Classic Grotesque Painting with Carolina d’Ayala Valva 2018-02-24T21:39:48+00:00
  • Classic Grotesque Panel Workshop retreat in Marrakech Morocco with Carolina d'Ayala Valva at Maison 28

Classic Grotesque Panel Workshop
with Carolina d’Ayala Valva

June 16 – 26, 2018


Grotesque decoration refers to a unique and singular style of art that uses odd and fanciful ornamental arrangements of natural, human, and animal forms. They are usually arranged in a symmetrical pattern around some form of architectural framework. Such designs were used extensively in ancient Rome as fresco wall decoration.

When Nero’s Roman palace, the Domus Aurea, was rediscovered in the late 15th century after 1500 years of being buried under subsequent development in the city, the first breakthrough was from above. The first views of the rooms were accomplished by lowering people down into them on ropes, reinforcing their resemblance to caves, or grottoes in Italian. The painted Roman wall decorations in fresco and delicate stucco were a revelation, and have been an inspiration to decorative artists ever since.

Italian born, Carolina d’Ayala Valva began her professional career with a degree in architecture. After graduating, however, she studied at the “International School of Craftsmen’s Training for the Protection of the Artistic Heritage of San Servolo” in Venice, specializing in pictorial decoration and antique pictorial techniques, helping her to become a self-taught master of the decorative arts she now practices.

For the last 25 years she has brought her unique style of painting to many surfaces: decorating furniture, ceilings, walls, trompe l’oeil imitation of materials such as marble and stone, and more for both private and public clients in Italy and abroad.

Living in Rome, surrounded by a unique, inspiring artistic context she had the opportunity to cultivate her passion for “Grotesque” design. The Grotesque decorations in the halls of the Vatican Museums and in the loggia of Raphael-first and most famous in the world-were only steps away from her Rome atelier. Admiring the harmony of the colors and the fast but masterful brushstrokes of the artists allowed her to develop a very personal style, both in the use of the color and application of the Grotesque style of design.

In 2009, her amazing body of work and depth of experience to the publication of her book:  Art and Techniques de la Grotesque– Edition Vial (France), making her work widely known around the world and encouraging her activity as a teacher in Italy, France, Belgium and the US-and now Morocco!






During the five days of course work in Marrakech, students will complete an original decorative painted “Dolphin and Roses Panel” in a classic grotesque technique. The inspiration for this sweet, poetic artwork came when Carolina struck by love at first sight (coup de foudre) viewing the paintings of French artists Boucher and Elisebeth Vigee Le Brun, which feature the same delicate color palette, roses, jewels and coral imagery. The artwork will be painted with classic and luminous “Egg Tempera” pigmented paints, custom-mixed for this course.


  • Practical demonstration and theoretical explanation of how to prepare the support and transfer the drawing.
  • A theoretical explanation and practical demonstration of how to prepare the egg binder and preparation of the “mestica” (a mix between binder and pigment powder).
  • Explanation of the choice of chromatic harmony and the composition of the palette that will be used to paint the Grotesque.
  • Painting (the pictorial performance will be explained and demonstrated by the students at various stages, with the aim of bringing the students to understand the correct use of the brush, the color harmonization and the subject’s interpretation).
  • Practical demonstration and theoretical explanation of the wax finish to be used as a final protection.

Though this course is open to all, it is a professional level of education, so a basic knowledge of pictorial techniques is required since no detailed explanation will be given on the theory of color and shadows and lights.

All the necessary materials will be provided, but each student will have to provide few tools of personal use. All artwork created by students will become their own personal property.  However, the class project, as well as the teaching methodology, are the exclusive intellectual property of the teacher, Carolina d’Ayala Valva, and cannot be used or replicated for teaching purposes.

Grotesque painting art workshop with Carolina d'Ayala Valva in Marrakech Morocco at Riad Maison 28

Exclusive Itinerary

Day 1 – Saturday

a warm welcome to Marrakech!

Plan your arrival to Marrakech for late morning/midday for complimentary Airport Transfer to Maison 28. We’ll welcome you with Atay (Moroccan Mint Tea) and you own personal pair of Maison 28 babouches-house slippers. After lunch at local restaurant we’ll tour a local Museum and enjoy a walk through the artisan souks. Our welcome dinner will be served on the lovely rooftop terrace at Le Fondouk.

Day 2 – Sunday

get to know Marrakech…

Wake up for a Maison 28 breakfast. Then we’ll head out for a guided tour of historic architectural sights, a traditional Moroccan lunch and shopping. Evening cocktail party at Maison 28, complete with henna designs applied by expert artisans and a delicious home-cooked dinner.

