Painting en plein air in Tuscany June 2016

Following her artist-in-residence in Tuscany, Rebecca Rath shows her stunning, captivating landscapes in Gallery Belimage in Valangin. The beautiful and the foreboding that is present in her paintings direct the viewer to contemplate Nature Sublime in all its facets.

There’s a connection between man and nature, present at all times yet often unseen. Rath paints her landscapes with the express purpose of creating an awareness of this connection. Unique in style, yet reminiscent of the works of Turner, Constable, but also of writers such as Shelley, Keats, and Muir, Rath’s aim is not just to show a ‘pretty picture’, but to create a specific experience in the viewer.

 Says Rath:

"The modern discourse between religion and scientific exploration has all but blinded man to the innate and inherent connection we all have with nature. It’s as if all our knowing and understanding has made us forget that we are all an integral part of nature and existence.

 If my paintings are often dramatic or foreboding, just the way the sky looks before or during a storm, it’s because I wish for the viewer to experience that same intensity I see. I want the viewer to take a moment and reflect both on the minuteness of being human, as well as on the fact that being human is a marvellous and awe-inspiring reality."

With her exhibition ‘Various Storms and Saints’, Rath hopes to inspire viewers to reflect on how, despite modern life, in essence very little has changed. Nature Sublime still affects us, shares its beauty with us, and should not be taken for granted.

 Rath holds a Bachelor Fine Arts Honours, COFA UNSW. Winner of many awards in Australia and internationally for her photography, drawing and painting, she has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Australia. Her work has also been exhibited in Italy, the USA and Hong Kong and features in many public and private collections. The exhibition at Gallery Belimage in Valangin is the first opportunity for Swiss art-lovers to experience her breathtaking work in real life.

 She lives with her family on a vineyard in Pokolbin, NSW, Australia. While an academic with a strong philosophical bent, she’s also a down-to-earth person who wants nothing more than for others to experience the joy of art and nature.

Nature Sublime, soft pastel on Fabriano paper, 56 x 76 cm image size

The exhibition in Valangin runs from August 10 -  September 4. The gallery hours are Wednesday - Sunday, 15.00 to 18.00. On view are her most recent works, made this June in Tuscany plus previous work created on her vineyard in Australia. Art lovers looking to experience the effect of inspired meaningful art are cordially invited take this unique opportunity to visit the gallery and, hopefully reconnect with nature the way Ms. Rath wishes.

 For more information about the exhibition, contact the gallery’s director Ms. Vetterli by way of the details provided below.

 For interviews, images or further insight into Ms. Rath’s art, please contact her directly at or view her website

Françoise Vetterli
Place de la Collégiale 2, 2042 Valangin, Switzerland
032 753 09 74/ 032 504 20 42

What is good art?

The euphoria of our big European trip is wearing off and life has returned to its normal hum of kids, school, business and routine. My eldest has been couch-bound with the flu and as such studio time has been put on hold.

Unfortunately no studio updates to report but I can report on the feedback I received from my last blog post – Constructive Criticism.

Thank you for all your heartfelt responses. It was a pleasure to read them here, via email and all social media platforms.

I thought I would share some responses.

Paul Mordetsky (artist), USA writes: “… it wasn’t criticism at all. It is more like you inviting me over for dinner, serving a splendid stew, and I tell you that stews - any stew - gives me indigestion due to the vagaries of my own digestive system. …… I am not saying anything about you or about your cooking - just stating a valid but purely personal opinion”.

Artwork by Masolino & Masaccio at the Branacci Chapel Florence.

Demetria Verduci (Architect & Manager, La Macina di San Cresci), Italy writes: “As a person arises in front of a work of art … (their response) depends on their background, their culture and even their daily life.  It should not be interpreted as a negative criticism of your paintings, but as a subjective reaction…I believe that if we are serene people and in peace with ourselves, we are also able to understand that a painting, a piece of music or a book express the vision of the author, its personal aesthetic and its message”.

Amy Menzies (artist), Australia also feels the same. “Art is subjective so criticism is an occupational hazard. Emotional on both parties..”

Personally, I want art to make me think. Art that makes you question aspects of life. I think that is the responsibility of the artist. Artists are sensitive (there’s that word again!). These days I see it as a gift, not a hindrance. To convey ideas, feelings and opinions through our craft. After all we are a visual culture.

Art is a powerful visual language which can access society and make us think/feel and act upon. For example, Renaissance art was simply a form of advertising to the masses. Works usually commissioned by the church to teach society how to behave.

Judith Slaying Holofernes, Artemisia Gentileschi, 1614

The Madonna is often depicted breastfeeding Jesus in paintings and frescoes. I had the opportunity to visit the earliest recorded Renaissance frescoes while in Florence at the Branacci Chapel.

