Whaddya’ do with a Drunken Sailor

Artnotes:  Whaddya’ do with a Drunken Sailor

2015-09-26-2099Grapes   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/panel 10 x 14″   24 x 35 cm

This was a stay at home week for us.  Vertigo has overcome me, and the doctor seems to think it’s an inner ear infection.   What do you do with a drunken sailor, early in the morning?

Well Enough Alone  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/panel  12×12″  30 x 30 cm 

We managed to spend most of Monday (before I could no longer look down)  in Bologna, with a friend visiting from Central America.  He had a pinhole camera he bought in Argentina, and we sought out a traditional film store in the city.   The camera was quite entertaining, winding film while counting the clicks (13), and pulling back the rubber-band held shutter. We can’t wait to see the photos.  Color film.

​Roses on the Piano  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  16 x 10.5″  41 x 27cm 

Bologna is a wonderful city, with lots of little stores and coffee shops, extraordinary, contemporary interior design in a medieval setting.   I can walk the streets and feel thrilled in any direction I look.   Signage, Italian mid-1900s, is fabulous. I can’t keep my mind on where I am headed, what I am doing.   I look forward to painting here.

2015-09-26-2100In the distance   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/panel  12 x 16″ 30 x 40 cm

We’ve watched the colors in Rocca Malatina change from saint patricks day green to dusty gold.  It was actually cool enough on Wednesday to run the heat for the first time. It worked.

Our roses have put on their last blooms, and we have what I would call an “Italian” array of color throughout the house.    They were my subjects this week, being unable to ride in the car much.   The fly population has exploded, and there are at least 300 of them on the car as we speak.

​Roses with Lamp  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  10.5 x 16″  27 x 41cm   

Harika has retained the rental car, as her home.   She guards the yard from there, barking at anyone who ventures in front of the place.   We are still, sadly, without a permanent car.  It is an unbelievable obstacle, our only serious problem, but as winter comes on and we pay more for rental cars (since May!) we are a trifle panicked.  We are seeking a reasonably priced solution, and although a kind soul who works for Renault has steered us toward a new car (possibly the only answer), we are resisting the idea of four years payments.   I need to compartmentalize this problem and solve it.  Blair will drive through the hills tomorrow an buttonhole a used car dealer we’ve seen.

Roses on Carpet   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  10.5 x 16″  27 x 41 cm 

Meanwhile, I watch youtube videos on treating vertigo (these yoga people have no bones) and learning Italian.   It’s a tossup which I’ll conquer first.

Laurie and Blair Pessemier


mostra poster

Don’t Fence me In


 Grape Vines   Laurie Fox Pessemier   12 x 12″  30 x 30cm

On a recent foray to Vergato, to stock up on second-hand winter clothes* (we were too early – the store still in the throes of late summer and back to school), we passed by the town of Tolé.    Well, we nearly passed by, but it was such a charming little town we’d thought we would have a look around for painting sites.  We parked and walked around the church, the hotel – there were many B&Bs.


Trees in Big Forest  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  27.5 x 39.5  70 x 100  cm

Blair noticed a large painting on the side of one building, of a religious ilk, that resembled El Greco.  As we approached the car, I saw one on a fence, then, as I walked along, instead of finding painting subjects, we found PAINTINGS.  In addition to paintings were sculptures and many bas-relief sculptures in terra-cotta, some painted.  There was a relief of a car repair shop above the garage door; ladies getting their hair done outside the parrucheria, paintings of the trials of Pinocchio outside the school; and entire courtyard full of cats (sculpted, painted).   We walked up to the wash house and sure, enough, an ice wintry scene in there.

It is easy to pass by the little places in favor of the broad landscape, rocks as tall as the Eiffel Tower, the sky at a full 180 degrees.  2015-09-19-2058Apples off the tree    Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  12 x 20″  30 x 50 cm

2015-09-19-2061 Red Apples   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  11 x 16″  27 x 41 cm

On most days, Blair and I venture out to paint.  We hem and haw, like dogs finding the right place to pee, and often end up turning the car toward home, where we paint the apples, the roses…   it is amazing for two Parisiens to have a yard with apples, pears, grapes, figs, walnuts, peaches and plums.   Harika has taken to sitting in the car in the yard, like it is a dog house.   All of us are overwhelmed.

2015-09-19-2065 Geranium plant   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  16 x 11″  41 x 27 cm

We went to the Country Fest last weekend here in Rocca Malatina, where the locals put on a true Spaghetti Western.  There was a mechanical bull, games like “how many beans are in the jar”, and music by the “Wanted” Band.  We danced to Sweet Home Alabama.  Everything is so good spirited, you can’t go wrong.   We met folks we invited for dinner on Wednesday night.

2015-09-19-2069(0)Black Chicken   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  9.5 x 13  24 x 33cm

Our life is full of many small events set in a big landscape.  We are getting ready to put on our own Rocca Malatina artshow in October (10,11,12) and are printing up painting workshop brochures to distribute at Bologna and Modena hotels (come and paint with us for a day in the country).   Will we ever adjust to being here?  Maybe. Or not.


