In the home stretch of summer 2018, an incredible opportunity landed in my lap: a seven-day painting workshop in Tuscany.
I had learned of the trip, led by Charlotte artist Angela Nesbit, last spring but quickly dismissed it to my bucket list; one day maybe, but not this year.
July was not quite over and we had already enjoyed a very full summer. The last Saturday morning of July, a message popped up from a painting friend. She wanted to know if I was available to take her place at the workshop in Italy; she had paid and registered, but was not able to attend. I’d have to fly out Thursday—FIVE DAYS AWAY.
I was still recovering from our two-week family vacation in Rhode Island and a whirlwind trip to Atlanta.
The logical part of my mind said, no—are you crazy? You can’t even begin to consider going...the expense, the time, all of the things you’ve got to catch up on. But my heart said wait—check it out. Maybe this is from the Lord.
I prayed. I took a deep breath and told my husband. We talked about all the reasons why it wouldn’t work. But something wouldn’t let me dismiss it that easily. I prayed again, and began putting together the pieces of a puzzle that eventually fell into place.
Each roadblock I encountered became a new prayer request. Lord, if You want me to go—if this trip is a gift from You— please work this out. I took what logical steps I could, prayed again and waited. While running errands that afternoon, I bought a couple of travel accessories as “good faith” deposits.
Things began to move. I expedited my passport, which had expired last February, and it was processed within 24 hours. A friend obtained airline buddy passes for me to fly overseas at an unbelievably low price. My wonderful husband and four teenage daughters volunteered to step it up a notch in their duties at home to cover for me. I inventoried my painting supplies and obtained what I needed.
That Sunday night, we attended a church meeting where our pastor laid out his vision and implementation for a huge outreach/expansion project. His message was the story of how it began with dreaming and praying big, because we serve a big God who loves to give us good things. Ah, the timing!
On Thursday, August 2, I flew to Milan (was bumped up to first class!). Looking out the window at the amazing snow-capped mountains, I cried in stunned amazement at this incredible blessing I had received. I was arriving in Italy on a painting trip that had not been even remotely on my radar less than a week before.
Each destination presented new challenges—figuring out the train system, getting to Centrale Milano, finding the ATM to get Euros, obtaining WiFi so I could pull up my ticket—and again, He was faithful. A gelato and a 3.5 hour train ride later, I arrived in Masa.
I walked out of the train station in a daze, my mind foggy from very little sleep/lots of travel for the past 32 hours. How am I going to find Alessandro, our host? I do not know what he looks like, nor he me. Seconds after this realization, I a smiling man walking toward me, “Julia?” I smile, “Yes!” He takes my bags and we load up in the van with Chrissy, also a Montorno participant.
We arrived at the hotel in Querceta, nestled between the coast and the mountains. Quick shower and change, and off to meet the group in the lobby. I was warmly greeted by the group of eight ladies. Our host couple, Alessandro and Francesca, drove us to dinner at Montorno, their beautiful mountainside property in the town of Seravezza. Appetizers (a tomato tart, crostini with hummus, and big green local olives) and beverages awaited us on the front patio while we took in the amazing view.
Seravezza is known for its marble which is mined from the Apuan Alps. According to Wikipedia, harsh pressure transformed the limestone in many places into the Carrara marble (named for the nearby city of Carrara) for which the range is renowned.
I would be remiss if I didn’t give all the delicious details. Francesca is an amazing cook! Dinner that first night was a lovely pasta in a light tomato sauce; fresh bread; thinly-sliced chicken breast in a light lemon sauce; garden salad; sautéed spinach; strawberries and bananas in a light strawberry sauce with whipped cream.
An absolute dream! To be continued...
Pictured below: Montorno and the view from the house; the mountain range where Carrara marble is mined. Bottom right: A small painting I did of our wonderful hosts, Alessandro and Francesca, preparing dinner for us in their kitchen (Preparando La Cena, oil on paper, 9x12 inches).
As a member of ArtPopCLT Class Of 2018, several wonderful opportunities have come my way this year.
Recently Bayer Properties, which managers for Metropolitan Charlotte (home to Trader Joe’s, Target, Marshall’s, Home Depot, Dresslers, West Elm, and more) was looking for art for their lobby and five large street level windows on Kings Drive. They reached out to ArtPop Street Gallery artists, so I answered the call.
After meeting with Bayer’s marketing manager, I submitted several oil sketches based on photos from their sunset concert series. Bayer Properties was pleased with them. In just a couple of weeks, my paintings were photographed, blown up into large window clings and installed.
Wow! So exciting! Can’t thank ArtPopCLT, Metropolitan Charlotte and Bayer Properties enough for the honor of having my work grace their windows.
Once again, yay for public art! Enjoy your commute.
Recently my family and I enjoyed an incredible New England vacation on Block Island, a small island off the coast of Rhode Island. (More on this soon!)
On our last visit to the Block two summers ago, I visited the Jessie Edwards Gallery where I discovered the work of Whitney Knapp Bowditch. I started following Whitney’s Instagram feed and have really enjoyed her work. She is a prolific painter and adjunct professor who spent her summers on the Block since the 80’s, and now resides in Richmond, VA. She produces wonderful oil paintings and charcoal sketches, many of which are inspired by Block Island.
I contacted Whitney shortly before we arrived this July and she graciously responded. We touched base again after our arrival and made plans to have coffee and paint en plein air together.
How fun it was to connect with another artist and hear about her art career as well as her love for the Block, such a magical and inspiring place!
