Still Life and Landscapes from the Sea.

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 😉

Six Red Mullets. 30cm x 40cm. oil on panel.

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.

FIve Anchovies on a Plate. 20cm x 35cm, oil on panel.

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.

Pietrasanta, 20cm x 30cm, oil on panel.

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.

Le Grazie. 20cm x 35cm.

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.

Behind Vallesanta. 30cm x 40cm, oil on panel.

And the beach next door during July.

Vallesanta, Levanto. 30cm x 50cm. Oil on panel.

Around and about so far.

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.

River Mangia, Val di Vara. 40cm x 50 cm, oil on panel.

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 (!!)

River Vara, Val di Vara- 35 x 25cm, oil on panel.

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.

Midday from the Alta Via, New Years Day. Val di Vara, 40cm x 35cm, oil on panel.

The Alta Via, Casoni, Spring. oil on panel, 35cm x 35cm.

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.

 

Passo del Rastrello. 20cm x 25cm, oil on panel.

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.

Dusk from Monte Dragnone. 30cm x 40 cm, oil on panel.

 

Thankyou for looking and I hope you are all safe and well!

Paintings from the Summer, Bembridge, Isle of Wight.

From Bembridge Point. Oil on panel. 30cm x 40cm

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?

Study Of Shells. Oil on panel, 30cm x 40cm.

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.

Bembridge Harbour. Oil on panel, 30cm x 40cm.

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. on on canvas board. 30cm x 40cm.

Seaview is walking distance along the beach from Bembridge when the tide it out. In the distance you can see the mainland.

 

 

Acacia & Olive Tree Paintings

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.

midday_annadennis_oilpainting
Midday. Oil on panel, 45cm x 55cm.

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.

olivegrove_annadennis_oilpainting
Olive Grove. 17cm x 45cm, oil on panel.

Ciao for Now!

From the Isle of Wight

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.

beachpathbembridge_oilpainting_annadennis
Path to the Beach, Bembridge, Study. 20cm x 30cm. OIl on Panel.

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!

risingtidebembridgebeach_annadennis_oilpainting
Rising Tide Towards Seaview. 45cm x 50cm. OIl on Panel

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.

liftingfogbembridgebeach_annadennis_oilpainting
Lifting Fog, Ducie Beach. Isle of Wight. 50cm x 70cm. Oil on Panel.

 

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).

lobsterstudy_annadennis_oilpainting
Lobster Study. 35cm x 45cm, oil on panel.

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!

needlesalumbay_annadennis_oilpainting
The Needles, Alum Bay. 17cm x 35cm. Oil on Panel

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.

NeedlesOnTaylorsHampshire-1759
The Fourth “Needle” that collapsed in 1764. ‘The Needles from Isaac Taylor’s “one inch map” of Hampshire’.

Please check back for more paintings of the Isle of Wight soon!