Painting on Panels at Tenuta di Spannocchia in Italy


To paint is to bring inside–doubly: into the inhabited space around the image and into the frame. The paradox of painting is that it invites the spectator into its room to look at the wold beyond. John Berger, An Artist’s Handbook, page 91

I teach Painting on Panels or Drawing to See in alternate years at Tenuta di Spannocchia. In 2021, September 7 – 19, I will teach Painting on Panels.

Participants start with quick, loose sketching to slow down and immerse themselves in the place. Artists work from direct observation, from the flat, and from memory, visualization and imagination. Using exercises from An Artist’s Handbook: Materials and Techniques, artists explore ancient, medieval and early Renaissance approaches to painting and their contemporary application. They work on poplar wood panels in encaustic, casein tempera, egg tempera, distemper and Venetian oil. They keep a sketchbook for quick sketches and detailed studies in preparation for painting and to record their experience. Throughout the workshop, they study color theory as related to the painting practice. There are two or three excursions to view primary resources related to the course, for art historical lectures and discussions, and for sketching.

Artists examine the cultural/historic context of methods and concepts presented in the course. A goal is to develop the ability to paint using basic methods from history and to acquire the tools to promote the process of pictorial development. Readings, discussion and reflection promote critical knowledge to help clarify the artist intellectually in their aesthetic concepts.

Some of the art concepts explored are local color, hue bias, construction of a pictorial space using the golden section and the rule of thirds, line, form, composition, tenebrism, sfumato, chiaroscuro, atmospheric perspective and the sublime. Artists engage in a hands-on exploration of the evolution of Western painting. They learn to abstract and distill from their experiences and to make paintings infused with their lived experience.

villa bedroom
quick sketch from villa bedroom, Margaret Krug
painting studio
color theory study, a day book of superimposed washes: afterimage, film color, Margaret Krug

Register visual material with the raw data of sight. Sight consists of a patchwork of light and color. The mind interprets light and color sensations as objects in space, which the artist, working abstractly without theoretical ideas, emulates. If a painter can capture the correct hue, mixed carefully after nature, then space and values as well as the illusion of light can be recorded with verity.  Margaret Krug

creating detailed sketch in studio
detailed sketch, Spannocchia pomegranate blossoms and seed pods
T156 PO 143G
applying true gesso to poplar wood panels
encaustic painting, Dante’s Arco: Memory and Presence (Portal), Margaret Krug
encaustic painting, Dante’s Arco: Memory and Presence (Phantom), Margaret Krug
egg tempera, egg/oil emulsion painting, Bell Flower, Margaret Krug
tache/preparatory sketch for painting, Margaret Krug
silverpoint, egg tempera, egg/oil emulsion painting, Wind, Breath, Nodes, Margaret Krug
Dingle Peninsula
casein tempera painting, Dingle Peninsula (after J.M. Synge), Margaret Krug
distemper painting, Dante’s Arco: Memory and Presence (Path), Margaret Krug
oil painting, Ovid’s Orchard (As Apples Ripen…Red Under White) (from Ovid), Margaret Krug
oil painting, Blue Air-River, Margaret Krug
Field 4
oil painting, Field, Margaret Krug

Each artist chooses a theme and a related poem or other text as unifying factors for their work, presents a discussion of their work for the painting group and participates in an exhibition at Spannocchia for the Spannocchia community and neighbors and the public.

I hope you can join us in September 2021. For more information please contact me at

Here are some images of the wonderful artists and their work from Painting on Panels 2017.

historical, sketching tour of Spannocchia given by Director of Spannocchia, Randall Stratton
Siena, sketching in the Palazzo Pubblico, Ambrogio Lorenzetti, The Well-Governed City
Siena, sketching in the Palazzo Pubblico, Ambrogio Lorenzetti, The Well-Governed City
Siena, sketching in Pinacoteca Nazionale
Siena, sketching in Pinacoteca Nazionale


Siena, sketching in Pinacoteca Nazionale

Visual examples reveal how artists have used painting methods. Visits to museums and other related institutions should always be an essential part of the exploration of painting materials and processes. Images of painting do not convey the finish, texture, or scale. It is even more meaningful to view paintings in the vicinity in which they were created to get a sense of the air, the light, and the space that the artists experienced. Margaret Krug, An Artist’s Handbook, page 108

Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Beccafumi cartoon (detail)
Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Beccafumi oil painting (detail)
visit to Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiori, Il Sodoma fresco
Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiori. refectory
instruction in the yard at Spannocchia
working in the yard outside the studio
visit to Volterra
Aleksander Kalmus presentation
Aleksander Kalmus, cartoon transfer, casein, cartoon transfer, sketch, verdaccio, detailed portrait sketch
Aleksander Kalmus, egg tempera verdaccio, encaustic portrait
Joseph Sasarak
Joseph Sasarak, encaustic painting
Joseph Sasarak, oil painting
Joseph Sasarak, casein painting
Joseph Sasarak, egg tempera verdaccio, cartoon transfer
Joseph Sasarak, oil painting, Badia Fiorentina, doorsien, cartoon transfer
Alexandra Eldridge presentation
Alexandra Eldridge, quick sketch in the vegetable garden
Alexandra Eldridge, casein, cartoon transfer, egg tempera, casein, oil painting
Alexandra Eldridge, encaustic painting, detailed preparatory sketch 
Amy Conway
Amy Conway, encaustic painting, cartoon transfer
Amy Conway, oil painting 
Amy Conway. casein painting, cartoon transfer
Amy Conway
Alice Sibio
Alice Sibio
Alice Sibio, cartoon transfer, egg tempera verdaccio
Alice Sibio, cartoon transfer, egg tempera verdaccio
Alice Sibio, encaustic painting
Alice Sibio, cartoon transfer, egg tempera verdaccio
Vanessa Pettit
casein, egg tempera, cartoon transfer, quick sketch in the villa
detailed sketch (cartoon), transfer, encaustic painting
Vanessa Pettit, egg tempera painting
Vanessa Pettit, oil painting, studio doorsein
Michael Koessel
Michael Koessel, encaustic painting
Michael Koessel, quick sketch, Spannocchia
Michael Koessel, casein painting (farm houses)
Michael Koessel, egg tempera doorsein painting (villa dining room)
Michael Koessel, quick sketch, Spannocchia
Michael Koessel, sketch of a detail of Rosso Fiorentino’s Deposition in the Pinacoteca in Volterra
Michael Koessel, quick sketch of a Beccafumi in Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena, oil painting (detail) of Rosso Fiorentino’s Deposition at the Pinacoteca in Volterra
In the studio

fullsizeoutput_12d9Materials have their own secrets to reveal: they have their own genius: it is through them that the oracle speaks. Odilon Redon, An Artist’s Handbook, page 89


Where the first suggestion comes from some definite subject, where an ancient tale, a passage from a poem, an historical scene or some real person is the inspiration, the subject-matter transforms itself more and more into reality during the process of the work. Rainer Maria Rilke, Auguste Rodin, page 62


Drawing to See


Drawings are a document of the process and a direct reflection of thinking and artistic decision-making. An Artist’s Handbook, page 58

Many thanks to the wonderful artists who participated in my drawing program, Drawing to See, at Tenuta di Spannocchia in Italy this summer. There is an overall theme for the course, Genius Loci (spirit of place). In addition, each artist chooses their own theme and a related poem. There is an emphasis on materials, process, and the open-endedness, ongoing and unfinished nature of a drawing. Using exercises from An Artist’s Handbook, the importance of the unfinished aspect of the drawing process – an exploration of ideas, an embodiment of the transition and flux in the act of experience – is addressed. Artists work from direct observation, from the flat, and from memory, visualization and imagination. Here are some images of this season’s artists and their work.

IMG_1136Studio (limonaia, lemon tree barn) at Tenuta di Spannocchia

IMG_4118Sketching in the yard outside the studio at Spannocchia

IMG_3092View of Spannocchia farmhouses from the yard outside the studio

IMG_4299Alexandra Eldridge in the studio


IMG_4275Etruscan Mirror, graphite, ultramarine blue violet pigment, ink on found antique paper

IMG_0173.JPGSpannocchia is an Etruscan place. There is a small museum, a former granary, on the estate with objects on display excavated from an Etruscan cistern during a dig in the area.

IMG_4270Sketch of a floor tile in the Piccolomini Library in Siena, graphite (below)

Pierced, terre pozzuoli pigmented trace for transfer (above)

IMG_4269Transferred image, terre pozzuoli pigment on Magnani paper (above)

Silverpoint drawing on Magnani paper with prepared ground (below)


IMG_4294Revelation (Spannocchia Cat), silverpoint and iron gall ink on prepared ground

IMG_4273Nest in the Villa Windowsill, graphite, conté crayon, ink on found antique paper

IMG_4291Tiny Moment, Refuge and Sanctuary (villa bedroom 2 bath), indigo ink on Fabriano Artistico paper

IMG_4288I Find You in All These Things, iron gall and indigo ink on vellum, conté crayon on Fabriano Artistico paper