From left to right: A sample of Whitney’s work from her recent show at Jessie Edwards Gallery; Whitney painting en plein air on Block Island’s rocky coastline; some of my plein air sketches from our Block Island trip.
On our way to New England for our family vacation we overnighted at my brother-in-law’s house. He and his wife Claire own a beautiful historic home in Newark, Delaware. Behind the house is a charming barn which, in addition to storage for the usual yard tools, doubles as Claire’s pottery studio, housing her kiln and wheel for her gorgeous raku vessels.
I created a barn painting from a photo I took last time we visited. Claire and Scott were delighted.
This week began in an exceptionally good way.
I turned 50 and my sweet husband whisked me out of town for a surprise celebration.
First stop: Sky Valley Zip Tours just outside of Blowing Rock, NC. Let's just say that after it was over, I was glad I had done it. But my 50-year-old body was sore from the shaking and tensing I had been doing for the entire 2.5 hours! I was SUPER scared. But I also knew I'd regret it if I didn't go through with it. Check that one off the list! And I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that I received a Giving Keys necklace (sweet gift from my daughter’s boyfriend) with the word “FEARLESS” stamped on it.
Next stop: we traveled back to the irresistably cute town of Blowing Rock, enjoyed a wonderful lunch at Storie Street Grille, and then visited BRAM (the Blowing Rock Art Museum). By the way, the museum is now free. My favorite was the Etchings & Lithographs of American Life. 1905-1943 exhibit, featuring work by Thomas Hart Benton, John French Sloan and Grant Wood, among others.
.We headed down the road to Banner Elk to our lodging accommodations; Bruce had reserved a cottage in the River Club at The Lodge at Eagles Nest. After settling in, we enjoyed a walk in the trout stream. Gorgeous! Dinner (complete with live entertainment) was at up at the Amphitheater at the Great Camp. What an amazing setting!
The next day we rode around the resort and on trails with our rented ATV. Quite the adventure! Almost got stuck but thankfully, made it out.
For my actual birthday dinner, Bruce had secured reservations at a highly desireable restaurant. Artisanal in Banner Elk. Absolutely incredible. I don't know whether I enjoyed the meal or the atmosphere more. A rustic barn with an equestrian theme, it is an absolute feast for the eyes and the tastebuds. Talk about elevating food to an art form!
I would say Bruce did an amazing job, wouldn't you?! He certainly made turning 50 seem painless and even quite enjoyable!
Beach Walk, ©Julia Chandler Lawing, 2018
Hope all you moms out there had an amazing Mother's Day and were well celebrated by your children!
I can gratefully say I was. My four daughters made me beautiful handmade cards, each in their own style, presented me with a bouquet of pink and purple tulips, and a gorgeous pair of cornflower blue Hart Studio tassel earrings. I was thrilled! We attended a wonderful service at church, then my husband and I played (I use that term loosely when referring to myself on the golf course!). And enjoyed a nice dinner with my in-laws.
I finished up this painting for my own mother, of her walking on the Sea Island beach with my four daughters. It was actually supposed to be a Christmas gift, but by default, it's now a Mother's Day gift :)
CHARLESTON, SC -- After helping my daughter move out of her dorm room at The College of Charleston a couple of weeks ago (which, I must say, is a creative challenge all its own, due to the lack of on-street parking!), I stayed on for a few more days to attend an art workshop.
Of course, I love painting anytime and anywhere, but painting at the Church of Our Saviour on Johns Island for two days was a highlight for me because I discovered an amazing series of paintings in its narthex. The artist is none other than Mary Whyte, one of my favorites.
I was first introduced to Whyte's work several years ago when I had the privilege of seeing her "Working South" show at the Greenville (SC) County Museum of Art. Whyte is known for her watercolor work, but the series at the church was done in oils. I was told she used child members of the church as her models. The frames were handcrafted by her former husband and are a work of art in themselves, each one with its portion of the Bible verse Isaiah 42:10 inscribed in calligraphic gold leaf. At breaktime, I would stand before them in awe and admiration. My fascination with them also seemed to confirm my recent creative urges to paint more people.
My second favorite thing about the week was exploring Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. For the second day of the workshop, we painted en plein air there. I stayed on and walked the trails (my phone told me I logged over 9 miles that day!), having the best time photographing peacocks, egrets, flora and alligators. Most exciting was hearing two gators bellowing in the creek. Wow! What an incredibly beautiful place.
I was recently honored to contribute to a very worthy cause by donating one of my paintings to a silent charity auction.
OneWorld Health's vision is to see impoverished communities take ownership in a sustainable healthcare model, so that they become empowered to bring about long-term change and tangible improvements in their health and quality of life. Their mission is to provide quality, affordable healthcare to people in need. By the year 2020, they plan to have 20 health centers built throughout Uganda and Nicaragua.
"We are driven by the conviction that we’re all created equal in the image of God, but not all of us are treated equally. We believe that where you are born should not determine whether you have the ability to meet basic human needs like healthcare." -- OneWorld Health0
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, GA -- As we do every year, my family enjoyed a beautiful Easter on St. Simons Island, where I grew up.
My mother still resides on the island and is a member of historical Christ Church Frederica. We attended the Easter vigils there and at its sister parish, St. Ignatius. The church is very blessed to have floral designer David Lowe (of Edward On St. Simons) as a member, because he creates the most INCREDIBLE floral arrangements both inside and outside of the building.
Got in a little putt putt, beach walking, bike riding, sunset watching, and painting while there. Always a fabulous time! I love the Golden Isles!