artwork to the local furnishings store; bought wood to paint on at a nearby lumberyard.   It sounds like nothing, but as we learn Italian, each task is a major hurdle.


A friend came to dinner Thursday night and brought the BEST dessert I ever had, from the AC bakery in Bologna.  It was a cake, made like a Napoleon, layers of light, crunchy pastry, chocolate and cream, with the finest sheets of chocolate on top.   We are very lucky to have made friends here, especially ones who like to eat.


​Our house in the Hills   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  12 x 20   30 x 50 cm


Our ;longest  “meant to do” foray this week was a visit to Firenze, aka Florence.   It is a mere 2 hours from our house, and I have been thinking of the Ponte Vecchio for weeks.  In fact, I am thinking of doing a one-day-a-week painting workshop there.  “If this is Friday, I’m painting in Florence”.   I love Florence images, and maybe some people visiting the city of art will want to make their own?


We walked around – neither of us had been there for more than 35 years.   We were overwhelmed with just how wonderful it was – we’d both thought so years ago (Blair with Notre Dame’s Architecture program, me with Tom Brown), but it’s reassuring when you realize you were right.   When I visited Florence after college, I saved up from my summer job on Cape Cod.  I made 90 dollars a week, saved 50 from every paycheck, and somehow managed to buy an airplane ticket and travel around for three weeks (Europe on $5 a day).  Those days are gone forever, despite what the presidential candidates might promise.


Flowers on the table Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/panel 12 x12″  30 x 30 cm

Of course, there were many more tourists, this time mostly Asian.  I longed to see the Giotto frescoes in the Baptistry, but the 15 euro entry fee was daunting.  We settled for/reveled in standing beneath Brunelleschi’s dome in the cathedral.  David (the copy) stood outside the Palazzo Vecchio, and my heart did a little skip.  We went to the Boboli gardens, the target of my first trip, and wished we had days to walk through them. I don’t know if we looked “down at the heel”, but two French girls shared their wine with us at the restaurant, on the banks of the Arno (I can hear them now  “weren’t those cute little old people?”)


I am hoping to go back to Florence, now that we know how easy that is, and revisit the Laurentian library.  I had never actually gone into the Uffizi and the portrait of Federico da Montefeltro  and Bottticelli’s Venus are beckoning.  The Ponte Vecchio, was as beautiful as I hoped.  And who knows, if it’s Friday and you’re in Florence, maybe we’ll paint together?


Ponte Vecchio   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/wood   16 x 24″  40 x 60 cm


 Artnotes:  with Passion

​Fishing boat late day sun    Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  16 x 16″  40 x 40cm

“You better not have my dog in that picture”, a crone in Diano Marina charged across the beach and shouted at us.  I was taking pictures at the beach, and yes, dogs, many of them, were part of the picture.    Why would she care?  I wanted to ask.  Did the dog commit a crime?  Was the dog stolen? Is it supposed to be dead?  I was 100 yards away and it was a silly little Chihuahua in a black plastic coat.

Don’t worry, a friend says, crones bring good luck in Italy.   So, if you are looking for a lucky crone, this is the place.

Walking ​Dog at the beach   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/linen  13 x 16″  33 x 41cm

I am trying to get around to the beach/dog picture, in fact.  Dogs are a major element here.  Blair and I have filled nearly all the canvases we brought, plus we found a roll of canvas we left here last year, on top of the armoire.   Painting in Cervo has made me feel passionate about painting again.  As I painted from the car, Harika in the back seat,  I felt transported, and as if my picture was the best I ever made.  It wasn’t [the best], but it is what one feels with a passion for something.

​Trees in Cervo   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  13 x 16″  27 x 41 cm

I feel passion for making food.  There were certain items I could get here that were interesting to work with:  20 artichokes, thorned and medium-sized, for 10 euros, for example.   And the citrus fruit is nearly free – a kilo of clementines for 99 cents. I brought a new cookbook I got for Christmas (thanks, T and family) and put some new ideas into motion.

​Fishing Boat Reflections Early Morning  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/linen  18 x 23.5  45 x 60 cm

I like to be in the presence of other people’s passion, as well.  I remember how much certain people, especially the designers, loved the furniture they made, when I would go to the High Point Market in North Carolina – their enthusiasm was contagious, and they sold lots.  When we went to Genoa (Nervi, actually, the Modern Art Museum), we ate near the beach in an old, formal restaurant.   It was manned by two rather mature gentlemen, a waitress (a sister?) and a cook.   There were fabulous linens, and we ordered a first and second plate and dessert.  Each dish was proudly presented, and I could taste the good feelings of the kitchen in my food.  Passion, in an Italian restaurant.
​Fisherman House   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  16 x 12″  40 x 30 cm

I am surprised people who are older and afraid of death don’t show more passion in everything they do (I know a few, from 79 to 102, who are like that).  And I guess the crone felt passionfor her dog.  After being sick as a young person,  I was compelled to LIVE life as hard as I could, challenging myself, taking risks, living with the maximum amount of passion — before it was too late.

a long haul of Holidays…

​ Morning Walk    Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  12 x 16″  30 x 40cm


We went to the craziest “nativity” town this week:  Montalabano, where they are featuring more than 70 different Nativity scenes.   There was everything from the standard in-the-manger variety to scenes using demijohn wine bottles for the characters; or dressed up espresso pots – even a frying pan mural of the birth of Jesus.  I liked an alpine crèche, complete with ropes helping the wisemen up the rocks, standard yet regional.   A chandelier featured Mary, Joseph, the baby and livestock, all instead of candles.    A town, a la Jerusalem, was built of small boxes, placed in a terrazzo entryway, and I think it may have been my favorite.


