Sunday, September 25, 2011

That's Amore Part I (Tuscan Harvest Feast )

Buon Giorno

    Hmmm, Italian  . . .
In Mississippi?

Fall is my favorite season. 
 It always has been.
   I am infused with new life,
new beginnings, new possibilities. . .


Tuscany/Tuscano in Fall, absolutely glorious and invigorating

When the moon hits your eye
 Like a big pizza pie, that's amore
When the world seems to shine
Like you've had too much wine, that's amore
"That's Amore"
Dean Martin

I love fall's close ties with earth, and grain, and food, the sustenance of life.

For me, fall represents
all the things that are good in life,
the fruits of life.

by Beth Dean

In the fall, the earth's colors are their most magnificent,  a full range of yellows, golds, oranges, bronzes and reds, simply glowing from the sun's more slanted rays.  This is one of my favorite color palettes. I use it in my own home.

by Beth Dean

Hand made Italian sundried tomato pasta

Thoughts revolve more completely around gathering the fruits of our labor for the hearth and home.

"Umbria" by Beth Dean
14 x 11

"Tuscan Farmhouse" by Beth Dean
Oil on Panel
20" x 16"

 I begin thinking about heartier, zestier, and lovingly cooked meals, which makes me start thinking about rustic breads, cheeses, slow-cooked sauces and wine . . .  


Salt cellars, cutting boards, and small furnishings are crafted by Andrea Brugi in his Montemerano 'laboratorio' in Tuscany, a small shack on the family farm.  He uses natural indigenous materials for his craft, letting nature suggest the shape of the finished item. His original olivewood salt cellers were made from wood cut to make a clearing for his wedding.
 I love the authentic rusticness of his work.

And of course my mind wanders to Italy.  Italy IS a harvest, a rustic, earthy, bountiful harvest of all the good things in life.

This is the FIRST Italy that I love.
 This is TUSCANY/Toscano,
the embodiment of fall and invigorated life,
the good, sweet life "la Dolce Vita".

Italy is Life

Earth   Harvest   Rustic  Food
Terra   Vendemmia   Rustica  Cibo

   "Podere Viscina" by Beth Dean
Oil on Canvas
10" x 8"

For me, design is often closely tied to earth and food.
These ideas of a Tuscan harvest, the colors, textures, and tastes, intermingle and trigger my creativity, invoking new design ideas.

This quirky little sign hangs in the elevator to Beth's studio.

My good friend, Beth Green Dean, interior designer and painter, is a also a lover of Italy, Italian art and design, and all things Italian.  Last week I spent the day with Beth at her bright, new airy studio in her beautiful home, influenced  by both Venetian and Umbrian design, on Lake Lorman near Jackson.  It was like taking a little vacation to Italy, which Beth often
does.  We talked about Italy as inspiration in design and in Beth's art.

Beth painted the interior of her front doors in a Venetian style.

Beth and I both love this Tuscan style dining room.
  I love to use an upholstered chair for the host and hostess.
My dining room and my living room are painted a custom color very close to this one.

The Venetian Lion detail that Beth painted on the interior of her front doors

Beth collects antique quill boxes, shown here in her living room . . .

And antique match strikes with a silver rim. 
 Beth's early oil "Casa Vecchia" hangs above the match strikes in her living room.

 Hand painted Tile by artist Jacqueline Moore

Beth's cucina. She painted the hood. 
 Among her favorite foods in Italy are artichokes, truffles, homeade pasta, carpaccio,
 and REAL scampi
with  a glass of Brunello wine. 

Beth's collection of Italian ex votos, purchased in a Tuscan market,  hangs to the left of her stove.

Handpainted Italian floor tiles from Romeo Cuomo.

Beth studied interior design with an emphasis in Renaissance Art in college.  This study of Italian art took her to Italy for the first time over twenty years ago, and her real love affair with Italy began.

Beth says, "As soon as I step off the boat or plane onto Italian soil, I breathe the rare air of Italy.  It's different, special. It pulls me in a way I cannot really explain.  It is this pure, sweet delight the very air of Italy brings me that I want to convey in my paintings, this feeling of  la dolce vita, the sweet life."

"Italy has a joyous, friendly, masculine ambiance that embraces you with its history and lack of pretense in a great big bear hug," she adds.

