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 😉
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!
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!
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!
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!