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.
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.
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!
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!