My sketching story

My sister in law Lisa told me about Sketchbook Skool. I always liked drawing, but from the age of 9 when my Grandmother Emma ( who was a painter and art teacher) died, I lost the initiative and always felt I did not know what to draw. Throughout my life I have done many painting, watercolour and drawing classes and trained as a Ceramic Artist, but always felt ‘if only I could draw….”

I always felt inadequate, that my drawings were boring, that I lacked composition skills and that I could not find inspiration. So I resorted to learn photography as a way to capture scenes, but I know now that the best way to enjoy a place is to see it with the eyes of the drawer.

In Sketchbook Skool my journey was a bit bumpy, I started with Stretching, but found the approach of the teachers was very graphical and not attuned to my style. Non the less I caught two or three gem teachings: I enjoyed

  • Lapin’s portraits
  • France Breville approach to cross hatching and cars and Ipad 53
  • Miguel Herranz was the turning point giving me freedom to take from each scene and teacher one thing I like and putting them together even on a the same page, to create something truly personal to me
  • Jason Das for capturing the moving scene and the skill to practice at drawing people, he said he was not good at it and then he practiced and learnt.

Then I did the Seeing course and here my hero was

  • Liz Steel I learnt to use pen and ink and watercolour washes, to paint teacups (I am a maker of teacups so this is very important and rewarding!) and I joined her online course on Edges at Sketching now

I started to hear about groups and FB groups like Everyday matters and Urban sketchers where I could share my drawings adding motivation to my work. I started to draw everyday and post pictures of my drawings. I joined Urban Sketchers London on an outing and found how nicer it is to draw in company. It can be daunting to draw in the street with people looking.

I bought Lynne Chapman book on sketching people and I am having a go sometimes from the television sometimes in cafes.

In a few weeks I will join the first three day course of Urban sketchers in Brighton and I hope that will be another jump forwards.

I am seeing the power of drawing as a way of keeping track of my life and seeing the world in a different way and noticing more of what is around me. I wish I could stop the car in the middle of the road to draw quickly a piece of architecture I just saw. In my bubble I feel freer than standing on the pavement. My latest project id to draw my parents in law’s house because sadly they are no more with us, to keep the memory of it.


Monet gardens

The exhiMonetchrisanthemumsbition “Painting the modern garden. From Monet to Matisse” at the RA, made me uneasy. First there was a frustrating feeling that the curators were trying to show in a different angle paintings that we have seen in many other contexts. We all know how Monet gardens look like and how he painted them!

Then there were a bit too many horticultural details in the explanations, it wanted to be for RHS and RA customers at the same time (may be the demographics of the two kind of themes is the same!).

I wanted to look at it from the expression and technical point of view and the conceptual point of view, but may be the Royal Academy is too traditional for this.

While I was walking around I was annoyed by the mixture of painters and styles, because their leitmotiv was not the painting but the flowers and gardens.

It was not set out as a particular style of painting or a juxtaposition of different ones, the focus were houses and gardens across Europe around the end of the 19th century and beginning of 20th.

I now would like to do a master in flower painting exploring all the techniques and styles of the past and developing my personal skills and style in that.

Tomatoes alla Nonna Nuccia

In the green house I still have a few plants of tomatoes ripening now: for the first time I have been able to make this recipe, one of my favourite memories of summer lunches at my Nonna Nuccia’s house:

4 Tomatoes
2 Cloves of garlic
1 bunch of parsley
1 hard boiled egg

Place the tomatoes on a cutting board, cut them horizontally and deseed them.
Put a little salt in each hole and leave to drain upside down for a few minutes up to half an hour ( if I am in a hurry I don’t bother with this step!)
Chop garlic and parsley with a chopper, then fill each hole with a pinch of herbs.
Warm up some oil in a frying pan, put the tomatoes  skin down in the pan and let them sizzle for a few minutes then cover with a lid lower the flame and let cook for about 15 minutes, basting them with their juices every so often. If they dry up add a little water.
In the mean time hard boil an egg  and slice it  into thin slices.
When the tomatoes are very soft but still keeping the shape put on every half a slice of egg and baste one more time with the juices. Increase the heat and let the water evaporate without the lid and switch off.
Serve straight from the pan.IMG_7293red