IMG_4290Poem: I Find You in All These Things, Rainer Maria Rilke

Theme: Revelation

IMG_4266Amy Conway in the studio

IMG_4251Flower, graphite (stumped and erased) on vellum

IMG_4252Charcoal sketch after Giorgio Morandi

Pierced, terre pozzuoli pigmented trace for transfer

Transferred image, terre pozzuoli pigmentIMG_4257Sketches after Susan Topilkar, sum ink on kraft paper and Japanese Kitakata paper

IMG_4254Silverpoint sketch, of a Memmo di Filippuccio fresco detail in Palazzo Comunale in San Gimignano, on Arches buff paper with prepared ground, adhered with thread to mulberry paper

IMG_0141San Gimignano

IMG_4251Teasels, walnut ink on vellum

Tiny Moment, Watching the Cypress Tree Breathe, sum ink on Arches paper

Nocturne, indigo ink on Fabriano Artistico paper

IMG_4261Sketch of botanical subject, sumi ink on Fabriano Artistico paper

IMG_4320Poem: In the Garden of PossibilitiesAmy Conway

Theme: Liberation and Illumination

IMG_4314Yu Rong in the studio

IMG_4238Silverpoint highlighted with white and yellow on tinted ground

IMG_4326Eternity, pressed botanical material on tinted ground

IMG_4325Bound book, sumi ink and collage on vellum

IMG_4245Nocturne, Sovicille Night, iron gall, indigo, and walnut ink, watercolor on vellum mounted on rag paper

IMG_4241Doorsien (a view out the studio window), watercolor

IMG_4232Doorsien, Abbazia Di San Galgano, silverpoint, watercolor on tinted ground

IMG_2425Abbazia Di San Galgano

IMG_2418Abbazia Di San Galgano

IMG_4235Fragrances, silverpoint, iron gall, walnut and indigo ink, botanical material on prepared ground

Poem: Fragrances, Bashõ

Theme: Fragrances and Nature

IMG_4180Joe Sasarak in the studio stitching line

IMG_4221Teasels, silverpoint on tinted ground

IMG_4246Teasels, sumi ink on vellum

FullSizeRenderDoorsien (studio entrance), silverpoint on tinted ground

IMG_4247Sketch from Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Annunciation (sinopia underdrawing), Monte Siepi Chapel, San Galgano, conté crayon

IMG_4248Silverpoint sketch of villa bedroom pillows on prepared ground (after Albrecht Durer)

IMG_4250Lance, charcoal sketch on moleskin

IMG_4249Club Kid, bound and sealed book, sumi ink, thread, collage, vellum, mulberry paper, tinted rag paper

IMG_4208Evolution, sketch from Jacobo da Pontormo’s Nude Boy Seated, conté crayon on laid paper

IMG_4229Nocturne (The Chambered Nautilus), iron gall and indigo ink on vegetable vellum mounted on rag paper

Poem: The Chambered Nautilus, Oliver Wendell Holmes

Theme: Evolution (artistic)

IMG_0166Castello di Spannocchia

The Spannocchia Foundation is a private foundation with a focus on sustainable resources. The Foundation occupies a twelve hundred acre, forested estate in Tuscany. Spannocchia is an Etruscan place, with an Etruscan museum housed in a fourteenth century granary, adjacent to a twelfth century castle. Among other endeavors, the Foundation blends early farming methods with state-of-the art twenty-first century farming practice. My Painting, Drawing and Art History Programs resonate with the Foundation’s vision, in that there is a concentration on early drawing and painting methods revealing the art history and tradition within the context and location of early practice, examined through the lens of contemporary art practice.

IMG_4126Drawing to See artists at San Galgano

IMG_4130San Galgano

IMG_4048San Gimignano


IMG_0195Florence from Giotto’s Campanile

IMG_4429Scriptorium, our favorite drawing materials source in Florence


Painting at Farnesia, Michelangelo gave Daniel endless advice. One day he even came in to visit him and , not finding him, he climbed on the scaffolding and drew a huge head with charcoal. It is still there. Daniel respected it and did not put color on it so that posterity could know more about Michelangelo, even when he was playing.

Stendhal, The Italian Schools of Painting 

The Names of Colors

Photo: Pamelia Markwood
Photo: Pamelia Markwood

One student in my Color Theory class at Parsons School of Design had an interesting inquiry regarding the names of colors. I wanted to share my response.

