Watercolor Immersion in Italy

DATES: 06/01/2019 - 06/08/2019
LOCATION: Tuscany, San Fedele
PRICE: $2,895.00

Robert Leedy is a Florida painter who concentrates in the medium of watercolor. He holds a BFA in Painting & Drawing from Valdosta State University. He is a member of the National Watercolor Society and The Florida Watercolor Society. A big portion of his work is done en plein aire and he is active with The First Coast Plein Air Painters in North Florida.

Robert regularly teaches classes and workshops at his studio and at Reddi-Arts, The Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach and The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. In 2017, Robert was voted one of the Best Art Teachers in Jacksonville by Expertise.com.

Upon graduation from college, Robert worked in graphic design and the fine wine industry before painting full time. He has lived throughout the Caribbean, Europe and South America and traveled extensively before returning to his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida in 2010.  He has exhibited his work throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. His painting, “Ocean & Ahern” was published in Splash 14.

Currently he shows his work at Southlight Gallery in Jacksonville, Aviles Gallery in St. Augustine and Casco Bay Artisans Gallery in Portland, Maine. Robert works on location and out of his studio in The CoRK Arts District in Jacksonville’s Riverside neighborhood.

* Robert Leedy is also a former student of Il Chiostro in Venice, Lake Garda and Tuscany.

Artist’s Statement:

My paintings are a celebration of the intrinsic qualities of watercolor – fluidity, transparency, vibrant and granulating color.  My goal is that viewers immediately recognize the works as watercolor. I also strive to pique their visual interest.

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My response to light is quite evident in my work. I think that is a big factor in what draws people to it. Color & light are the important common denominators in my work as a watercolor painter. Whether the subject is architectural, figurative, a landscape, still life or non-representational – bold, often pure, luminous color reigns throughout the composition.

The unpredictability of the medium attracts me. I enjoy the unexpected decisions and challenges that arise during the painting process. I enjoy the discovery process and quirky nature of the medium and give it room to lead the direction of the painting to some extent. Keeping it spontaneous and open for forks in the road, I am merely a guide for a wonderful medium.

“Robert Leedy’s use of color, technique and fun composition captured my imagination. I learned so much not only about watercolor technique but also color and composition.  His critiques have always been positive and very constructive and he has encouraged me to love to keep painting.  Painting with Robert is always fun as he has a great sense of humor and sweet disposition.” – Rebbecca Mentz, Student

“Robert Leedy is an accomplished, award-winning watercolorist and a great teacher. He’s articulate and generous in sharing his wide-ranging knowledge of watercolor techniques – all in an effort to encourage students to enhance their own styles, rather than mimic his.” – Jessie Cook, Student

I started Robert’s classes relatively new to art, much less watercolor.  Robert pushed me (gently!) to become an intermediate painter. He is positive, charming and a great storyteller.  If you have a chance to take lessons from him, I encourage you to do so and I know you will enjoy the experience! – Connie Slimmon, Student

Seeing, thinking, dreaming and painting in watercolor as you experience Tuscany!

Italian language immersion? No, you won’t leave the workshop fluent in Italian but we promise you’ll learn how to properly order at a coffee bar!

“Italian Garden, by Robert Leedy

One of the best ways to jump-start your creativity is to spend a week in a beautiful, new environment painting and exploring the surroundings on a daily basis. Free from the usual, day-to-day demands back home, your mind will be open and focused to learning new things and your creativity will flow forth. Tuscany is the perfect such creative environment and a week of painting & sketching in watercolor will leave you inspired and re-energized.

Watercolor is the perfect travel companion and it is Robert Leedy’s favorite choice of painting mediums. Robert will guide you through the medium during your stay at San Fedele, a beautifully restored 12th century ex-monastery,  outside of Siena.

I really enjoyed and appreciated Robert’s classes. I learned so much. He has such an interesting combination of ways to loosen up combined with progress in technical skill. I loved watching his demos. I feel I learned the most from those. The way he layers color and “drops in” color is so interesting. He is a fabulous artist and a very good teacher! – Amelia Duddington, Student

“A Course in Pink” by Robert Leedy

Great subject matter will be all around you: landscapes, architectural landscapes, still life’s and figures. There will be opportunities for studio and plein air work as well as working with watercolor in sketchbooks. All of the elements and principles of successful watercolor painting will be covered. Robert will help you edit and simplify the scene before you. Drawing, design, and composition will be touched upon as well as basic color theory, watercolor technique and brushwork. You will learn how to mix and mingle color along with taking advantage of color granulation. Robert will help you loosen up your painting with bold color and fluid mark making. The emphasis is on individual instruction and personal style so, both beginners and seasoned painters will benefit from this week of watercolor immersion.

Our painting adventure will include lessons and painting time in the studio and excursions to historic and charming hill towns, located nearby.

Your typical morning will begin with a buffet breakfast then a demo or lesson on watercolor techniques and a discussion of the day’s artistic goals; a morning painting session for several hours follows.  On many days we will then go out on excursion to hill towns to paint on location, visit museums, take photos to paint from later or just to sit in a village square with a cappuccino to experience Tuscany.  Most days there will be a late afternoon critique of the day’s work before dinner.  There will also be opportunities for nocturnal painting.

