Be inspired by the amazing interiors of the Ducal Palace of Sassuolo, the Baroque summer home of the Este Family from Modena, built in 1634 and lavishly frescoed by French master Jean Boulanger and a team of painters from the Emilia Romagna. Create your own work in response to the architecture, landscape and history of this fascinating part of Northern Italy.
Imagine: frescoed walls, marble tiled floors, reflections in gilded mirrors, doorways within doorways, fantasy landscapes, and painted architectural perspectives.
Every room tells its own story, with themes of myth and history, with colour and pattern, with the big picture and the tiny detail, radiant skies painted on ceilings with the landscape brought inside to decorate the Ducal apartments.
Katie Sollohub will be your tutor and facilitator for the week, sharing with you her love of the creative process. Drawing and painting interior spaces is a subject close to her heart, having spent the last few years working as artist in residence at a number of historic homes in the UK, including JMW Turner’s house in Twickenham. Generous with ideas, innovative and gentle with her approach, she will encourage you to experiment and play, to discover more about the subject through the process.
The 5 day course will begin with a guided tour of the Palace at Sassuolo, simply looking, taking in the richness of the decorations, the trompe l’oiel painted surfaces, the architecture, colour and pattern, so distinctive of the time and place. These first impressions can form the basis of preliminary studies, starting with observation, getting to know the place, using drawing as a means of exploration and understanding.Later in the week we will return for a second visit to focus on a particular aspect of the Palace, taking back what you need for your own investigations in the studio.
The studio, a lovingly restored stables, provides your own personal space to work in, unpack your studies and develop ideas into paintings of your choice. You will be guided by Katie’s gentle and innovative approach to experiment with composition and materials. Here you may find yourself looking more at the local surroundings, landscape, framed views through windows and doorways, reflections or playing with the architecture of this beautifully restored 14thCentury farmhouse. You could also work from memory and studies of the Ducal Palace. Whatever your choices, Katie’s exercises will encourage you to play with ideas and find your own way around the subject.
You will go home with a sketchbook full of ideas and observations, a collection of studies, and 2 or 3 paintings on the go or finished. Materials will be provided once you are here but if you have specific brushes and other materials you like to work with we encourage you to bring them with you. Choose the paint you feel most inspired by and comfortable with, whether oils, acrylics or gouache. Rather than be limited by luggage allowances, feel free to work on any size and return postage can be arranged at the Villa.
Katie also uses writing and meditation in her teaching as well as her own practice, incorporating this into the course each day, to encourage a creative and open approach to the process and providing you with the tools for looking at the subject with fresh eyes. This daily practice, along with the peaceful setting, good food, wonderful views, swimming in the pool, stunning walks and what will inevitably be great company, will ensure the whole experience is more than just a holiday.
Fly to Bologna from where you will be collected by minibus. Group collection and drop off times will be arranged by email.
You can find more details on how to get here. For the more adventurous, you may want to allow time for a longer visit which could include the nearby cities of Modena, Bologna, Reggio Emilia, Parma and Ferrara, Piacenza and Mantova, read more about the area at .
Your tutor and facilitator for the week, sharing with you her love of the creative process. Drawing and painting interior spaces is a subject close to her heart, having spent the last few years working as artist in residence at a number of historic homes in the UK, including JMW Turner’s house in Twickenham.
Louise Davis has been a chef for over 30 years, and will be preparing delicious meals for us. Her Mediterranean cooking style is based on local produce and the freshest fruit and vegetables from the kitchen garden.
Running the villa and supporting the course is host Fiona Geilinger, an artist and short film maker. She studied art by pupillage, with painter Nick Bodimeade, as well as attending classes with Katie. She is a keen gardener, looking after the kitchen garden with the support of neighbouring friends Elis and Graziano, who keep things going when she is back in the UK. Find out more about Fiona’s work at
Helping out with driving and other odd jobs during the course will be Steve (Spike) Geilinger. He is a freelance director, working mainly for the BBC, making documentaries about fine art, architecture, history and food. Most recently he has been making the series ‘Britain’s Lost Masterpieces’ with Bendor Grosvenor for BBC Four.