You are beginning to learn about the colors and the names of the colors we see and ways we perceive them. The primary colors for the artist are red, yellow and blue (RYB), also referred to as subtractive colors. The primary spectral hues (rainbow colors) are red, green and blue (RGB), additive colors. The artist creates green by combining yellow and blue. The artist can create all other colors with the three primary colors. You can read the text on pages 104-106 in my book, An Artist’s Handbook, and review the color circle, the invention of which is attributed to Sir Isaac Newton, so you will know the primary color names and see the visual reference, which is labeled with the initials of the colors. You will see that the 3 secondary colors are made from combining two of the primary colors – blue and yellow = green, yellow and red = orange, blue and red = violet. The 6 tertiary colors are noted on the circle with two letters each and are a combination of the two colors noted. You can make tints and shades and colors with less intensity (saturation) with the three primaries and the colors derived from them. You will see examples of this on page 105 as well. When we work with Color Aid paper you will learn a great deal about how we perceive the colors we see. You will be creating your own color circle during the semester, and you could also buy a small one at any art store, if you would want something in addition to the book illustration.

A helpful mnemonic, to facilitate memory of the primary and secondary colors that were also the spectral hues identified and named by Isaac Newton, is ROY G BIV – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. Indigo was included, because Newton wanted there to be seven colors to match the musical scale. Next time you see a rainbow, check for indigo.

Cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK) are the colors used in four-color printing.

Throughout An Artist’s Handbook, you will see the names of pigments – often named from the source of the pigment. For example the pigment indigo is named for the plant material (the indigofera plant) that it comes from, and titanium white is named thus, because it is the mineral substance, titanium dioxide. There is an excellent little book titled, Colors: The Story of Dyes and Pigments, François Delamare and Bernard Guineau, that would be helpful if you would like to know more about the names and composition of pigments. For additional resources, refer to the bibliography at the back of my book.

In the art and design world and in popular contemporary culture, at any one time, there will be color names created for brands, styles, current fashions, etc. Mauve, robin’s egg blue, eggplant, and sea foam are examples.

I hope this helps. We will discuss all of this in more detail as the semester evolves.

Blue Air-River

These artworks are each a part of a larger project.

Water and Time: Landscapes of the Past

Faces and Flora: Portrait Studies of Literary Figures Paired with Flowers

The works are in an exhibition at the Willa Cather Foundation in Red Cloud, Nebraska.


Blue Air-River, distemper, oil, beeswax, pigment, gesso on wood panel, 4×14 inches, 2015

In The Song of the Lark, Willa Cather’s character, Thea, goes to a canyon in Arizona and lives in a rock room of an ancient people’s city built upon high cliffs.

“Panther Canyon was the home of innumerable swallows. They built nests in the wall far above the hollow groove in which Thea’s own rock chamber lay. They seldom ventured above the rim of the canyon, to the flat, wind-swept tableland. Their world was the blue air-river between the canyon walls. In the blue gulf the arrow-shaped birds swam all day long, with only an occasional movement of the wings.”

The Song of the Lark, Willa Cather

Faces and Flora Portrait studies of literary figures paired with flowers cited in their writings. Willa Cather’s fictional character, Thea, in The Song of the Lark remembered the moonflowers of her childhood in the fictional town of Moonstone, Colorado. “A great deal escaped her eye as she passed through the world. But the things which were for her, she saw; she experienced them physically and remembered them as if they had once been a part of herself. The roses she used to see in the florists’ shops in Chicago were merely roses. But when she thought of the moonflowers that grew over Mrs. Tellamantez’s door, it was as if she had been that vine and had opened up in white flowers every night.”

Willa Cather with Moonflower, graphite on Strathmore Bristol, 6×5 ¾ inches, 2015

Willa Cather’s fictional character, Thea, in The Song of the Lark remembered the moonflowers of her childhood in the fictional town of Moonstone, Colorado.

“A great deal escaped her eye as she passed through the world. But the things which were for her, she saw; she experienced them physically and remembered them as if they had once been a part of herself. The roses she used to see in the florists’ shops in Chicago were merely roses. But when she thought of the moonflowers that grew over Mrs. Tellamantez’s door, it was as if she had been that vine and had opened up in white flowers every night.”

The Song of the Lark, Willa Cather


The Growth of an Artist: Commemorating 100 Years of The Song of the Lark

MAY 5 to AUGUST 31, 2015
Red Cloud Opera House
413 North Webster Street
Red Cloud, NE 68970
Artists Reception, June 6, 5-7PM

color and line

Colour is no less positive than line, considered as representation of fact; and you either match a given colour, or do not, as you either draw a given ellipse or square, or do not. Nor, on the other hand, are lines, in their groupings destitute of relative influence; they exalt or depress their individual powers by association; … But the influence of lines on each other is restricted within narrow limits, while the sequences of colour are like those of sound, and susceptible of all the complexity and passion of the most accomplished music.

John Ruskin


Dante’s Alley: Memory and Presence (Portal), casein, beeswax, shellac, pigment, casein gesso on wood panel, 4×12 inches, 2011