Day 3 – Monday

inspiring introduction to the art and application of Grotesque painting…

Maison 28 breakfast is followed by a day long dive into Orientalist Grotesque painting lessons with Carolina. Midday buffet lunch at Maison 28 and finishing up the day with a delicious dinner at local medina restaurant.

Day 4 – Tuesday

another colorful day awaits…

Enjoy a Maison 28 breakfast followed by more morning Grotesque painting lessons and project work and buffet lunch. Then you’ll have some time to shop and explore dinner on your own.

Day 5 – Wednesday

studio work and exploration time…

Maison 28 breakfast followed by more Grotesque painting lessons. Midday terrace Lunch at Maison 28. We’ll spend the evening in the “new city” of Gueliz for boutique shopping and dinner at an Italian restaurant.

Day 6 – Thursday

Atlas Mountains and Anima Gardens…

After a Maison 28 breakfast we’ll take a day trip out of Marrakech to the Atlas Mountains and Ourika Valley. We’ll visit the Siti Fatma Waterfalls and have a Moroccan lunch by the river followed by a visit to the artistic Anima Gardens on our return to Marrakech.

Day 7 – Friday

Moroccan blankets and painting projects…

Following a Maison 28 breakfast we’ll take an inspiring tour of a local artisan museum. We’ll then have more studio and class time with Carolina and terrace lunch and ending the evening with an elegant dinner at a classic Moroccan riad, Dar Zellij.

Day 8 – Saturday

more artistic inspiration…

Maison 28 breakfast followed by a Grotesque painting class and project wrap-up with Carolina, including lunch on the terrace. Then we’ll share a Tanjia dinner (slow-cooked Marrakech specialty!) at Maison 28.

Day 9 – Sunday

the creativity and discovery continues…

After a Maison 28 breakfast, we will tour the nearby by Le Jardin Secret, with its lush gardens and gorgeous architecture and be inspired by the hand-crafted treasures at gallery Tresor des Mille Nuites. You’ll then have some time to shop and explore, with lunch and dinner on your own.

Day 10 – Monday

free day and musical night…

Maison 28 breakfast followed by your last free afternoon for additional studio work/spa visits/shopping. We’ll meet up for a special farewell dinner at Maison 28 with cocktails and local Gnaoua musicians.

Day 11- Tuesday

Bislama! Time to go with your lovely artwork and special memories…

Enjoy your last Maison 28 breakfast before your airport transfer for departure. Please schedule your flight to leave between mid-morning to early afternoon for complimentary airport transfer.

Painting workshop in Marrakech with Carolina d'ayala Valva in classic grotesque painting techniques
Painted detail of grotesque panel from Marrakech workshop with Carolina d'Ayala Valva at Maison 28

Payment and Terms

$3395 (private room w/ ensuite bath-full or queen bed)

$2895 (shared room w/ ensuite bath-twin beds)

A non-refundable deposit of $695 is required to reserve your space.

The remaining balance will be due over 2 additional equal payments on February 28, 2018 and April 30, 2018. You will be emailed an invoice for each payment 2 weeks prior to the due date.

Cancellation Policy:

Your deposit and subsequent payments are a commitment and each payment becomes non-refundable at the time it is received.

IF you are forced to cancel before February 28, 2018 and your reserved spot can be transferred to another person, we will refund any previous payments less the $695 deposit. No refunds or transfers will be available after your final payment.

By registering for this trip with your deposit, you agree to the above Cancellation Policy and to purchase your own trip insurance.


  • • Exclusive 5 day Grotessca painting workshop with Carolina d’Ayala Valva
    • Breakfast each day
    • 8 lunches
    • 7 dinners
    • Entrance to Museums, Gardens, and Historical Sites
    • Guided tour of the Medina & shopping
    • Cocktails/Henna party
    • Farewell party at Maison 28
    • Day trip to Ourika Valley
    • Maison 28 babouches (house slippers) to keep
    • Planning assistance for your free time (spa, dinners, etc)
    • New friendships & cultural experiences
    • SO many amazing memories

    Not included:

    • Airfare (flight suggestions provided upon registration-Royal Air Maroc offers round trip flights to Marrakech from JFK and Washington Dulles on dates you’ll be flying)
    • Travel Insurance (highly suggested)
    • Lunches, dinners, tours taken during your “free” time
    • All shopping and cost of shipping if applicable
    • Alcohol outside of planned dinners
    • Staff gratuities


Egg Tempera Paint Technique

The “Egg tempera” is a very ancient technique, it has been known for its use since the ancient Egyptians. Later it was widely used in the Byzantine period, mainly in the painting of the icons, but its maximum use was in the Renaissance. Almost all the artists of that time has used it, Michelangelo used it when he was very young for his first paintings and Botticelli painted with this technique his “Venus”.
In recent times De Chirico used it so much to develop a recipe that still has its name today. But is thanks to the painter and writer Cennino Cennini, that we can still have the right basic recipe for this particular color preparation. In his famous treatise “The Book of Art”, the author clearly describes how contemporary painters prepare the color before using it.