One of my favourite paintings from the Renaissance is Artemisia Gentileschi’s, Judith Slaying Holofernes (I don't know if this was commissioned by the church!). You can see it at Florence's Uffizi Gallery. On its own it is a powerful religious piece but to understand the artist’s background makes this piece even more poignant. A female painter in a male dominated profession must have been challenging.

I love it when people respond to some art and say “Oh but I could do that!”  and my favourite is “My 5 year old paints better than that”.

So, what do you think constitutes good art?

What type of art do you buy?

I love reading your comments. Please feel free to comment and like below.

Yours in art,

Bec x

“Various Storms and Saints: paintings & drawings from Hunter Valley, Australia and Tuscany, Italy” is currently on at Galerie Belimage, Switzerland.
Please view Australian works here.
Please contact the gallery for sales:

Friends and Fondue.

Last night, at the opening of my exhibition at Galerie Belimage, I was given a big surprise. A friend, who I had met on the internet, decided to meet me at the opening.

We have been friends for about 2 (maybe 3) years and we met for the first time last night, Martin Stellar. I joined Martin’s arts newsletter about 2 years ago and have been in correspondence with him ever since.

Former monk, bespoke tailor, copywriter and now artist mentor, his newsletters are both amusing and informative. Martin calls Spain home but hails from Holland, he was holidaying in Zurich and decided (to my delight) to come to the opening of the exhibition. What a wonderful gift, which I’m extremely grateful for!

Martin and I last night at the opening of my exhibition.

Martin and I last night at the opening of my exhibition.

American art professor Nancy Hart who we visited in Venice. We met at San Cresci in 2014.

American art professor Nancy Hart who we visited in Venice. We met at San Cresci in 2014.

As our family adventure draws to a close, it has been one of the most rewarding events in my life albeit rather exhausting too. Travelling with 2 active boys, who just want to play soccer or Minecraft, rather than visit a Florentine museum or eat fondue on a remote Swiss hillside, can be a challenge.

There have been tears, tantrums and taxing moments (from me!) but what I remember most are the beautiful chance meetings with amazing people who inspire me and now I call friends.

I also appreciate the old friends who I have had the opportunity to share quality time with again.

I have grown as a person, artist, mother, wife and friend. In this post I want to thank all the special people who have shared this journey with us and made it so much richer.

The amazing Mimma, who is the current caretaker of San Cresci and manager of the artist residency, La Macina di San Cresci. Hugs to Duccio too!

The amazing Mimma, who is the current caretaker of San Cresci and manager of the artist residency, La Macina di San Cresci. Hugs to Duccio too!

Spritz o'clock again with artists Elena and Jessica Costa.

Spritz o'clock again with artists Elena and Jessica Costa.

Spritz o'clock with Monique Dufour and Mimma. Shout out to Elisabeth Swanson who left before I could get a photo.

Spritz o'clock with Monique Dufour and Mimma. Shout out to Elisabeth Swanson who left before I could get a photo.

My German 'mother' Elke, Andy, Baxter, 'cousin' Anne,  Oscar and me at the opening last night. Special shout out to Anna and Rito Wolfe who also came to the opening.

My German 'mother' Elke, Andy, Baxter, 'cousin' Anne,  Oscar and me at the opening last night. Special shout out to Anna and Rito Wolfe who also came to the opening.

 Galerie Belimage owner, Françoise Vetterli with moi. Thank you Dani for all your help!

 Galerie Belimage owner, Françoise Vetterli with moi. Thank you Dani for all your help!

I have said this before and I feel like saying it again, “I feel life isn't about the fastest car you have or the shiniest ring you just bought but about the people you love and the people who love you. It's about life experiences & appreciating the joy in your life.”

A big thank you, mille grazie, vielen dank and merci beaucoup to the amazing people I have been fortunate to meet and see again on this trip.

Yours in art and life,

Bec x

"Various Storms and Saints: drawings and paintings from Hunter Valley, Australia and Tuscany, Italy" is currently on show at Galerie Belimage. Please contact the gallery to purchase work. Images of work will be published on my website when I return to Australia this coming weekend.

Arrivederci San Cresci

My time at La Macina di San Cresci is coming to an end and as I reminisce on my special experience, I reflect upon my initial proposal which I sent in 2012.

Searching through my computer files I found my proposal. At the time I was painting landscapes and I wrote “I currently live in Pokolbin, Hunter Valley which is wine country of Australia.  My work responds to this environment and I would therefore enjoy working en plein air within the rural, wine country area of La Macina. To compare, contrast and explore the similarities of these two rural towns would be inspirational”.

