Autumn in Bologna

It was wonderful returning to italy, I had missed its orange, yellow and peach buildings, the beautiful architecture and the little quaint cafes with the custard croissants. I was very excited to explore more of this exquisite country.

Whilst wandering through the streets of Bologna, we found ourselves in the main square, Piazza Maggiore; it is a plaza that is lined with arched colonnades that adorn the lively city of markets, shops and galleries. There are lots of lovely restaurants here (one of them served a very delicous pumpkin ravioli dish) and we were spoilt for choice with lots of charming cafes- we sat outside them, sipping ginseng tea and espressos whilst we planned out our adventures.

One of the cute cafes we spent our mornings at.

Among the many medieval towers that Bologna is known for, Asinelli and Garisenda stand next to each other in the heart of the city, watching over the streets as people pass by.

The two towers, Asinelli and Garisenda

We ventured up the never-ending wooden staircase of Degli Asinell to see the beautiful views from the top, and of course, we took lots of pictures!

We also saw some stunning views of the city at dusk from the Basilica di San Petronio viewing terrace.

Another wonderful building we visited was the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca. It is a grand, orange coloured basilica church that sits proudly on a hill, we ventured off on a cute tourist train to see it. On our journey, we passed a monumental roofed arcade that has 666 beautiful arches that lead you up to the basilica. It was fantastic seeing the gorgeous views from the top.

A view from the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca

As well as historic architecture, we also experienced some of Bologna’s delicious desserts in the chocolate and gelato boutique, Venchi. This fancy little shop is full of treats that are perfect to give as gifts. We tried one of their scrumptious hot chocolates, it was so tasty that we ended up going back for another one!

Towards the end of our City break, we decided to pop into a place called Vetro; it was once an abandoned greenhouse but it has now been transformed into a unique and quirky bar and cafe and also a work space. We sat outside on one of their tables (the lights on each table were upside down plant pots) and I had a green tea in a mason jar.

I have painted my tea in watercolour.

A little watercolour painting of the view from the Basilica di San Petronio viewing terrace.

We had a wonderful time in Bologna and i’m looking forward to seeing even more of lovely Italy!

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My First Art Exhibition

I’ve always wanted to have my own art exhibition and on the 1st September, it happened!

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Me sitting outside my art gallery on a Saturday morning

I was lucky enough to be asked by Finchley Nurseries Garden Centre whether I’d like to use their seed shed for two weeks to exhibit my art, so of course I said yes and started planning how I was going to set up the area as soon as I could.

What I really loved about having my exhibition there, is that it’s actually the garden centre I used to visit when I was little, back when I lived in Mill Hill.

With help from my mum and auntie, the seed shed was turned into an exquisite little gallery of my art; watercolours were in frames and my Porridge and Cornflake books were placed on a table in the centre. We also hung up some ditsy floral bunting to create a cottagey, homely atmosphere!

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Over the two weekends, myself and my wonderful helper, James, spent the day welcoming customers into the gallery, handing out leaflets, business cards and sipping on coffees and Earl Grey teas. It was really nice watching people glance around at my work, making some lovely comments.

A few people purchased some paintings and a few of my children’s books were signed (my moment of fame) and overall, the gallery was a great success!

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We had some delicious lunches at the Garden Centre, I loved their toasties and tea cakes. We enjoyed sitting outside by the sunflowers, despite having lots of wasps wanting to try my hot chocolate!

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It was also great to see some of my friends and family coming to support and of course we took lots of photos:

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Thank you so much again to Finchley Nurseries Garden Centre for letting me use their shed, it was a fantastic experience and I’d love to do it all again!

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Cafés and Watercolours

Hot Chocolates and cute pink lattes are perfect for Saturday afternoons in the city, whilst brunching with your friends. There’s something lovely about sitting in a quaint café, sipping a latte that’s sprinkled with petals, or even a tea that’s been brewed in the most beautiful teacup you have ever seen (so naturally, you take a photo of it to put on your instagram). These wonderful beverages are delicious, they warm your heart on a windy Autumn day and they’re also perfect to paint! Recently, I have been painting some cakes and coffees from some of the cafés I have visited- I’ve also painted some of the shop fronts too!