Barn  near Ferrara  Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/panel  13 x 18  33 x 46m

Italy has the most marvelous individual Christmas light displays that I have seen:  blinking, mutlicolor, dripping lights.  Orange/persimmon is a popular shade, a beautiful turquoise and many purples.  We drove home from Bologna last night, and it seemed we were never without a blinking balcony, or free form tree.  It reminds me of Christmases of my youth, with much eating and drinking and lots of family and decorations.  Blair is off picking up our turkey (a 14 pound butterball from a friend) as we speak.

​On the way to the beach    Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  12 x 16″  30 x 40 cm

Despite the fact we’re not to the end of the year, I’ve already got my thinking cap on for 2016.  2015 was a year of change – and 2016 will need to be a year of growth, development, earning.   We drove long distances yesterday – to the beach and back, and it always helps me think.  On the highway, ideas emerge like exits.

We are considering rekindling Blair’s silverware business.  We now have a large basement, which will accept an anvil, work table, and (vented) oven.   I’d like to make glass, but would have to do some big research beforehand.  With all the sunshine here, glass could be quite beautiful.

​Golden leaves, hanging on  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  10 x 8″  25 x 20 cm

On a more practical scale, I am going to look for some teaching/workshop opportunities with American universities in Italy.  I can easily hop a train to another major city such as Florence, even Rome, if the schools around Bologna don’t suffice.

I discovered that Babbo Natale, Father Christmas,  comes to Emilia Romagno on Christmas eve.   A secondary character, la Befana, a kind of Christmas witch, brings special treats on 6 January.  I have been very good.   Everyone is already wishing Auguri, Buon Natale, Buona Festa:  and it’s a long haul of holidays ahead.   Whoopeee.

​Four Christmas trees     Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  12 x 16″  30 x 40 cm


from Blair Laurie and Harika

Like a Bird

2015-12-12-2253​First Rays   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen   9.5 x 14″   24 x 35 cm

“Try this one.” V shows me a five gallon bottle of odd green liquid.

Oh no, no, thank you.

“It’s made from a plant, Ortica.”  His partner steps outside and returns, trying to hand me a stinging nettle. He holds it gingerly.

I imagine a prickly throat.

After a plastic shot glass full of grappa (“only 43%” they assure me), we left the Alpini with a half bottle of Ortica liqueur and a warm feeling.  People are always surprised we moved from Paris to Rocca Malatina, Italy, but we love it here.  We loved Paris, too, but the big change of 2015 has been fabulous.

​Persimmons on the trees  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  19.75 x 12″  50 x 30cm

I am looking forward to holiday festivities.  A friend is buying us a butterball turkey at the PX in Pisa, and I am inviting anyone who wants to come (call first, so I make enough mashed potatoes).   It could be an opportunity to serve the Ortica liqueur.   We are invited to partake of the traditional “seven fish” on Christmas Eve in Modena.  And Sunday we go to a Christmas party in the country.  Cookie baking is on the agenda.  I’ve already made those nutty crescents…

Trees in the Early Morning   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  9.5 x 13″  24 x 33cm

I have been doing artwork all week, working toward the perfect card (it may just be electronic this year, considering $2+ postage).  I have painted pictures and made woodcuts.   I am enjoying the woodcuts tremendously, and they get better and better.   I am offering a Woodcut package:  For $100.00, I will send you, anywhere in the world, four woodcuts throughout the year.  They will be printed on high quality, acid-free paper, so they will last forever, and they would be good to have individually or as a set, or would make a nice gift.

​Persimmons in Winter  (actually turquoise blue, which doesn’t register on the camera)  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Block print  3.5 x 5″  9 x 12.5 cm    3

The Rocca Malatina ambulance drivers got to go practice new driving maneuvers at the Ferrari racetrack today – now I understand why the ambulance service has so many volunteers.   It’s not just an organization of ambulance activities — they sponsor events in the town, like a pair of bagpipe players to walk the streets on Christmas Eve, and hot mulled wine after midnight mass.

The sun has been shining up here in the mountains, as the lower-lying cities have been blanketed in fog.  The temperature is actually cooler down below, and the “ice” warning flashes on the dashboard of the cream puff.  It is the most curious thing, like being in an airplane, at this altitude.  I feel like a bird.

Fog in the Valley    Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen   15 x 18″  37.5 x 46 cm    3