It has been 4 years since the proposal and upon my first visit I was so overwhelmed and intimidated by the beauty of the landscape, I decided to go back to what I knew best and draw. This resulted in large gestural drawings of local produce. I was happy with what I had produced but I left with a feeling of disappointment that I hadn’t been brave enough to complete my initial project.

Soft pastel drawing in the garden at San Cresci

Small soft pastel drawings on the church floor

Oil on ply panel paintings

Two years later and equipped with my pochade box (en plein air box) of confidence, I embarked on my initial project of painting this majestic landscape. I’m still rather in awe of its beauty however after a month long residency, resulting in 30 paintings, 3 boxes, 20 drawings, sketches and 2 large soft pastel drawing, I am feeling more assured to paint this breathtaking scenery.

I don’t know if I will ever be completely relaxed, in the company of this historical backdrop, but I’m happy with the work I’ve produced. I look forward to bringing a piece of Tuscany home with me and using the colours, marks and textures I’ve discovered here in future landscapes.

It is always hard to say goodbye especially when you fall in love and that is certainly the case here. I love this experience more than I am able to express in writing and to say farewell to my second home (seconda casa) is not easy.

It will be another patient two years (fingers crossed) until I return to take on this landscape again.

A special thanks to my patient little family, Andy, Oscar and Baxter, for joining me on this wild adventure. I hope you had fun too!

Grazie mille e arrivederci Mimma, Duccio, Ugo. I will miss you and San Cresci very much.

Please feel free to like and comment below.

Yours in art,

Bec xx

"Various Storms and Saints: paintings and drawings from Hunter Valley, Australia and Tuscany, Italy" opens Saturday 9th July 2016 Galerie Belimage Switzerland. All work is for sale. Please contact the gallery if you are interested in buying work.

Residency life.

I’ve been asked by Emma Targett to share more about my residency experience. She asked some really interesting questions and I thought I’d share my response in this post. I hope you don’t mind me answering them here, Emma?

I’d like to start off my saying the following is purely my experiences. Residencies come in all sorts of incarnations, so everyone's experiences will be all different. I’m also travelling with my family which is another entirely differently experience than if you are travelling alone.

About 8-10 years ago I discovered artist residencies. I never knew about them at art school and I don’t know if they are more popular now than when I first started college in 1994. In any such case, when I found them, I really wanted to attend one. The idea of intense focus on your practice in order to develop your work was a dream which I wanted to achieve.

I discovered the website It lists all the residencies throughout the world. To my delight it also had a drop down menu and offered residencies for families. This is where I found La Macina di San Cresci.

There are many listed here. You can tailor it to suit your needs and apply to those which are appropriate to your work. There is no point in applying for a city residency when your work is about Nature (unless you have a reason for it!).

The process for applying is different to all residencies, however I feel the key point is to think about why you are applying to that particular one, what you will gain from the experience and what you can also give back. Residencies are usually a communal experience both physically and metaphorically. You may be the only artist at the residency but you are part of a bigger thing. Be prepared to share your space and time with others (many tourists drop into the studios at San Crecsi).

Communal life at San Cresci. Mimma and Duccio live downstairs and the other artist apartment is above left. This is the inside courtyard. Opposite stone wall is the church.

Logistics! This one is interesting, as last time I drew really large pastel drawings and now I’m painting rather small and en plein air. Be mindful of how to send work home as I had to buy a very large plumbing tube to send my work in the post!

Making do with my art supplies and painting outside.

Research local art supply stores before you go, however do take your necessities with you. I have reduced my palette and supplies only through trial and error.

Once again it is all a learning curve and you can ‘make do’ with what you have if you are unable to track down supplies. It may be an opportunity to learn a new technique! You take advantage of any situation as a reason to grow your practice. I try to look at how I can make it work rather than why I can’t do a work, even if I don’t have a certain colour or special pencil.

Finally, I don’t think there are any ‘bad’ moments. The challenging ones test you at times but if you find the good out of them then they are just another reason to grow as a person and as an artist.

You are out of your comfort zone so expect the unexpected but most of all have fun! It is such a special time in your artistic journey.

For me the opportunity to completely immerse myself into a foreign culture, learn a different language, make wonderful new friends, practise my art and share it all with my family is a very memorable experience.

My advice is simple, just do it, your art will thank you for it!

I hope this has helped, Emma.

Please feel free to comment and like below.

Yours in art,

Bec x

Being Brave.

I’ve recently been told by my fellow San Cresci residents, Elena and Monique, that I say “Don’t be precious” often. It’s funny how your idiosyncrasies are amplified when you are out of your comfort zone.

