The Palmaria, Portovenere. Italy.

Punta Secca, Portovenere.  25cm x 35cm, oil on board.

Punta Secca, Portovenere. 25cm x 35cm, oil on board.

The Palmaria is a small island near the Cinque Terre that lies infront of Porto Venere and you can reach it by boat either from La Spezia or from Portovenere. With cool sea breezes and clear, clean blue waters it is by far the best place to be, both for swimming and sunbathing and especially painting. I look forward to going back and walking around the island which you can do in about one hour to search out more painting spots.

The first painting I did is looking toward the Gabbiano beach in the afternoon, the clear sunny colours and the beach stretching out into the sea inspired me to paint this view.

Sunbathers, Porto Venere.  Oil on boad, 25cm x 35cm.

Sunbathers, Portovenere. Oil on board, 25cm x 35cm.

The second painting I did while using the same spot and same time of day when I painted the first painting but just turning around 180 degrees. Now the light was coming towards me so the church of San Pietro and the sunbathers were silhouetted against the sky which is an idea I like in this composition probably because the painting process was quicker as I was using a less colourful palette and concentrating mostly on the shapes.

Ciao for now!

Summer Evenings…

Winnie Drawing.  Oil on board, 20cm x 30cm.

Winnie Drawing (with Gwen and Lenny). Oil on board, 20cm x 30cm.

My favourite time of day for painting is in the early evening, around 5pm when the light is softer and the shadows a little longer. I am glad to show my daughter that painting or drawing nature is a valuable lesson and it is helpful for her to notice the small and simple things as well as all the wonderful colours that it offers which can sometimes go unoticed. P.S. My dog Gwen who is a retired sheepdog likes to keep watch over the cat now that she has no sheep!

Paddling Pool 2015

Paddling Pool 2015. Oil on Board, 30cm x 30cm.

Paddling Pool 2015. Oil on Board, 30cm x 30cm.

Summer + Sun + Children + Water + Paddling pool + a Hosepipe = Happiness!

A little oil painting sketch I did while supervising my children playing in the pool.

Rosa Gianca

White Roses. Oil on board, 25cm x 35cm.

White Roses. Oil on board, 25cm x 35cm.

I have these white roses in my garden grown forty years ago from a single cutting taken from a rose bush by a man in the village nearby. With its dark glossy leaves and pale cream flowers it puts on a show during the spring without weakening to disease like most roses do. I was proudly told by the locals that the rose was an antique variety and a native rose from the area. Here near Genova when speaking in the Genovese dialect it called Rosa Gianca which simply means white rose.
During the spring I noticed the same variety of rose growing in most gardens out and about and I discovered after painting it that it had been created in the early 1900’s in France and was then diffused in most of Europe with the French name of Albèric Barbier!

La Chiesa di San Pietro, Porto Venere.

Chiesa di San Pietro, Porto Venere.  Oil on Board, 20cm x 30cm.

Chiesa di San Pietro, Porto Venere. Oil on Board, 20cm x 30cm.

Last week I was lucky enough to go and visit Porto Venere which is a small medieval Italian fishing village near the Cinque Terre. The houses are each painted in bright colours, tradition being the fisherman would find their way back home easier from the stormy seas!

The Church of San Pietro was originally a 5th Century Pagan temple dedicated to Venus and was then consecrated in 1198. It is small and simple inside with a great sense of history and an incredible position thanks to the Pagans who chose to build their temple over looking the sea on all three sides. Luckily for me it wasnt stormy weather when I happened to visit and I found the perfect painting spot, not because of the view as I am sure with more time on my hands to look around there would have been many more interesting compositions to choose from, but because I had found an old washed up tree with holes just big enough to hold my brushes in :)

A personal brush holder!

A personal brush holder!

Painting out of the sudio can be uncomfortable if you are not well prepared which sometimes I am not so I was glad to come across this spot. Portovenere is a great place to visit if you are visiting the area, you can get a boat from here to the Cinque Terre or if you feel energetic walk along the rocky cliff paths from here as far to Monterosso in 6 hours, just watch out for the sheer drops down to the sea!

Purple Haze

Wisteria.  Oil on board, 26cm x 42cm

Wisteria. Oil on Board, 26cm x 42cm

One of the most exciting things in Spring is waiting for the Wisteria to burst into cascading purple flowers (yes, my life is pretty exciting ;) ) but after painting this I am pretty glad to wait another year until it flowers again.