 " Point of View" Montapulciano by Beth Dean
Oil on Canvas
30" x 40"


Beth paints in her home studio and en plein air, meaning outside on location.  She has studied under several of the most widely known plein air painters,
 including Kevin MacPherson.  
Here Beth is painting in Pienza, Italy, an area known for its Pecorino cheese, thus a plethora of goats. She now takes her own students to Italy for plein air instruction.

Beth painting en plein air in Pienza, Italy.
Plein air painting is faster and less detailed than studio painting
 because the subject matter must be captured before light and shadow shift significantly.

Beth fondly dubbed this Tuscan home "the Goat House."

"Local of Pienza" by Beth Dean
6" x 9"

Beth Dean photo

When she is not painting en plein air, Beth takes hundreds of photos of Italian sites and scenes that she later uses as inspiration back in her studio.

Beth Dean photo

   Beth's brushes waiting beside her studio's largest easel

On a recent teaching trip to Tuscany,
 Beth and her students visited with Daniela in her home.

     Daniela's kitchen, where she prepared meals for Beth and her students.
  Beth and I love the stuffed rooster on the counter.

    "Salute, Daniela" is a work in progress in Beth's Studio.

As I visited with Beth, I told her the story of how MY love affair with Italy began. When I was little, my Daddy had beautiful curly, jet black hair.  I always wanted to have his hair.  I thought it was the prettiest hair I had ever seen and that he was very handsome.  (My Mother still talks about the one black curl that used to stray and hang fetchingly in the middle of his forehead.)

  My sister Susan, Daddy, and I in the den
where we often watched tv.
  March 21, 1962

    Daddy in our living room where we listened
 to our 'giant' stereo.
September 1973

Lots of nights after supper,
 my sister Susan and I would leave the kitchen for the den to watch tv, or for the living room to listen to records on our huge Magnovox cabinet stereo. 

Many nights, either Dean Martin would be on tv or we would listen to one of his albums on the stereo.  
And of course he had hair just like my Daddy's, so when I heard him sing, I imagined it was Daddy singing, and Daddy does love to sing, although he doesn't really sound like Dean.  (He THINKS he sounds like Elvis, but that is another story!)

I remember hearing Mother, Daddy, and Nanny talking, saying that Dean Martin was Italian . . .

Hmmm, Italian?  
 . . . thus began my love affair with Italy and all things Italian . . .

I love to design table tops, and often use flowers AND fruit together for a table design. The individual artichoke/placecards are quite Italian.

A totally delicious and simple little Italian appetizer I often make
Pesto Mushrooms

Remove caps from button mushrooms.
Fill mushrooms with  a dab of goat cheese.
Brush tops with pesto, homeade or prepared.
Broil until mushrooms are tender.

Everyone raves about these.  They taste complicated and they take no effort!

WITH Anchovies

Pizza Pie?
To be continued . . .

When the moon hits your eye
 Like a big pizza pie, that's amore
When the world seems to shine
Like you've had too much wine, that's amore
"That's Amore"
Dean Martin

Special Thanks to
Beth Dean Studio 
and on Facebook at Beth Dean Studio
 Accepting Commissions

Photo Credits:  Romeo Cuomo, Beth Dean, Mariagiovanna Attanasi, Ditte Isager for Andrea Brugi, Marilyn Storey, Cote de Texas, Jacqueline Moore, Maurezio Laudisi  


  1. Wonderful M- and Beth- my Mom was Italian and I grew up with a very Italian life via design and food and just living- spent a ton of time there- almost moved there- still might- even the garbage in the street looks good in Milan -the paper bags from the street used by the cart vendors are a work of art- the cheapest stuff is nice- why am i here?

  2. Your post is lovely and I love Beth's paintings. I've been to Milan, Italy, the fashion capital of the world. LOL. Lots of shops to visit. I never made it to the outskirts except by train and didn't see much as it was dark when I took the train. All in all it was a very nice experience.

    The food was to die for!


  3. What a gorgeous trip to Italy! The food looks soooo good and I love how you speak about your Father...he sounds like he made a big, wonderful impression on your life! How special...

  4. thanks for promotion of my friend beth. she is gonna be famous! or atleast italian!

  5. What a wonderful and thoughtful post...We learn more dear things about you each time. So many lovely images too...and Beth's work is really beautiful. Have a great week. Mona


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.