I began my coffee painting adventure at Farm Girl; It is an Australian style café that serves lots of colourful food, pretty acai bowls, salads and gorgeous hot drinks. I have been to two of their cafés: the one based in Soho and the cafe in Notting Hill, which is hidden behind a lilac door along Portobello Road. I loved their hibiscus matcha latte so much that I decided to paint it once I got home. I also created a little watercolour of one of their stripey pink croissants and one of their Lady Negroni drinks.

I then stumbled across Biscuiteers, which is a luxury biscuit boutique (in Notting Hill and Kensington). They sell a wonderful range of hand iced biscuits for all different occasions, I absolutely adored their summer biscuit collections! (Have a look at some more of their designs on their instagram: https://www.instagram.com/biscuiteersltd ). The shop itself, particularly the one in Notting Hill, is so stunning and unique I just had to paint it!

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I sent the watercolour to Biscuiteers and as a thank you, they very kindly sent me a box of biscuits in the shape of birds!

If you haven’t already been to Peggy Porschen, you should definitely pop in! This little pink café is speckled with lots of pretty cupcakes, traybakes, fresh macaroons and biscuits. Each cupcake is adorned with wonderfully swirly icing and delicate decorations – they’re too beautiful to eat! Here are a some watercolours of  their confectionary :

I have painted a few coffees and cakes from a few other coffee shops such as Farmers Mistress:

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The Dayrooms Cafe:

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Primrose Bakery with it’s beautifully vibrant yellow exterior:

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Feya:

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Soft Swerve:

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Bluebird Cafe:

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As well as coffees and cakes I have been creating little watercolour cocktails too. Over summer, whenever I had spare time, I’d sketch some of my favourites: Rhubarb and ginger gins, mojitos, pina coladas.

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I even painted some cocktails for one of my favourite bars in Lancaster, Tipple. If you visit, you’ll see my watercolour painting of their ‘Number One Tipple’ in a frame on their wall!

 

So if you fancy a coffee and a cake as those crispy auburn leaves begin to mosaic the streets, these cafes and bars are definitely worth a visit- especially if you’re out with that friend who joins you with your need to photograph all the rose lattes and iced mochas!

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Moonflickered

 

Firenze looks beautiful in lamp light at midnight.
We’re wandering down little cobbled roads,
fingers entwined, Aperol Spritz lingers on my tongue
as I walk in my jelly shoes. We cross
the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, moonflickered
along the old fashioned shops, hiding
sparkly treasures that are only seen at dawn.
You spin me around as the guitarist in the street
plays a song we can’t understand, angry-dreams
vanish down the River Arno. Smiley eyed people
pass us in these lemon and orange evening hues
and the warm Tuscan air pecks our cheeks- we share
a hot chocolate from a shop near the Duomo.

 

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Beautiful Florence

As well as being the perfect place to enjoy a risotto and an Aperol Spritz on a sunny evening (on one of those cute outside tables), Florence’s pretty streets are also home to some wonderful architecture, history and art!

One of the main places to visit would be the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as Il Duomo (Dome).

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This remarkable cathedral stands tall over the city and has the biggest brick dome in the world; it was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, who didn’t actually leave any blueprints or the design of the dome, so there is still a mystery of how the masterpiece was built.

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It was fascinating going into the Cathederal and going up into the dome. We went up flights of stairs into small doorways and walkways until we reached the viewing platform at the top. So naturally, we took lots of photos of the view, and this gorgeous photo was born:

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To get the best view of the city, take a wander up Piazzale Michelangelo’s  hill and watch the sunset from the big steps. You’ll see the stunning blue hills and mountains and how they contrast with the orange and peach buildings in the distance and the iconic dome, standing proud in the middle of it all. We spent the evening walking around, looking out at the pretty landscape and the apricot sky. Below, are some photos of the view at night:

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One of my favourite places in Florence is the Ponte Vecchio Bridge;  it is a medieval bridge that goes over the Arno River, and jewellery is sold along it behind beautiful old shop doors. During the day, the bridge is packed with people glancing at the sparkly items in shop windows and by night, when the shops are closed, people sit on the bridge walls and listen to a man playing his guitar in the warm evening street.