Apparantly purple is a colour linked with royalty and mystery and it is also a difficult colour for our eye to discriminate because it has the shortest wavelength in the light spectrum. I definently found this to be true while painting and comparing the flowers to the green grass!

Catching Fire.

Catching Fire.  Oil on Board, 25cm x 30cm

Catching Fire. Oil on Board, 25cm x 30cm

Spinach.  15cm x 20cm, oil on board.

Spinach. 15cm x 20cm, oil on board.

Spring here is pretty busy but I didnt want to forget to do a few painting exercises! These two sketches were done alla prima which in italian means at ‘first attempt’ while painting with wet paint on top of wet paint and giving myself 40 mins max for each. I tried to catch just the gesture of the subjects using thick paint in some areas and leaving the darker areas with less. It is a fun and fast way to paint and I found it a good exercise in trying to be confident in putting down each brushstroke and then leaving it, a way which will hopefully earn me in the future to be a quicker painter! Using subjects that are constantly moving is another interesting way to work as you need to remember what you see because when you look back up at the subject from putting down a brushstroke it has changed yet again!

April 25th. Freedom and Justice!

The Path. Oil on board, 30cm x 30cm.

The Road. Oil on board, 30cm x 30cm.

April 25th is a national Italian holiday commemorating the end of the second world war and the end of Nazi and Facist occupation of the North of Italy. Today is the 70th Anniversary.  The liberation put an end to twenty years of fascist dictatorship and five years of brutal war. Now I am glad to walk peacefully through the landscape but today I remember what our countries and the Partisans who fought here had to go through first so we could live in Sasseta, a small village at the base of the Ligurian Appenines.

The worst conditions and fighting took place in mountainous areas like this where the Gothic line was drawn. Resources were scarce and living conditions were difficult. Many soldiers both English and American came to these mountians for refuge, relying on the locals for support and supplies while sleeping in abandoned farms and farmhouses as they fought with the Partisans against the Germans. There were no roads in those days, only narrow mule tracks that confused the Germans who were used to broader fighting grounds, infact many were killed in a battle nearby due to their more agile enemies. There is still a group of old Partisans who come to Sasseta to remember this day, each bringing their story to tell. How many innocent victims for freedom and justice.

A couple of years ago a lady from Sasseta bought her grandchild to my daughters birthday party at my house, she said the last time she came here it was to hide during German round up raids seventy years ago. This is a painting of the ‘modern’ road that now leads to our house were we can drive up and down whenever and wherever we want, how times have changed!

Blue Skies!

Rock and Trees.  Oil on linen, 40cm x 50cm.

Rock and Three Acacia Trees. Oil on Linen, 40cm x 50cm.

What I find interesting in painting outside is for example what happens when the sky blue, why on sunny days are the distant hills purple, and the closer ones blue/green etc?  Trying to understand the answers helps me paint more quickly instead of guessing which colours to put where.

Most of the time I begin or end up painting the sky too dark, forgetting that it is the lightest value in the landscape even when it is bright blue like this or overcast. The sky is really important, once you paint in the right colour then it will help anchor the rest of the painting. There is no such thing as flat tone in nature even though the sky may seem to be just blue, infact it is a huge space with more than just one value which changes towards or away from the sun and from the horizon to the zenith even on a grey cloudy day. As you go closer to the sun you are faced with a colourless glare, and then across the horizon in the opposite direction the blue gradually gets darker. The horizon being the farthest away point from us is lighter because there is more atmosphere to see through and the zenith above our heads is the darkest area as it reaches into space.

Here is a grid with the mixed blue values I used in the sky above:

Sky Values

Sky Values

Horizon = cerulean blue, white
Zenith = Ultramarine, cobalt blue light, white
Left = cerulean blue, white, cobalt blue light, white
Right = cobalt blue light, ultramarine blue, white

Whatever we paint is lighted according to the time of day and the weather because the particles that make up the atmosphere surround and affect everything we see. I did this painting at midday, there were no green leaves on the trees so the scene cast an overall blue hue because of the sky colour that was reflecting off the ground, rock and trees etc.

Sometimes when I get stuck I find it helps to take a photograph of the painting and then change the photo into black and white. If it is too grey and lacks contrast then the values do not have weight, most of the time it’s the sky that is too dark so I try and remember why it is and how it is and then next time it might help me paint more quickly and without guessing where to put the colours!

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