Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

A Painting Workshop in Italy

Itinerary for Tour and Painting Workshop in Tuscany




Day 1—Today is the beginning of 10 enchanted days in Tuscany.  We arrive in Firenze, city of the Medici and a host of incredibly talented artists—Brunelleschi, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and  Botticelli among them.  Those who arrive early will undoubtedly want to fight your jetlag by exploring, grabbing a gelato, and wandering the shops on Ponte Vecchio.  Others may want to grab a nap, because tonight we are going to have fun.  Around 8PM everyone will meet in the lobby for a casual greeting of new friends.  We’ll head out together for a delicious dinner at a restaurant favored by locals and tourists alike.  New friends, great food and wine—we’re off to a magical start.

Day 2—You’ll find a delicious continental breakfast awaiting you at the hotel, but you won’t want to linger too long over your cappuccino.  We’re off on a walking tour of Firenze during the morning and a tour of the legendary Uffizi Museum in the afternoon.  You’ll finish at the Uffizi with enough time to enjoy sketching over a glass of wine or tazza of cafe  in one of the many city’s piazzas.  The group will meet in the hotel lobby around 8PM , and then you’re off to dinner on your own –either in a group or individually.  Just don’t stay out too late; we’re heading out early in the morning.
Day 3—Today we leave for Gargonza, the medieval castle where we will stay for six nights.  Dating back to the early 13th century, the walled castle once hosted Dante when he sought refuge after he was exiled from Firenze for political reasons.  Today it is a favorite site for conferences, weddings and celebrations.  We’ll settle into our rooms, then meet mid-afternoon for a class on plein air painting.   After working for a few hours, we will have our first meal at La Torre, the hotel’s lovely restaurant.

Day 4—You’ll begin the day with a breakfast of cappuccino or espresso, freshly baked pastries, cheeses and meats, and then we will meet to discuss the importance of color as a design element.  After this period of instruction I encourage everyone to explore the grounds that surround the castle before starting to paint.

There is a beautiful garden which some painters will enjoy because it is quite private and colorful.  The ancient architecture of the chapel, stone walls, tower, and arched gateways will appeal to others.  It’s your choice.  Lunch is on your own, maybe something delicious from the restaurant or a quick snack of cheese and fruit. You may want to paint throughout the afternoon or perhaps you’ll  feel like exercising with a long hike through the extensive estate.  We’ll meet in the early evening for a sharing of the day’s work and a discussion of some basic concerns.  Dinner at La Torre, the hotel restaurant.


Day 5—We’ll gather early in the morning to meet Serena, our fabulous tour guide for the next few days.  A native of Valdichiana and educated at the University of Florence, Serena will take us to Arezzo.  This city was the setting for the Oscar-winning movie It’s a Beautiful Life with the effervescent Roberto Benigni. Arezzo is also famous for art, architecture, and antiques.  Piero della Francesca’s Legend of the True Cross is a breathtaking series of frescoes in the Chapel of San Francesco Church.  The  loggias in the Piazza Grande were designed by Vassari in 1573.  Recessed under the canopy of the loggias are restaurants and places where you can relax and pull out your sketchbooks.  This is the perfect place to search for antique linens, books, old photographs, and ceramics.

Leaving Arezzo, we’ll journey east to Anghiari.  This medieval town lies between the Tiber and the Arno, and it is surrounded by incredibly steep walls which were built to maintain its safety from warring city states.  Artisan shops and the workrooms of furniture and antique restorers are a unique attraction in this historic town.  Breathtaking views and panoramic vistas provide endless visual temptations, so you’ll want your sketching and painting supplies with you.

Today’s touring will have provided a wealth of material for paintings, and some of you may choose to paint from your sketchbooks this evening.  The studio is always open for you; I know that inspiration can occur at all hours of the day.

