The Ligurian coastline is possibly the most iconic in Italy. In addition to being extremely scenic and beautiful in its own right, the coast of the Cinque Terre is home to some incredible geology, the sharp jagged rocks are characteristic of this coast.
This is my painting of the rocks at Riomaggiore.
Below is the view he painted of the harbour during the end of the 19th century.
I often buy fresh fish from the fish market in town, it is a busy outdoor market in the port town of La Spezia in Italy. These Red Mullets are fresh in each morning and they are very good fried or can also be served painted and put in a frame which was my first choice here. There is something I like when you buy fish wrapped up in paper instead of plastic and at the market everything is hastily wrapped up like this while the fish monger shouts about at whatever else there is for sale. When I got home I couldn’t wait to unwrap the package and start about painting the white paper set against the lovely pinky red and silver tones of the Mullets.
This painting will be exhibited this wednesday in – The Royal Society of Marine Exhibition – in London opening 30th September – 10th October. The show is up on the walls and open to the public (and also online as always for those who cannot be there). What a year it’s been!! I am very thankful that at least a small part of me has been sent to London, maybe I in person will patiently follow next year 😉
Every year from May to July when the sea has warmed up and the anchovies are big and lean they come into the markets and we buy enough to put them under salt, a process that rewards you with a tasty treat that will last and taste deliciously fresh for ages. Here are a few left over, the cat got these ones at the end.
I spent an afternoon at the beach in Pietrasanta in Versiglia which is a big long stretch of sand that is the part of north-western Tuscany just next door to Liguria. It was nice to see so much sand infront of me and I sat on the shore while painting.
Le Grazie is a small fishing village near La Spezia. There is a beach opposite which gives a good view across the harbour. Many of the beaches are formed of rocky coves and colourful fishermens villages and the sea is always rich in colour by all the reflected light from its surroundings.
And here below are a couple of paintings of Levanto which is the next town north of Monterosso. This is where my anchovies came from. The sea is crystal clear.
Its been 65 days since the start of Italian lockdown and thankfully the weather in Europe has been mild and sunny which all the more easier if you live in the rural hills and can get ouside exercise and avoid bumping into anyone. Italy’s lockdown has been strict with no one allowed to go outside unless for vitals and the schools have been shut since february, so all the better for staying at home and painting.
Normally I wouldn’t feel the need to explore the woods with my painting stuff close to the house but when there isn’t anywhere else to go you are kind of pushed by the force of adventure and just follow you feet. Woods play a big factor where I live. So after skidding down steep banks with the easel in one hand and tip toeing over slippery rocks with a palette of freshly squeezed paint in the other I found this spot on the river Mangia below our house, it’s a short flat stretch with a warm February midday sun reflecting on the water.
The next river painting is a calm Spring afternoon on the River Vara. The river Mangia flows into this much bigger river that runs along the bottom of the valley. This river is very wide and deep and I liked the reflections from the trees on the water, the colours were lovely and I hope to go back soon. I think we are now allowed to travel for necessity but to be out painting and having a picnic could be seen as having too much fun (!!)
Travelling a little higher up into the hills you can overlook the whole valley from the Alta Via Dei Monte Liguri. The Alta Via is a stony road that takes you all through Liguria and into France and it could be one way in getting back to the UK on feet or wheels or a donkey without having to fly in an aeroplane! The horses in the foreground are privately owned and left to roam the pastures, there are at least fifty horses, some mules too and they are used to work on steep mountain tracks where tractors cannot go. The moutain in the middle is Monte Dragnone, the highest peak in the area. I wanted to get a sense of space in the painting with all the hills receding into the backround with thin washes of paint, (linseed oil and turpentine glazes). Something I find easier to do with winter colours than summer because there are more earthy colours in the undertones.
Here is the passo del Rastrello that is part of the Alta Via from in the previous painting. It is a little colder here and I have come across snow, it looks like I have just taken you through the wardrobe and into Narnia! (I painted this in 2019 when it snowed for a couple of days). This year it has been too mild for any of that kind of weather but it was nice to look at snow and to use different colours than usual.
Dusk from the top of Monte Dragnone. This is the highest mountain in the area at over 1000mt. It takes a steep 20 minute hike to get to the top but once you have arrived there is a Sanctuary that is used during the many religious festa’s. Unfortunately this year they have all been cancelled but the view is rewarding.
