Rivers and Trees

Trees and rivers are my inspiration here, they make up for buildings and the roads in towns. We are in Ligura at 370mt above sea level surrounded by chestnut trees, oak, walnut, hazelnut, acacia, pines and many more.  Most of the trees I guess are about 40 years old, many grown up from long forgotton terraces that were cultivated when the valleys were more densely populated with people. This is an old nut tree, one of the survivors because it will always feed you!

Il Vecchio Noce. Oil on panel, 20cm x 30cm.

Just around the corner the river runs wild in heavy rain. The roaring of the water is exciting after a year of dry weather. I did this painting from a window looking down onto the river as it rained, it was luxury plein air painting with all the comforts of heat and a dry palette without those annoying raindrops that accumulate onto the brushes and make the colours feel as if you are painting with vaseline!

River in January. Oil on panel, 35cm x 45cm.


Here are a couple of paintings just before we move into winter!

Kaki Tree. 35cm x 45cm, oil on wood.
Picking Chestnuts. 20cm x 30cm, oil on wood.

Paths and a Patch.

Here are some paintings of where I live in Liguria, Italy.  They were all done in Spring and from life hence the spring greens.

The Way to Santa Maria. 60cm x 50cm, oil on panel.

There is a man in Santa Maria, this small hamlet above who once gave us some delicious onion sets from seeds that he has been using from the past fifty years, and before.  They are the sweetest onions to be eaten raw in salads or stuffed.  Not many people around here buy seeds but have been reseeding from the existing plant.  So they say the tomatoes that are easily diseased are always the seeds bought from the mass producers in the shops!

Path in Spring. 35cm x 45cm, oil on wood.

This road takes you to another nearby village called Sasseta. Thirty years ago there was only a mule track but times have changed and there is now a road which even more bumpy than the mule track.

In the Garden. 75cm x 90cm, oil on canvas.

Our vegetable garden with sunflowers and cucumbers and various other things including my children having a snack 🙂

Wisteria before Bloom. 20cm x 30cm, oil on wood.

There is something I find a bit overwhelming when painting a Wisteria tree when it is in full bloom so here is a little sketch of it about to come into flower.

Ciao for now and just to keep up to date I will be posting some paintings from this summer soon!


Here are a few paintings of what wasn’t eaten…

5 Red Mullets. 32cm x 26cm, oil on wood.
Peas and a Bowl. 35cm x 45cm, oil on wood.

…except in this painting so far most has been eaten, it is our polytunnel during the winter months – as long as salad is popular no one will starve!

Salads in the Polytunnel. 70cm x 55cm, oil on canvas.
Radishes. 17cm x 30cm, oil on wood.

The local religious hangouts.

Monte Dragnone. oil on wood, 20cm x 30cm.

Just one building sits on top of this mountain, the Sanctuario della Madonna del Dragnone. Monte Dragnone is just over 1000mt high and it lies in the area of Zignago, in the La Spezia region of Liguria.  It has a very steep and rocky path climbing up beneath the pine trees to the summit where todays Santuario sits.  Built in the 1800’s on a pre-christian site signs of the bronze and iron age have also been found.

The old Oak and the Sanctuario Della Madonna del Dragnone. Oil on wood, 35cm x 45cm.

As popular tradition tells us the Madonna appeared infront of a deaf shepherdess miracolously bringing back her voice.  The spiritual following of the Madonna del Dragnone, Patron of Zignago, is still very popular and on the 8th September pilgrims from far and wide, old and young make their way on foot to the top of Monte Dragnone to the Sanctuary.


Santuario di Nostra Signora dell’Ulivo. 20cm x 30cm, oil on wood.

This 17th century sanctuary of Nostra Signora dell’Ulivo is built on the hills overlooking Brugnato, a small Ligurian town that sits in the valley below Monte Dragnone. The Sanctuary has been built on one of the several oratories that were constructed  by the Brugnato monks in the 7th Century. There wasn’t much room to get a good view of the facade, (and the same problem happened in the Dragnone Sanctuary!) however after a bit of exploring I preferred this view amongst the olive trees overlooking the valley. Each olive tree has metal plaques with names and dates on tied on chains around their trunks, if you are born here in this community then you can have an olive tree planted in your name.