 Day 6—We will stay at home base today, meeting in the studio after breakfast to discuss painting concerns, ideas and goals for your painting.  I will provide tips on painting figures and outline the steps that I use for my own work.  The group will meet at the end of the day for a discussion of the day’s paintings and of what you found while working at the castle.  Dinner at 8 in the hotel restaurant.

Day 7— The bus is early this morning.  We’re heading southwest to visit two irresistible sources of wine and cheese.  The first stop will be Montalcino, home of the famous Brunello wine.  Next is Pienza where pecorino cheese is made.  Numerous shops provide tasting rooms for this delicious treat.  If you decide to purchase some cheese, fruit, and bread, you’ll have everything needed for a picnic lunch at the site of our next visit.

Rising  above the countryside, Abbazia di Sant’Antimo is a Romanesque abbey that dates to the days of Charlemagne.  Several different religious orders have occupied the buildings for centuries, and a group of French canons live and worship there today.  One of the most memorable features of the abbey is that some services include Gregorian chanting by the monks.   Historically, this abbey was a primary stop along the pilgrimage route from France to St. Peter’s tomb in Rome.

There will be plenty of time to enjoy the sights and sounds of this very special place.  Some of you may wish to walk through the ambulatory of the church and explore the ancient walls; others may want to set up gear and paint the incredible views of the valleys below; others will relax with our picnic and dream of days long gone.  Nobody will leave without experiencing something—spiritual, artistic, emotional.   Many months and years from now, you will look at your sketchbook and realize that it holds your heart and soul within its pages.  Treasure those memories, let them transform you, paint from them until you bubble over like the prosecco we’ve been drinking before dinner.


Day 8–This day is for painting and learning from others.  Plein aire painters will delight in the wealth of panoramic views available from the castle.  Others may choose to develop the many ideas and sketches generated during day trips.  I will provide instruction on collage techniques for those who are interested in learning something new.

Gourmets and kitchen experts won’t want to miss the optional activity available this afternoon.  The hotel chef will provide an opportunity to observe, cook, and prepare your own dinner.   What a fun way to spend the afternoon!

Day 9—Oh dear, our last day at the castle.  Following breakfast we will pack into the bus, say our goodbyes to staff, and take one last loving look at our castle home.  On the way back to Florence we will take a short detour to Cortona.  We approach this charming town through a valley of undulating fields that sparkle with early spring flowers and a velvety carpet of green.  It’s a moment of such beauty that you may ache with yearning for all the purity of the moment.  After exploring the town and choosing a place to lunch, we will leave this lovely place and head back to the city.

There will be time in Florence tonight for some  last-minute museum hopping, a visit with David, studying the original plans and models for the Duomo, tasting your favorite flavors of gelato, a drink from a rooftop so you can glimpse the views that have made this city famous for many centuries.  Tonight we’ll meet for our last dinner together.   Friends, art, fields of color, and food from the land.  It’s been an adventure, hasn’t it?

Day 10—Departure for home.  Farewell to new friends, lovers of painting and life under the Tuscan sun.



Registration and $500 deposit per person.  Contact Susan for registration form.

$3350 per person in shared room.  Please allow me to help you find a roommate.

There is a single supplement of $750 for those not sharing a room.

At Gargonza there is an opportunity to upgrade to a room with fireplace.  The fee is $100 more, but this is only available for double rooms.


Included in the price:

3 Nights in Florence at a boutique B&B, 6 nights in Castello Gargonza near Arezzo

2 Dinners in Florence

6 Dinners at Castle (Arezzo area)

Guided tour of Florence and the Uffizi

Guided tour of Arezzo and the Piero della Francesca frescoes

Transportation from Florence to Castle and return to Florence

All breakfasts (continental) at hotels

Entrance fees to Uffizi Gallery plus guided tours with licensed bi-lingual guides where noted

Transportation for day trips


Not included:

Flights to and from Italy

Painting supplies and equipment

Taxi rides taken on your own

Transportation to and from airport or train station

Single Supplement Fee–$750, room upgrade–$100

Extras such as spa treatments or special services at hotels

Optional Cooking Class and other activities for non-painters

Meals not noted above

Travel insurance (required)