What a valuable and extraordinary experience it was to paint with and learn from Robert while amidst the gorgeous Tuscan countryside. It was obvious from the beginning that Robert is passionate about watercolor and teaching. I was so excited every morning about putting pencil and brush to paper, that I didn’t really want to stop. However, Il Chiostro, loves to share their beloved spots in Italy and who could say no to dinner at a winery, shopping in Sienna, lunch in Radda and at a Monastery turned University. 
There is no doubt in my mind that I am a better painter after this trip, though maybe a few pounds heavier.  – Leslie Kruzicki

“River Vienne at Chinon” by Robert Leedy

For over six years, Robert Leedy has been one of the top art instructors at our arts center. He is able to break down the foundations of painting in a clear, concise way while also challenging those more skilled artists to take their work to the next level. Robert’s artistic skill and knowledge coupled with his witty sense of humor makes for a fantastic and fun educational experience.
– Leigh Rodante, Director of Programs and Exhibitions at The Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach

“Thursday Morning Bounty” by Robert Leedy

Additional Activities: Your week of immersion in watercolor will be interspersed with other fun activities and visits to towns and villages to experience local markets, museums and shops. Our daily painting will be combined with other adventures such as:

  • Day trip to Medieval Siena to sketch, take photos, explore and shop
  • Excursions to nearby hilltowns like Radda, Castellina, Monteriggioni, etc.
  • Visit to Chianti winery for a tour and tasting
  • Variety of plein air locations to paint landscapes, villages, and the Tuscan light

After excursions or painting on location, we’ll return each evening to relax in our 1,000 year old monastery to enjoy the surroundings, have a glass of wine and an informal critique of the day’s work. Then we will move to the dining room (the authentic refectory where the monks used to assemble) to enjoy our local chef’s authentic, home-made Tuscan meal, recapping the day’s adventure with good company.


$2,895 p/p based on double occupancy; (non-painters $2,595)
Optional supplements:

  • $550 for single room-limited availability
  • $250 p/p for Jr. Suite


  • Shared double room with ensuite bathroom in restored monastery (single rooms available for a supplement, see above)
  • Daily traditional breakfast and dinner, including wine

    “Au Revoir, 1970 la Tache” by Robert Leedy

  • Daily painting classes and critiques
  • Excursion to Siena
  • ½ day painting excursions to nearby plein air settings and hilltowns (Castellina, Radda, Volpaia…)
  • Pick up from Florence train station at 3:30pm on first Saturday
  • Transfer to bus/train station in Siena (not Florence) on final day

Does Not Include:

  • Airfare
  • Lunch (lite lunch will be available for purchase at San Fedele on days we are not out on excursion)
  • Art supplies
  • Independent meals and sight-seeing
  • Gratuities

To Register:  just click on the Sign Up Now button.  A non-refundable deposit of $500 is required to secure your spot in the workshop.  Payment can be made on line with a credit card, or you can follow the instructions to send in your registration and payment by mail.  Once we receive your deposit we will send you a formal Registration Confirmation with further information about the program.  You will receive 2-3 other correspondences by email prior to the workshop with information about Italy, a supplies list and an electronic invoice for the balance.  Final Balance is due by April 15th.  Any time prior to your arrival, if you have questions about anything regarding the trip or the program, you can contact us by email or phone and we’ll be happy to assist you.

Daybreak at San Fedele, photo by Robert Leedy

Contact us for more information:  info@ilchiostro.com or speak to us live at 800-990-3506.

Borgo San Fedele

— San Fedele is a restored 12th century monastery floating in the Chianti hills —

©Lester Lefkowitz 7003-001Il Chiostro at San Fedele is the combined skills of Linda and Michael of Il Chiostro joining together with Nicolo and Renata of San Fedele to produce a unique and inspiring environment rooted in the traditional Tuscan values of beauty, great food, an appreciation for nature and the value of community.  The monastery, dating back to the 12th century, was meticulously restored using traditional building methods and all original materials. Today, the monastery remains true to its original spirit, rich architectural detail. The 16 rooms and suites where participants are housed have lovely modern bathrooms, screened windows, air conditioning, period furniture, wi-fi internet service, satellite television and minibar, all designed to perfectly compliment the medieval surroundings.

The original soaring chapel is now used as a large art studio or workshop space. The monks’ refectory, where a lost 16th century fresco was uncovered during renovation, is now the dining room connected to a state-of-the-art kitchen and the old stone cantinas where they stored their wine have been transformed into studio and classroom space.

For information about the history of this monastery, Click here to go to San Fedele’s web site…


Rather than  hotel, San Fedele is classified as a historic residence in Italy.  That means that it is an intimate setting, preserved along strict historical guidelines to preserve the spirit of the setting.  The owners are on site to oversee this unique combination of historic landmark and modern day comfort.

