“Barn at Tosa – San Sano, Italy” – Drawings from Italy

“Barn at Sosa - San Sano, Italy”, by Robert Leedy, 1993, charcoal on paper, Collection of the Artist
“Barn at Tosa – San Sano, Italy”,
by Robert Leedy, 1993,
charcoal on paper,
Collection of the Artist

In the summer of 1993, I traveled from our home in Brussels to Siena, Italy by train where I met up with a group of Belge & British artists for a watercolor workshop. Tosa was a small farmhouse just down the road from the tiny town of San Sano which was several kilometers outside of Siena. A British woman named Sheena owned the property and was good friends with Mickey & Thea Arnold, British expats who taught Art at The International School in Brussels, along with Christine Kinsey, an artist from Wales. Thea & Chris conducted the workshop and Mickey arrived later during the week to add an extra voice during critiques, an excellent class on the production of rabbit skin glue, a bit of one-on-one painting instruction, and some excellent blues guitar after nightly dinners…

There were about 20 of us in the class and we were all housed somehow in Sheena’s large farmhouse. Saskia, Mickey & Thea’s college-aged daughter, cooked wonderful meals for us and we sometimes wandered into San Sano’s only restaurant for delicious dishes of pasta, roast wild boar and other local dishes.

It was a perfect setting: we were on a fairly large Tuscan estate with a pool and several barns, which I imagine, dated back several centuries. We were on the edge of a large forrested area and I took many early morning walks where I saw deer but no wild boars or caches of truffles.

Our days were filled with painting and every day or so we would venture to a nearby town to visit the market or drive into Siena for art supplies.

As far as subject matter is concerned, there was an abundance right there at Tosa; we all seemed to claim specific areas as personal, outdoor studio space and I gravitated towards a quiet, treliced enclosure I later learned was a pigsty for the barn above (actually, if you look at the drawing, the pigsty is towards the left of the building.) I painted away in my little pigsty (il porcile, if you are interested in how it translates to Italian) and I was very happy and prolific there.

As is usually typical with my subject material, I passed the scene above many times and paused with interest until one morning it was screaming so loudly that I set up an easel right then and there. The view was from the front stoop of the farmhouse looking directly over to the barn.

I drew with charcoal on a large piece of paper and used mineral spirits & a brush to get a bit of a wash effect.

Vicky is very attached to this drawing and it hangs in our home today.

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