Thankyou for looking and I hope you are all safe and well!
Here a few paintings while visiting the Isle of Wight. The weather was always sunny hence the repeating painted blue skies! This is a great spot of the entrance channel from Bembridge harbour leading into the sea. The old breakwater in the foreground is in need of repair as now the sand and shingle from the sea is fillling up the small harbour pretty fast. One day it will end up as a big sand pit. Then what will the owner of the harbour say?
This painting is currently on show in London for the Royal Society of Marine Artists in the Mall Galleries. It is a small still life of shells that my daughter found on Ducue Beach. When I got back to Italy I bluetacked the best shells onto a blue book and set them out in the sunlight to paint.
A nice spot of Bembridge Harbour to set up and paint where you can watch the boats and the tide go in and out, and the sand and shingle come in.
Seaview is walking distance along the beach from Bembridge when the tide is out. In the distance you can see the mainland.
Before Summer arrives (snow is due Sunday and we are in Italy!! ) here are a couple of tree paintings that have been pending for a while on my computer.
Here I enjoyed trying to paint the early Spring light as it filtered through the woods behind the three Acacia trees. The light was cold and blue against the branches.
An olive grove in Tuscany. I walked around for a while and couldn’t make up my mind what to paint. It was winter and rain was on it’s way but I chose the olive trees because I think their colours are shown at their best when the light is muted and grey.
I often visit the Isle of Wight to catch up with family. When I was young we used to go for seaside holidays and visit my Granny who spent 101 years on the Island. Fond memories of times are spent there, on the car ferry over and then down to the beach at low tide. It was the British holidays by the sea that you don’t forget. The cold wet sand rubbing in your jelly sandals, the damp wind nipping your neck as you looked for sandy shells and then the walk home with handfuls of buckets and spades, dodging the dog mess on Ducie Avenue.
The Isle of Wight gives plenty to paint. There are the high downs and soaring cliffs to long sandy beaches fringed by farms and trees, fishing villages and sailing clubs. Here are just a few painted from my last trip. Others I will post soon when they are photographed.
Narrow bridleways and footpaths run all along the coast, you can walk all around the Island if you wish too. Next time I will go back with a bigger board to paint on because I liked this composition and all the receding greens. A little bit of blue sea in the distance is all I needed without having to go and get sand stuck in my paintbrushes on the beach!
This is the sea seen from the top left corner from the previous painting. When setting out to paint on the Isle of Wight you need a tide timetable to coordinate your painting time. It goes in and out more or less once a day, sometimes I would hope to paint the sand and then arrive and realise that it was still two feet under the sea. So here the tide was coming in and so were the crabs. Its amazing how they they find toes so tasty and I had to make a run for it, also my easel got really rusty after its little paddle in the salt water. I’m sure tying some type of plastic around each leg would save it in future maritime trips! The sea gives us so many moods and colours to look at and it is so changeable, nothing is ever the same as you left it the day before.
And this is the same beach again, Ducie Beach in the early morning just as the fog was lifting. I hadn’t planned to paint fog that day, I had in mind a crisp view looking towards the Lifeboat Station with all the breakwaters in the foreground. Thanks to the fog I managed to blur out all the nitty-gritty because what I really wanted to paint were the old and gnarly breakwaters, (the wooden posts that artificially protect the beach from water erosion and are quite characteristic of this beach, anyway to me they are).
One thing for sure is you have to eat a lobster. I painted this one before it was politely devoured. These ones from the English Channel are bigger and sweeter than from anywhere else!
These toothlike white stacks of eroded chalk which have become world famous are called the Needles. The name comes from a fourth pillar (shown in the engraving below) which was more needle-shaped than what we see today. The original ‘Needle’ pillar collapsed in a storm in 1764, and at the far end is a red and white lighthouse which warns sailors of the treacherous waters. The Needles are both frightening and beautiful, a place for pirates, shipwrecks and suicides but also an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Please check back for more paintings of the Isle of Wight soon!
Here are some paintings of where I live in Liguria, Italy. They were all done in Spring and from life hence the spring greens.
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!
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.
Our vegetable garden with sunflowers and cucumbers and various other things including my children having a snack 🙂
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!
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.
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 😉