Cennini explains that there are two ways to make tempera, one better than the other. The first one is to beat the egg yolk with a broken branch of a figs. The liquid that comes out of the branch should be mixed with the egg yolk as it delays the color drying on the palette, favoring clotting and preserving the egg, it also appears to have an antiseptic action. The second method indicated by Cennini is to mix only the egg yolk with the colors, and this tempera is what I use to paint on any surface: wall, wood or iron.

I have my personal recipe and have painted with egg tempera for more than 20 years, I know this technique intimately and use it daily in my work, both to paint on walls or to paint on canvas. I think that among all the pictorial techniques it is the most beautiful, refined and precious-and is the one that requires greater patience and mastery. Once the work is done, the colors are bright and vibrant, powerful and delicate at the same time. The egg tempera is the most durable, being generally unaffected by moisture and  temperature. ~Carolina d’Ayala Valva

“I first took a class from Carolina in 2011 and the second in 2012. She took me from where I was as an artist and helped me to the next level each time. She has continued to mentor me and become a great friend!” ~ Theresa Cheek

Good To Know

Travelers from the US only are required to have a valid US Passport – but it must NOT be due to expire within 6 months of your return flight.

Your flight destination will be Marrakech Menara International Airport (RAK). Royal Air Maroc is the only airline that has direct flights from the US to Morocco, from both JFK and Washington Dulles.

You can also book flights traveling through major European airports, as there are many connecting flights to Marrakech through economy airlines such as Ryan Air, Easyjet, Iberia, etc. We’ve found that it is easier to find good connecting flights on the way to Marrakech than on the return, but you can take the opportunity to end your trip with a day or two stop in Spain, France, Portugal, England….

Immunizations are not required or necessary but check here for CDC recommendations.

Weather is predictably unpredictable so be sure to check on the estimated conditions the week before you travel. Even though Marrakech can be quite warm by day, it is usually quite cooler at night so pack light clothes that you can layer. We recommend cotton pants, long skirts, wraps or large scarves over tank and tee shirts, and a sweater or light jacket for chilly nights.

Your most important fashion asset: comfortable shoes for traversing the Medina on sightseeing and shopping adventures!

Morocco is a Muslim country and women generally dress more modestly than in the US or Europe. Maison 28 is located in a more conservative, residential area in the old Medina. Like elsewhere, dress codes are gradually becoming more lax and there is a lot of tolerance for tourists, but wearing clothing that covers your best “assets”, and that your grandmother would approve of, shows cultural respect, good taste, and common sense.

The currency here is the Moroccan Dirham, and the exchange rate usually hovers these days around 10 Dirhams/1 Dollar. You CANNOT exchange for Dirhams outside of Morocco, but there are several currency exchange booths in the airport when you exit Passport Control and also located all around the Medina. Larger stores and restaurants may take Euros, but it’s really best to have dirhams.

If you bring large bills ($100) to exchange be sure that they are newer bills with holograms. Otherwise they will slide them back to you with a shake of their head.

Another good option for padding your wallet with dirhams is to use the ATM machines which are located around the medina. The exchange rate is a little better, especially if your bank or credit card doesn’t add foreign transaction fees (some homework for you). Be sure to notify your bank of your foreign travel destination so they don’t flag you for fraud. I also recommend that you bring 2 or 3 cards-just in case you still get flagged (happens!) and find too many things you just can’t live without.

Maison 28 offers:

  • Free Wifi access in all rooms and common areas
  • Bedside Mineral Water
  • Hair Dryers
  • One-time complimentary laundry service for retreat weeks

Extra items you should pack:

  • European Plug adapters
  • Electricity Converter for hair appliances (cellphones and computers generally have built-in converters)
  • Ear Plugs – especially if you’re a light sleeper. Maison 28 is in a quiet neighborhood but there is local “wildlife”, i.e. Medina cats and a neighborhood rooster who sometimes like to make themselves heard. Also, the first call to prayer from the surrounding Mosques occurs about an hour before dawn.
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