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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
Aaaaah it’s that time of day again, when it’s all quiet apart from the sounds of sleeping children. The golden hour. It is both exciting to be a parent and to be a painter, life generally becomes more complicated but richer at the same time and if you mix the two together it becomes creatively rewarding when time is on you side!