Rose in a Covered Glass   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/linen  14 x 11″  35 x 27cm

*Finally, why do we want second hand clothes, you ask?  We are painters, and every piece of clothing we own has an errant patch of color.   And one never knows when inspiration may strike – regardless of whether you are wearing your party skirt or paint-spattered khakis.   I’ve taken to painting decorations on my better clothes which have been christened with paint – a silhouette of M. Hulot on my white silk pants, a garden of flowers on my raincoat.

2014-05-21-0157 the painted raincoat and a painting friend

And I nearly stayed HOME!

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​Fireworks  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen   9 x 13″  22 x 33cm  

I have so much to write about, but I will begin with the fireworks.  Last Sunday we had our usual Sunday salon here in Rocca Malatina.  If you find yourself out this way, please feel free to stop by.  If you call ahead, I will be sure there’s a dinnerplate set for you.  But you can always just enjoy a cup of coffee and conversation.

This Sunday, Paul stopped by, and told us how we must see the fireworks.   Gary said yes, this is no carnival show, fireworks up here in the mountains are spectacular.  We said we’d try to get to Monteorsello, where they were happening.  It turns out that a man involved in the fireworks industy (fuochi d’artificio) lives in that tiny town of 126 inhabitants.   There were parking lots and buses which would take one to the site, and we parked about a kilometer away and walked (it’s less than 4 K from Rocca Malatina, but we’d risk being run over in the dark).

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​Hill Town (Montecorone)  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/linen   14 x 20″   35 x 50cm

When we got there, there was a noticeably excellent sound system playing popular music.  We settled on a slight incline, near the road, where we could see what we thought was the main field of action.  In fact there were three areas set to explode.

The show started what seemed like later than anticipated (we left our phone at home, so no timepiece).  The tower of Monteorsello illuminated, and fireworks spurted from the roof; a second song ensued and showers of raining light fell from the windows.  A hard rock song (I am terrible with song titles, and as I am your only reporter, you’ll have to take my word) gave way to huge fiery expolsions from windows, and fireworks in red and white shooting out of the tower sideways over the crowds.

Next, the main field came into action, with fires, and subsequent roman candles (hmm) shooting off in sync with the music at 45 degree angles, either side.  Then the MOST spectacular overhead-exploding fireworks made me feel I was in a pin ball machine, or on a birthday cake. I felt out-of-body in the presence of this magnificent force.  Colors of citron, teal, orange, red, green, white and gold.

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Vines on the wall  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  14 x 11   35 x27cm   

Certain fireworks I can only describe as giant illuminated Cheetos sprung out of clusters in the sky.   And the music, not what I normally listen to, was compelling and ever so correct with the display.   I can truly say I was gobsmacked by this fabulous production.

And I nearly stayed at home.

Laurie and Blair Pessemier

ps.  still no car, but looking more hopeful


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​House with fields   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/linen 20 x 14″   50 x 35cm

Witnessing Rocca Malatina

While I was painting one day I thought, “what am I doing here?”   The answer came as easily as the question, “I am here to witness to this place and its people”.  And I do.  I paint pictures of what I see, and write my impressions of what is going on around us.


Laurie Fox Pessemier   The gates to Paradise, as my friend Margrit calls them..  near our house in Rocca Malatina

One such place was the Grotto di Labante, which we stumbled upon this week.  We took a carsick ride through the mountains to Vergato (sound like Vertigo, doesn’t it?).  The town of Vergato has a great second hand mostly clothing store, which was unfortunately closed on Thursday; it is otherwise open Monday through Saturday mornings.   We drove on past a 16th century ruin which belonged to a friend, and then:  EUREKA!

“Grotto” the sign said, and we wound a short way down a dirt road.  This was the most unusual formation I’d seen in a long time.  I got out my paints at once, and then thought, “who would ever understand this picture?”  Blair was not as swayed.  A stream of water flowed across a promontory 65 feet (20 meters) above, dropping, onto a lushly mossed rock, a further promontory, below.  Ferns grew upside down beneath these overhangs, and the water eventually dropped onto pale rock below and into a stream.  The large mass of the cliff was riddled with caves (grottos), that one could actually walk up into, if you didn’t mind a little dripping water.   One pool was so crystal clear it looked like a small underwater town, with shrubs (trees) and tiny pathways between.  We all ran around the place, up and down, and finally got back in the car to go home.

2015-09-04-2012Blair Pessemier   Grotto at Labante   Acrylic/linen

It was then I got the idea maybe I should write about these “rides” into the country.  This is probably the least tourist-visited part of Italy, and it’s hard to figure out what to do, where to go.  It’s marvelously pleasant because it isn’t touristed, like Florence, two hours from here.  You can show up at a coffee shop and people are delighted to help you order coffee and pastry, or a local cocktail.   People stop in the street to visit.    In Vergato, we drank coca-cola (against carsickness) and ate pizza; the waitress/barkeep, curious and eager to help us.