San Cresci this way

Gratefully my idiosyncrasies aren’t getting on my fellow artists nerves (well, they aren’t saying anyway!). Elena and Monique have encouraged me to write this post about my ideas of being precious.

Drawing in a storm.

My art has evolved into a fairly fast and intuitive process. I like to capture a moment in a drawing or painting. Fleeting and transient, I seek to document time though marks. As such my marks are rather strong, bold and directional. I don’t have time to be ‘precious’ about the details.

This process has evolved due to my other roles of family life. As described in previous posts, I’m often juggling family duties so my time at the easel is limited. I have embraced this and my art has developed accordingly.

It wasn’t always this way. I remember my drawing test for art school. We had to draw a cow skull in 40 minutes. My line, at this time, reflected my personality. Timid and shy, I was a real wallflower. I don’t know if my pencil even made a mark on the paper that day! I was scared to make a mistake as I really wanted to be accepted into art school.

I couldn't make up my mind so I painted both scenes!

Over time my confidence has grown and consequently so has my mark (my handwriting style). I have let go of many self limiting concerns. It has been difficult at times yet I (and my art) have really benefited as a result. It has been a wonderful journey; an analogy for life.

I actively work at not being precious. I enjoy getting my hands dirty, making that bold brush mark or pastel line. This view has continued through to home life. I now like to use the good china for cups of tea and wear my expensive blouse to the shops.

Life is too short to worry about the details. NOW is that special time to use the good china, wear your best shoes and make that bold line.

Let go. Be brave. You are worth it.

Yours in art,

Bec x

Finding Home

Over 35 hours of travelling and I’ve finally made it back ‘home’. Although exhausted from the tyranny of distance, the moment I laid eyes on the rolling green hills of Greve in Chianti, I was re-charged and full of excitement.



It sounds corny but this morning I couldn’t help but cry with the pure relief of being here again. I’ll blame the jet lag and sleep deprivation, but to see that nothing had changed at San Cresci was pure joy. Mimma and Duccio are just as welcoming as when we visited in 2014. Their dog Ugo has grown and perhaps there are a few more pigeons in the roof to coo me to sleep at night but nevertheless it is still the same as I remember.

Have you ever visited a place and felt that you had ‘come home’? That life just slotted into place and you felt a calmness and sense of belonging? That is what San Cresci has become for me.

Artists are interesting creatures. We can be obsessive, dedicated, spirited and single minded in our pursuit for that perfect realisation of our art. We tend to be outsiders and are often that square peg in the round hole, so when you find an oasis like San Cresci you hold on tight -- for it’s that sense of belonging which welcomes you.

I’m currently sharing San Cresci with three visual artists from America and Canada. Like-minded, spirited and fun, it is a pleasure to create work among them.

San Cresci is situated top right of the picture.

My family arrive next week which will change the energy at San Cresci. This is what makes the residency even more special. Different people come and go during your stay, which enriches the wonderful experience which is La Macina di San Cresci artist residency.

Ciao from Italia

Yours in art,


San Cresci here I come!

My bags are packed and I’m counting down the hours until I’m at my artistic and spiritual home, La Macina Di San Cresci (San Cresci) artist residency in Tuscany, Italy.

My family and I had the privilege to stay at San Cresci 2 years ago. I wrote about it in my first ever blog (#artistresidency ). I really don’t know where to begin to explain the artistic oasis which is San Cresci….. maybe I should start with some history?

View from my window towards Greve in Chianti

San Cresci is a large complex which now features a (nonoperational) parish church, owner’s residence, two artist apartments, a large communal basement studio, exhibition space, and a walled garden with panoramic views down to the town of Greve in Chianti and the medieval walled town of Montefioralle.     

Earliest known records of the parish church, San Cresci, date back to 948. The oldest church in the region, San Cresci has been lovingly restored by the new caretakers, Florentine architect Demetria (Mimma) Verduci and world renowned light sculptor Professor Duccio Trassinelli.

Mimma and Duccio opened the residency, about 17 years ago, to welcome international artists across all disciplines. When we stayed we shared the facilities with 3 other artists including a choreographer, visual artist and another graphic designer/visual artist all from USA.

Nestled among the Tuscan olive groves and vineyards, the modest sandstone church contains only a few original Romanesque architectural features including the entrance arches.

The walls of the parish church are adorned with exquisite frescoes dating back to 1800s. Behind the marble altar, a 1615 canvas painting by Francesco Boldrini, depicting the Madonna of Rosario, can be found together with a 16C wooden crucifix with Jesus. A worn groove can be seen on the red and white floor tiles, where countless parishioners have trodden over time.

