Six years ago, artist Charlie Masson swapped the buzz of New York City for a more bucolic life in Italy's Capalbio, restoring a barn and embracing la dolce vita. He shares his story, along with travel tips and inspirations.

Figurative artist Charlie Masson has embraced great changes in his life, moving from his native New York to Capalbio, Italy - initially to a barn he restored - but his painting has remained, fundamentally, the same: precise, commemorative, never failing in the artist's duty to "make things look simple” (Oscar Humphries). Only the light has changed: from the accentuated chiaroscuro of metropolitan interiors, to radiant Mediterranean colors.

Stylistically, Charlie's work resonates with the philosophy of the Romantic movement; his art is intended to be a reflection of his deep appreciation of both the outer and inner worlds. Taking his cues from his immediate surroundings, and capturing the minutiae of everyday Italian life - (matchboxes, shopping lists, books, flowers seen from the distance, as if from a butterfly’s viewpoint), Charlie’s works (on canvas, playing cards and backgammon boards) paint an unfolding story: a life in Tuscany, lived in contemplation of beauty.

From New York to the woods above Capalbio: tell me this story...

Tired of city living, around 2016 I started looking for another place to call home, ideally in a quiet and rural location. Influenced by a 2011 trip I'd taken in the Lake District with the Royal Drawing School - we were 25 artists painting and drawing daily from observation, reconvening for lunches and dinners - I sought to recreate this balance between community, creativity and nature. When a friend invited me to Capalbio, I fell in love with the landscape and instinctively knew I'd found my home. I have remained in the area ever since.

What do you see from your windows?

Currently, I see mostly olive and oak trees, with just a sliver of the sea in the distance, where on a clear day one may see the island of Giannutri.

What kind of child were you?

Quiet, timid, always the observer.

You come from a creative family, how did they transmit their passions to you?

I was raised in an Italo-Franco household of creatives; my mother was a jewelry designer, my father is a restaurateur and painter, my sister a screenwriter. My mother used to have me copy paintings and drawings from art books, while my father frequently brought my sister and I on museum trips, or dragged us to the flower market early on Monday mornings before making floral arrangements at the restaurant. Both parents encouraged the pursuit of creativity and shared an immense appreciation for aesthetics and nature.

Which artistic techniques and materials do you prefer?

I had a teacher who once told me, the material that you would most like to eat is the right one for you. That for me is lithographic ink. I love making monotype prints with litho ink. However I work mostly with oil or tempera on board.

Are there other mediums you would like to experiment with in the future?

Stained glass. I enjoy how the compositions of stained glass works are broken down to simplified shapes and forms.

Your paintings are often small in scale. Why is that?

I often enjoy a smaller format because it is more immediate and intimate. When working from observation, the subject matter can move or the light may change rather quickly and working on a large format doesn’t easily allow the time to capture that moment. Though larger works may give a greater first impression, one of the qualities I enjoy in smaller works is that they ask the viewer to come close to it and spend time with it, should you have the patience and curiosity to do so. When well executed they can be like little jewels.

Every day objects often feature in your paintings. Which objects hold meaning for you, and do you collect?

I do. They vary over time, and may be as mundane as a nice glass bottle or a burnt out light bulb. I enjoy simple and beautiful objects, particularly ones we may interact with frequently but overlook. Sometimes they make their way into my paintings…Objects tell a story; they’re an indication of human life, independent of us. In Japanese folklore objects such as dolls are said to have souls. In a similar way, I find that objects are imprinted with the spirit of people who own them, or at least reflect them in some way. They are like manufactured extensions of us.

What does your studio look like? And what would your dream studio look like?

Over the past few years my studio has been theatrical, setting up the stage only to take it down months later. I have been living in very temporary circumstances over the last six years, so at this point my dream atelier would be in a stable location, perhaps a wooden cabin immersed in the countryside with adequate space and lighting.

Besides painting, what else are you working on?

I also enjoy undertaking other creative projects when the occasion arises. I’ve done site-specific works and I’ve designed some decorative, functional and leisurely creations like lampshades and backgammon boards, and most recently a reinterpretation of the Tarot cards inspired by Tuscany’s Maremma.

And finally, three of your favorite places in New York and Capalbio?

New York: It sounds like a terribly touristy thing to do, but in the city where the past is easily forgotten, the main concourse of the Grand Central Terminal remains a constant with its beautiful mural of constellations over the hustle and bustle below. A good place to people-watch. The Morgan Library & Museum and, in particular, J.P. Morgan's personal study; the walls are adorned with Italian Renaissance paintings and the ceiling was imported from Florence. The Old Town Bar in Flatiron for a trip to 19th-century New York, or the original JG Melon’s on the Upper East Side, for an authentic NY culinary experience complete with chequered tablecloths, paintings of melons, and a great jukebox.

Capalbio: For a taste of the Italian “Far West”, the Parco dell’Uccellina; a beautiful and wild natural park coasting along the sea with a diversity of itineraries one could take, including hikes towards the unspoiled beach of Cala di Forno or through the woods and ruins of the abbey of San Rabano, where there was once a Benedictine settlement; Le Cascate del Mulino, natural hot springs for a restorative experience in a unique setting; Ristorante Fontanile dei Caprai, for authentic local cuisine in a remote and beautiful location.

Join the Cabana family