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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
In these two sketches from life I aimed to capture the movement in what was infront of me instead of fussing over a bigger composition and trying to make a more interesting picture. A raging torrent after a big storm and a sun filled, bright yellow Mimosa tree that was exploding with yellow flowers are just a couple of March’s crazy offerings.
Today it is International Womans Day and it seemed a good day to post a picture of Mimosa (in Italy it is the number 1 flower today!) and lets give hope and courage to women and their familes fleeing from war torn countries.
This year 2016 the Italian goverment has given 500 euros for each 18 year old to spend on museums and cultural events. What a shame that I am not 18 so here’s to 2016 and maybe a lottery win (!!) to dream and spend on a round the world ticket to go and see these well known paintings from life that inspire me.
Giorgio Belloni (1861-1944) was a well known artist from the north of Italy. He painted Italian alpine scenes and portraits and specialised in seascapes which were painted from life during summer stays near Genova and the Ligurian Riveria near to where I live. His paintings are distinguished by a poetic and evocative atmosphere and I love his use of light in this painting.
I enjoy looking at Sorolla’s (1863-1923) beautifully painted representation of a group of Spanish fishermen and their wives (?) sewing the sails under the dappled sunlight of Valencia in 1896. Measuring 222 x 300cm it is a big canvas and full of life.
Authur Streeton (1867-1943) is known for his landscapes that capture the unique light and colour of the Australian outback. Often when he painted he bought with him poetry to read, ‘The Purple Noon’s Transparent Might’ is a title influenced from a poem by the poet Shelley that embraces the natural world, the sun, sky, water and mountains. Apparantly the painting was painted in two days while experiencing a fiery trance due to the sweltering Australian heat!
Here we are looking over the shoulder of the Italian artist Ambrogio Raffele while he paints in his cramped and untidy hotel bedroom during a summer holiday in the Italian Alps with Sargent and his friends. I think this painting is one that Sargent has handled with an extraordinary display of brilliant brushwork. My eyes keep on looking at the back of the artists head as he contemplates his painting.
All the Best for 2016 and thankyou for your support and inspiration!
Last month I subscribed to Making a Mark a practical and well known blog for artists. It is packed full of information, techniques and tips for art and business in the art world.
I was happy to see a mention of my painting During the Summer which was exhibited in the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, 2015 London show in December. The author goes to many art exhibitions and writes up a blog review afterwards. This was one of them.
Here is the link to her review and from here you can continue to read her other posts:
A brief scattering of snow in the hills above where we live is all what was given for this quick painting before the year is out. (It was quick because after a bit of standing around I find dark forests get cold and creepy!)
Last week I was having a conversation with an Italian about the differences between the English and Italians on the beach in Italy. We noticed that when an English person embarks onto the sandy shores they will hunt for a secluded spot in the shade, lather on a fair amount of sun cream and immerse themselves in a book, remaining quiet and semi clothed until the midday temperature rises when they will use this opportunity to go and sizzle in the sun.
On the other hand the Italian will be heard arriving 1km away, habitat the most dinstictive spot on the beach and occupy unneccesary quantities of umbrellas and deckchairs. They will then stand around the deckchairs and talk non stop about food, last nights’ terrible sleep due to the heat and why it is too hot to even be at the beach.
This painting was done in the shade under the pine trees (being English) at the beach in Liguria I often go to. I liked this little view with Porto Venere and the Palmaria in the distance (once you get past the couple having a loud discussion about how “Basta!! This place is rompendo i coglioni and we have to go away to another beach immediately because someone has taken our reserved sun lounger”! Finding shade is important when painting outside because working under the sun is hot and uncomfortable not to mention having sunlight on your canvas and pallet which will cause the values to be misjudged, i.e when you take your painting indoors you will find out you have painted everything too dark. If you have to paint in direct sunlight without an umbrella then you can mix your values lighter to compensate and if you have an umbrella dont attatch it to your easel on a windy day, you can imagine what would happen…it would be a case of a rompicoglioni moment!
The Palmaria is a small island near the Cinque Terre that lies infront of Portovenere 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.
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.