Entrance to the exhibition room/studio (left) church (centre) , artist accommodation (right)

Inside the church

Named after the Holy Martyr Acrisio, commonly known as Cresci, the pieve (parish) was known to pilgrims, passing through Greve on their way to Rome, as a place to stay and leave their valuable passions behind for safe keeping until their return. Mimma jokes about finding a big cache of goodies during the restoration (1994-1997) alas nothing was found.

What was discovered, during restoration, was a ‘longobard’ stone. This could date back to 500-700 AD when the Germanic people, Lombards ( Longobards ) ruled large parts of the Italy.

More modern history features the French contemporary thinker, Guy Debord and Gianfranco Sanguinetti who lived in the villa during the 70s.

Needless to say the history of San Cresci is long and rich. I look forward to immersing myself in its history and spending many warm Tuscan nights in Mimma’s garden discussing Guy Debord, Roman architecture and everything Italian.

Yours in art,

Bec x

Postscript... La Macina di San Cresci Residency

Having been successful in an application to attend La Macina di San Cresci residency, my family and I travelled to the beautiful and historic town of Greve in Chianti, 50km south of Florence, last year to spend a month at the artistic oasis. 

Steeped in history, the residency is set amongst the grounds of the oldest standing church in Florence, San Cresci. Some of the first recorded history dates back to the 10th century where pilgrims to Rome would stay at the church and leave their valued possessions to be collected on their homeward return. La Macina means ‘the millstone’ in Italian and in the bowels of the villa you can find the original olive press used by the monks during former times. The history includes modern times with the famous French philosopher Guy Debord living there as a child. 

Today the new tenants of the estate (still owned by the Catholic Church) have lovingly restored the church and villa to house up to 5 artists at any one time. The owners, architect Demetria (Mimma) Verduci and world renowned light sculptor Professor Duccio Trassinelli, opened up the residency to welcome international artists about 15 years ago. The estate is an oasis for artists across all disciplines. When we stayed there we shared the facilities with 3 other artists including a choreographer, visual artist and another graphic designer/visual artist all from USA. 

We were extremely fortunate to find a residency which was located in the heart of Tuscany, 40 mins from Florence. Surrounded by the hills of the wine and olive growing Chianti region and set amongst the historic building of San Cresci. We had a wonderful apartment with views of Chianti, plus I had fully equipped studio and access to great facilities 24/7. The entire residency was a very special and unique experience. 

The self-directed project, which I undertook during the residency, was a body of work based on the local produce and ceramics of the Chianti area. Italy is renowned for its relaxed lifestyle with beautiful healthy food, which is grown in abundance. I was inspired by the weekly village markets where we would buy our fresh fruit and vegetables from local growers. The produce was delicious both visually and to taste. This coupled with our evening communal meal with our fellow artists and hosts, inspired me to create my body of work – In Season. Our hosts Mimma and Duccio were wonderful and welcoming. Many nights were spent in their beautiful garden talking broken English and Italian, eating delicious food and drinking local wine together with the other resident artists. I realised that an intrinsic part of Italian culture was the communal sharing of food. Food brought people together and evening times were a celebration of sharing the day’s events together with a meal.

Focusing on local seasonal produce which I had bought from the local market, I did preliminary sketches, which eventually I translated into larger drawings to emphasise the importance of the subject matter. Georgia O’Keeffe once wrote: “I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty”.

As I live on a vineyard in the Hunter Valley and have a family vegetable and fruit garden, I am conscious of the seasons and eating produce directly sourced from the garden. Eating with the seasons has a direct effect on your health and wellbeing.

All drawings created there and subsequently in Australia are watercolour, charcoal, pastel and conté on Fabriano paper. The paper I use is made in Italy (Fabriano) and of a very high quality. It is a heavy weighted paper (300gsm) and can withstand vigorous treatment. It is cold pressed and therefore has a textured surface, which I really enjoy. I utilise this aspect and love working on the ground creating frottage (texture) in the drawings. I used this process in Italy and took the work outside the studio and onto the floor of the church. It was wonderful to create a site specific work while there and think about the many pilgrims over the 1000 years who have trodden on the ground where I was drawing. There are still remnants of renaissance frescos on the ceiling of the church. 

This amazing experience has spurred my interest into contemporary drawing practice to the point where I have started my Masters of Creative Practice majoring in drawing. I look forward to the journey artistically and returning in 2016 to the artistic oasis of San Cresci -the place which fuelled my passion for contemporary drawing. 

The exhibition "In Season" will be shown at Muswellbrook Regional Art Centre June 2015. 

Bec xx