Yellow Roses

Yellow Roses, oil on wood. 30cmx 40cm.

I had some yellow roses growing on a wall and with all the sun and dry weather this summer the blooms were at their best!  This is an oil study I painted before they all disappeared.

In this painting I mainly used a flat brush. For me brushes are an important part of my equipment and the flat brushes especially because I find them to be the most versatile because you can make many different strokes, a wide stroke, a narrow stroke and then by twisting a triangular stroke which helped with the petals.

This summer I have been busy with lots of new works and I will post some them as soon as my computer is on the mend 😉

Rainy Days

Rainy Days. Oil on wood, 25cm x 35cm.

I don’t know about you but here in the north of Italy it has rained for the whole of June. Where is Summer? This is a study of my daughter who sits still long enough for me to paint, even though it’s nearly summer most days it feels like April!

In this painting I needed alot of Cadmium Red Light for the sofa which is an very intense orange/red – a really bright, bright red!  Other reds verging towards crimson are more darker and duller. I also really noticed while painting this how much cadmium yellow and red pigment I needed to mix into my palette to try and get that cozy artificial light coming in.

Cadmium is expensive to buy but worth every penny. High quality artist’s grade paints generally contain far more pigment than the cheaper student paints so in the long run you use less and they last much longer, both in the tube and on your painting. Once I ground a few tubes of my own cadmium red and that tube really did last along time, it was worth all the effort but now too unhealthy to make your own paints with children about!


La Villa Abbandonata. Oil on wood, 30cm x 40cm.
Wisteria. Oil on wood, 30cm x 40cm.

In Italy during May gardens are at their best, even when they have been forgotten but where everything still grows anyway.  I stumbled across this villa and the garden that is almost abandoned and it was fun trying to put some long awaited colours into the greenery, with the spring grasses long and overgrown and the little wild flowers reaching through!

Frogs, a cat ‘n dog and a fairy. A few sketches.

When I draw or paint a subject outside from life that doesn’t move much I find the painting process can sometimes give to longer sessions which in a way is a good advantage but then again also a disadvantage.  Things can start to get fussy because areas of the painting get rubbbed out to be seen in a different way and then painted over again, and so loosing the first impression.

Sketching moving things is a good exercise because your brain only has a short amount of time to memorize and decide on how to tackle the subject before putting it down in paint. There is no going back after the first brush stroke because there is probably no chance to do it again.  It’s a take it or loose it situation! These are good and fun exercises in learning to be more spontaneous with the paintbrush and in finding quick and simple compositions.

Painting the frogs was really interesting, even though they are not my favourite reptile I did get to respect and learn alot about who there were as they swam about in their habitat.  At the moment it is mating season and rivers and ponds are full of frogs and toads, they are not shy at this time of year and some can keep still for a quite a bit. These two who didn’t have hot dates were sulking at the bottom of the pool, giving me enough time to paint them.

Sketch of Two Male Frogs in a Pond. Oil on wood, 20cm x 25cm.
Daisy Chain. Oil on wood, 20cm x 30cm.
Cat and Dog Sketch. Oil on wood, 15cm x 17cm.

The Orange Tree and La Damigiana.

Orange Tree and a Damigiana. Oil on canvas, 30cm x 40cm.


Finding a title for a painting is a sometimes a struggle! I chose this view because I liked the effect of the afternoon light on the house and the orange tree with the glass damigiana in the foreground but when it came to finding a title nothing very interesting came up.  In Italy the glass bottle in the foreground is called a ‘damigiana’ and in English a ‘demijohn’.  The word damigiana is definently a more elegant term than the blunter English word demijohn which I wouldn’t have put in the title !

Traditionally in Italy a damigiana is used for wine making and you are always sure to find a good selection of empty ones like this in most rural Italian families although nowadays they are used less due to the more modern ways of wine making. Except you can’t beat a damigiana full of wine compared to a bottle!