Accommodations are spacious shared double rooms or junior suites. Each room, because it was converted from the original structure of the monastery without altering the building, is unique in shape. Furnishings and decor were selected to coordinate with the historic, subdued feeling of the monastery, but in a comfortable, modern style. All rooms have two beds that can be separated into twins or combined into one large matrimonial. There is a sitting area, refrigerator, DSL wi-fi, television, air-conditioning, heating, modern private bathroom with shower and hair dryers.

lester-lefkowitz-room3 lester-lefkowitz-room2

There are a limited number of single rooms available at a supplement of $550.

2 Jr. Suites for a minimum of 2 people are available for a supplement of $250 per person.

Night shot piazza©Lester Lefkowitz 7003-010© Lester Lefkowitz 7184-022Archway from rose garden and breakfast buffet in the refectory (photos by Lester Lefkowitz)

Terrace-MJossThe back of San Fedele is surrounded by a large al fresco dining terrace with the original terra cotta tile designs reproduced down to the smallest details. The terrace overlooks the same organic vegetable and flower garden tended by the monks for centuries. Beyond are the rolling Chianti vineyards that make this part of Tuscany so breathtaking.

Other common spaces include a large classroom carved into the rock of the ancient wine cellar, an expansive private piazza, a 16 x 7 meter swimming pool and sprawling landscaped grounds on a rolling hillside.

To San Fedele-LMFlorence will be our meeting point on the first day of the workshop. A van will pick up the group at the train station at about 3:30 pm on Saturday afternoon.

We recommend that you fly into either Florence, Pisa or Rome (Milan is a bit too far away). Florence is closer but it doesn`t have an intercontinental airport, so there are no direct flights from the US. You would have to change planes in a larger European city. From the Florence airport you must take a shuttle bus (Volainbus) into the center (20 minutes).

There are more scheduled flights from the US to Rome, many of them direct. From Rome, you will need to take a train to Florence (about 2 1/2 hours).
Important! In making your return flight arrangements, if you are flying home on Saturday after the workshop, try not to book a flight too early. From our location allow 1 ½ hours to get to the Florence airport or 3 ½ hours to get to the Rome airport.

For suggestions about getting to Rome or Florence, accommodations or other logistics, please consult ourTraveling to Italy link. Renting a car from all the major rental agencies is possible if you prefer to be more independent during the week.

Fall vineyards

Fall vineyards


Borgo San Fedele sits conveniently on a country road connecting the charming medieval walled town of Radda and the village of Vagliagli. Other nearby hilltowns include Castellina-in-Chianti, Monteriggioni and Volpaia. It is about 45 minutes from San Gimignano and Volterra. Many of these towns have roots in the earlier Etruscan civilization that permeated this area prior to the Romans.

San Fedele is located about 12 km northeast of Siena and 45 km south of Florence.

The Food

For us at Il Chiostro, helping our guests to experience the traditional food in one of the earth`s richest, most sensual areas is our pleasure. The Chianti region of Tuscany is Italy’s famous wine and olive oil producing region. Here we want to expose you to the wonders of simple Italian cooking known in the area as cucina povera. Our chef is a Tuscan native who uses recipes from her mother and grandmother to bring the tradition of not only Tuscany, but specifically the Chianti region, to the table each evening.  We use seasonal, organic products, locally produced by small farms and family shops. Our chef searches for the best of Tuscany to serve you. Tuscan cuisine is a simple art that has been refined over the centuries to surprise our palates while the red chianti wine comforts our souls. Come explore what food can really be all about.

© Lester Lefkowitz 7184-057Candle Light Dinner2-CharlesAnderson
About Your Il Chiostro Hosts
Linda and Michael, and their program managers will host your program in Tuscany. They have been organizing workshops in Italy since 1995 and each person brings a special talent to the program. You can read more about them by following the About Il Chiostro link. At the Tuscan Renaissance Center, the owners of San Fedele, Nicolo and Renata, live on site. They will be available throughout the program to talk about the history of the monastery, the renovation and this area of Tuscany they call home.

In addition to your workshop
Optional activities offered with this program will focus on the cultural, gastronomic, historical and artistic heritage of Tuscany. This area has been an inspiration to countless people for centuries. What Tuscany offers its visitors is truly astounding:

Bell tower-smallArt – San Fedele is located conveniently between the cities of Medieval Siena and Renaissance Florence packed with some of the most famous masterpieces in the world.

Wine -You are in the heart of the Chianti region, synonomous with the most famous wine that Italy produces. But the innovative Tuscan vintners are also producing Super Tuscans, red varietals that are quickly ascending the ranks of world-class wine.

History – this area was settled by the Etruscans centuries before the Romans were a civilized society. Their necropoli dot the fields throughout the area. Nearby towns like Radda, Vagliagli and Castellina date from the early Middle Ages. Florence was the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. San Fedele witnessed most of this from its panoramic perch atop the hillside.

Foodcucina povera is the typical Tuscan cuisine that has become popular around the world. The recipes are simple, emphasizing local and seasonal products: porcini mushrooms, salumi, legumes, vegetables, pasta, bread and game meats. Visiting an outdoor food market, you will understand the wisdom of this very healthy cuisine.

Crafts – perhaps the harmony of the landscape has been the inspiration for many local craftsmen. Exquisite hand-painted ceramics are the prime example, closely followed by mosaics, leather, woodworking, and textiles.