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Exploring this exquisite city was wonderful; I even loved little things like walking around with a banana gelato and spending the mornings sat outside a café with a custard croissant, soaking up the artsy atmosphere. Something about this place made me very happy. When we left, I felt delightfully inspired to write and paint my many photos I had taken during my time there.

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If you fancy a cute Italian break with stunning views and buildings, Florence is definitely the place to visit- you’ll get lost in its beauty.

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I also found a shop with my name on it!

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Below is a watercolour inspired by Florence’s incredible Dome. You can find more of my art work on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/rebeccafreemanartist/

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Collaborating with Cooking New Stories

Cooknst (Cooking New Stories) is a great place for those who enjoy cooking and all things to do with food and culture! It first started when three friends came together and since then, they have blossomed into a wonderful platform filled with foodie stories and experiences for us to enjoy!

‘We want to sprinkle our recipe and inspire others to connect by the love of food’

Last year I was really excited to be asked to collaborate with Cooknst by painting some food themed watercolours for their social media pages. Over the last few months, the founder, Daniela, has been giving me a range of fun and interesting topics and I have been painting something for each of them.

These are some of the themes:

Good morning

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A food that puzzles me is…

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Wishful thinking

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What I love most about winter is…

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Once I finish each painting, I send them over to Daniela, who has very kindly been posting my paintings onto their Facebook and Instagram pages, along with some lovely messages.

One of my favourite themes would be ‘A taste of Spring.’ As soon as this theme was mentioned to me, I instantly imagined a lots of vibrant, colourful fruit and vegetables and it inspired me to paint this piece:

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I also really enjoyed the theme ‘September favourite flavours,’ I chose to paint carrot and coriander soup because it made me think of starting to wrap up warm as it gets a bit colder. Its auburn colour reminds me of falling autumn leaves.

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I have thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with Cooking New stories and I’m looking forward to the next exciting topics!

Spend your evening with a nice hot cup of tea and have a scroll through their website:

http://cooknst.com/

Check out the Cooking New Stories Facebook Page here:

https://www.facebook.com/cooknst/

…and this is their food-filled Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/cooknst/?hl=en

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Porridge and Cornflake: The making of my little story

I’ve always wanted to write and illustrate my own book ever since I was little, so I thought it was about time I brought that idea to life. A lot of my inspiration has come from Beatrix Potter’s beautiful watercolours and Quentin Blake’s wonderfully sketchy drawings; I tried to take little specks of their styles, and blend them with some of my own.

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First of all, I needed to write a story; I spent a train journey to Lancaster jotting down the plot to the story on my phone, the tale was based on a real house with chickens and one of them was actually named Porridge. At home, I hand wrote pages of the story on A5 sheets of paper- I drew faint lines with a ruler so that my writing was a little straighter.

Then, I spent a few evenings creating watercolour illustrations for each page of writing.

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I enjoyed illustrating each page of writing, I felt that it brought the story to life more. One of my favourite illustrations would be the one where the chickens are being chased by the dog, I wanted to really show how scared the chickens were as they were being chased around the garden! Each painting took from around half an hour, to an hour to complete. I sketched the drawings out first and then added watercolour to them later on.

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Once I had finished the paintings, I took them into work, scanned them and edited them (I had some help from the wonderful James with the editing). I then created a PDF of my story in the order I wanted it to be in. I used an online printing company to turn my PDF into an actual little A5 landscape booklet; they sent me a selection of paper samples so that I could choose which ones I wanted to use for the pages of my book. After a few days of deciding, I had finally chosen to go with a glossy front cover and matt inside pages. I was then ready to order my books!

It was an exciting moment when my books arrived, It was so lovely seeing lots of copies of my book piled up in a cardboard box. Even though my story hadn’t been officially published, it’s the closest I’ve been to it… so far! I loved siting at the table, flicking through the fresh, glossy pages, whilst sipping on a rooibos tea.

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I enjoyed the whole process of making my little children’s’ book and I can’t wait to create another one.

A good friend of mine, Karis Lambert, has created a comic book recently and it’s filled with lots of fantastic illustrations:

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Have a little look at some more of her artwork here: https://www.facebook.com/KarisViola/