Susan Sohl

707 523-7043


29 Oct 2012

Far, Far Away

Life experiences, no matter how sad, joyful, or devastating, are the lifeblood that gives birth to meaningful art. Music, literature, theater, dance, painting, and poetry grow out of the creator’s efforts to give voice to the challenges of existence. This is as true today as it was during the days of prehistoric man. We create in order to make sense of our lives. Who are we? Why did this happen to me? What could I have done differently? Why does man create war? How can I do something to alleviate the suffering of others?

The Human Condition is not about a few, but rather it includes us all.  We are quite simply beings who have been shaped both by our past and by our shared human condition. Some say that we can change, other deny the promise of becoming someone new.  I don’t know which is correct, but I do know that my emotional life is the content for my paintings.  Each  grows out of traveling through emotionally charged dreams, disappointments, and promises from the past and present. I may not remember the exact circumstance that caused me to feel a certain emotion, but I embrace the emotions as they bubble to the surface.

Far, Far Away, the painting shown here, came into being after the death of a family member.  Grief,  loss, and fear hit me hard.  Eventually I turned to painting, and this work was the result.  Some may look at the figure in the painting and see a woman on a beach.  Others may see someone standing in a desert with mountains in the background.  If, however, you feel emotion while viewing it, I am successful.  This is a painting about pure emotion; it is not realistic or technically perfect.  It took courage to paint and requires integrity to view.

Painting from the heart is a voyage that takes an artist far, far away from things he or she may consider safe and comfortable. It’s a long, challenging journey, but it can heal and bring change. This is the only true thing that I know.



3 Oct 2012

Hello World! I…

Hello World!


I love to travel.  So much so that after graduation from university I packed away my degree and signed up to work for Pan Am.  This was during the days when first class meant preparing gourmet meals and carving prime rib in front of passengers.  When layovers were in places such as Roma, Buenos Aires, Rio di Janeiro, Trinidad, and Guatemala City–always in 4- and 5-star hotels.  Most of all, it was a time when I could chat on lengthy flights with diplomats and entrepreneurs, Peace Corps volunteers, missionaries, artists, musicians, writers.  My world expanded rapidly–living in Miami and then D.C., visiting museums in New York and London, touring coffee plantations in Salvador, attending the opera in Paris, celebrating the New Year at a local PAA employee’s home in Sao Paulo.

So, where did I go next?  Well, it wasn’t exactly my first choice but I ended up in Newfoundland, a Canadian province located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  Love and marriage take you to all kinds of new places.

Beginning with 6 months of dark, 6 months of light, every day in Newfoundland was an adventure and an opportunity to work on my creativity.  My husband began a jazz program at a local radio station: I began to paint.  There were so many things that spoke to me–unpainted houses that faced the roaring seas with a sense of forlorn and challenge, goats that picked through the rocky cliffs for sustenance, WWII bunkers disguised by gigantic blueberry bushes, children playing ice hockey on the frozen roads.  

Then there was the moose rendeszous, something that continues to puzzle and intrigue. Every morning a full-grown male moose greetedt me as I drove to school.  He trotted toward me in the left lane, I traveled the right.  He would raise his head, looking me in the eye, but he never wavered in his path.  This continued until the early hours of morning began to lighten and hints of greenery began to appear.  He disappeared, never to greet me again, and broke my heart.  My love affair with the moose was over.

What does one do with such adventures?  What is the reason to travel?  For me it is a matter of growth and expansion; it fills my treasure chest with material for painting.  More importantly it enriches me and opens my heart, allowing me to pour emotional content into my work.  It also enables me to share openly and freely with others.

So where am I going next?  Italy, of course.  Where better to see the greatest art, enjoy the most delicious food, meet the friendliest people, and work from the heart.  

Come join me!  I’d love to share the adventure with you.


26 Jul 2012