Summer is still here…


A surprise to find still courgettes flowers in October, these last few weeks of sunshine have made the miracle, I fear it will soon be dark and cold and wet though…

Quiche with Chard and courgette flowers as in my book My corner of Italy, with the addition of decorative courgette flowers filled with ricotta:

300g chard
1 clove of garlic
Ready-made puff pastry 1 packet
2 eggs
Bechamelle sauce
Choice of cheeses

Fry the garlic in oil and when it starts to brown add the chard. Add some salt and close the lid. When all the vegetable water has come out take off the lid and finish off the cooking until it has gone.
Prepare a baking tray with a rim and lay in it the puff pastry, covering the sides.
Prepare the bechamelle sauce.  Beat the eggs, add the bechamelle sauce, the vegetables and the cheese and pour into the baking tray. Sprinkle generously with parmesan (or other cheese) and bake for 40 minutes at 160°C.
This recipe works as well also without the pastry crust.

Zucchine trifolate from my book “My corner of Italy”

500g courgettes
1 clove of garlic
A bunch parsley

Cut the courgettes into chunks.
Fry the oil and parsley until sizzling, then add the courgettes with the salt and stir for a while until all the pieces are turning golden on all sides.
Close the lid and cook until tender, making sure they do not run dry and start to burn. The way my mother does them is so soft that they melt in the mouth. To accomplish this they need to cook a bit longer uncovered, stirring them often and they will sort of caramelise.IMG_6697red

Thinness of the rim

thinnes of a rimBefore I studied ceramics I never even considered the cup I was drinking from. I did not come from a tea culture and I used to take my daily espresso at a bar with colleagues, from the normal commercial little cups they give in Italy.

Coming to England opened to me an amazing possibility of exploration both in beverages and in containers. I started to make my own cups and in the struggle of the technical difficulty of throwing, the rim was the last thing I mastered. It was a miracle if I even got to the finished rim!

I learnt to judge the aesthetics and feel of my rims only in my third year at college, when I had gained enough skill to be able to consider all the elements of my finished product.

You can see in the picture a progression from the thicker one to the wobbly one to the more elegant one. I get a lot of good feed back for the pleasure in drinking from my cups and the thin rim is always mentioned.

I find now very unpleasant to drink from cheap industrial mugs and all the ones bough years ago sit unused in the back of the cupboard and I see even my children reach for the thin handmade ones.


It is a long process but it is very rewarding. Every year I clear my strawberry patch select the best plants and then cover the soil between them to avoid too many weeds and slugs. I cover the bed with nets against the birds and then forget about it for three month. Suddenly I notice the red appear and then I have to wait patiently until they are ripe all over. There is always a white patch on the underside. Another challenge is to get all the way home without eating them…

Tonight it is the first time we have a reasonable amount to eat for dinner and served in my “Wave” bowl ( see for more detail on the bowls)strawberries

Courgette flowers

IMG_2606The season of courgette flowers has begun!

In my recipe book, that is coming out soon, I will have a few recipes to enjoy them, I give you here a preview:


10 courgette flowers

Flour 75 g

Corn flour 75

Bicarbonate of soda 1tsp

Very cold soda water 250 ml

Frying oil


Mix the flower with the water slowly until a batter consistency it obtained (like single cream).

Heat the oil in a small high sided pan

Take away the stamen from the flowers then dip the flowers one by one in the flour batter and put in the very hot oil for about 3 minutes until the batter is swollen and looks golden

Tip out onto a plate covered with kitchen towel to adsorb the excess oil and sprinkle with salt.

40 tomato plants


We had a few days of sunshine and the little plants were struggling to grow in the individual pots, so i took the courage and planted them outside, covered at night with a plastic tunnel. They seem very cold though, we have had a week of chilly winds and much lower temperatures than the week before. Let’s hope they survive…. The cabbages, peas and sprouts are happy though, but no sign of carrots even under the environmetal net….

April is a stressful month at the allotment!