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.
Sasseta is a typical Ligurian mountain village in the valleys behind the Cinque Terre, 55 people live here including me and my family and the surrounding area is called Zignago that has a community of 550 which covers an area of 2785 km, made up of rural farmland and woodland.
Sometimes Italy feels quite densely populated due to the geography of the land and many people live in the sprawling towns on the flat or as near to the coast as possible but right here in the mountains life slows down, less people want to live so remote and there is more space and fresh air even though the neighbouring wild boar can be pretty annoying!
I really enjoy painting the colours of the countryside in winter, so many reds, pinks and greys find their way onto the palette and with the recent mild weather the trees still have most of their orange autumn leaves still on the branches.
Last month I subscribed to Making a Mark a practical and well known blog for artists. It is packed full of information, techniques and tips for art and business in the art world.
I was happy to see a mention of my painting During the Summer which was exhibited in the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, 2015 London show in December. The author goes to many art exhibitions and writes up a blog review afterwards. This was one of them.
Here is the link to her review and from here you can continue to read her other posts:
A brief scattering of snow in the hills above where we live is all what was given for this quick painting before the year is out. (It was quick because after a bit of standing around I find dark forests get cold and creepy!)
I am really pleased that this painting of our vegetable garden “During the Summer” has been chosen to be exhibited in the Royal Society of Oil Painters Exhibition in the Mall Galleries, London from the 2nd Dec – 13th Dec. The exhibition will be showing over 300 paintings from 120 artists and I’m looking forward to seeing all the works on show.
This painting is something I worked on during this summer, it’s bigger than usual and a nice change to working small, I feel I can be more imaginative with more space on the canvas. Bigger brushes and less to worry about!
There is an art to selecting the site to grow vegetables and deciding what to plant in a small time limit, this summer in Italy was extremly hot and from experience painting is sometimes more simple than growing vegetables! Just like oil painting growing things requires alot of learning by mistakes and the best advice we get is from the local people who pass us down knowledge learnt from their previous generations working the land.
I painted this scene to remember what was growing here during the summer of 2015 and be reminded to bring about new changes for 2016. Next year it will be a completely different layout because seasonal scenes like this only last a couple of months before plants get eaten (the vicious cycle of life!) and new plants grow.
It would be great to see you on the 2nd December at the Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition 2015 – See more at:
I decided to do a couple of rose studies while the roses were still flowering, for me roses and the soft autumn light this year is more inspiring than what was offered in spring. Autumn brings the most colourful season and it feels good to be outside painting it! While the undergrowth turns away for winter and the possibilities of summer are gone I noticed the little things that still hang on like the flowering roses, beautiful soft pink roses clashing with the autumn decay!
I tried to define the rose leaves and petals with a flat brush, cutting into the wet paint to “sculpt” the petal or leaf without drawing it was easier. There is alot to look at when painting foliage so it was time to forget about each individual leaf and look out for the areas of darks and lights.
Zinnia flowers are the lazy gardeners best friend. Last year I started off with just a few and this summer they had grown everywhere, a forest of colours attracting so many butterflies and hummingbird hawk-moths. They are late summers last burst of sunshine and even though autumn is here the sun is still shining on this terrace!
What struck me to paint this scene was the way that the brightly coloured flowers light up against the dark background which I think helps to break up some of the bushy leafy greens. After a bit of experimenting to get the flowers to jump out I decided to dull down and darken the green leaves while using different variations of colour, value and chroma to keep the green interesting. To express the brightness of the flowers which bring a bit of excitement into an otherwise big area of green I tried to keep the reds as saturated as possible, paint does not come close to real life’s value range and it is suprising how colours in nature are brighter than the colours you can make on the palette!
A couple of weeks ago I went to an outdoor painting exhibtion where artists were invited to paint in a local boatyard harbour here in Le Grazie in Italy that was hosting a weekend of Regatta of Classic boats. It was great fun to be able to see so many beautiful classic sail boats. The weather was fine, the wind was good for sailing and the people friendly – it was a great weekend!
I dont really have much experience in painting boats and every boat I chose to paint in the foreground disappeared after half an hour so I never got to finish the masts and the rigging, a bit of memory was needed and also the help of the camera to remind me where to put the rigging was extremly helpful. It made me wonder how marine artists in the past were able to paint every little detail, it was either from memory or very careful sketching over long periods of experience spent in the boatyards. Mastering the art of human anatomy is probably the same sort of thing I imagine you would need to paint a boat.
During the time I was painting I tried a new medium for oil paint: Poppyseed Oil. The advantage of this oil is that it doesn’t yellow like linseed oil and it dries very slow which was an advantage when I added the rigging to the boats back in the studio because the sky hadn’t dried and I was able to work wet into wet. When using poppyseed oil the painting should be finished all in one go instead of waiting for layers to dry as it will crack if the layers havent dried properly and used underneath linseed oil should be avoided. Linseed oil dries much faster, the only weak point is that when dry it tends to yellow or darken the whites and paler colours unlike poppy oil that is transparant.
After a bumpy drive uphill you will find yourself here at 1000 metres above sea level, (maybe with a flat tire too), out of the hot weather and into cool breeze mountain views of Val di Vara that overlook the Ligurian sea.
Just outside Cuccaro Club (a hotel/restaurant that is more retro than my Granny), along the road leading to the Casoni where I chose to paint on a couple of occasions this summer, grows an imposing pine forest that covers several hectares. It is considered among the most beautiful of the Ligurian Apennines, with trees that stand out clearly against the grassy slopes. It was planted almost 100 years ago to stabilize the land in wet weather due to the intense deforestation that over the centuries, weakened the mountain slopes of the area. The work was ordered by Mussolini and involved a large number of workers. A sign of prosperity and longevity and facist propaganda. Hopefully it won’t come into the hands of another facist leader to fill in the holes in the roads…
Last week I was having a conversation with an Italian about the differences between the English and Italians on the beach in Italy. We noticed that when an English person embarks onto the sandy shores they will hunt for a secluded spot in the shade, lather on a fair amount of sun cream and immerse themselves in a book, remaining quiet and semi clothed until the midday temperature rises when they will use this opportunity to go and sizzle in the sun.
On the other hand the Italian will be heard arriving 1km away, habitat the most dinstictive spot on the beach and occupy unneccesary quantities of umbrellas and deckchairs. They will then stand around the deckchairs and talk non stop about food, last nights’ terrible sleep due to the heat and why it is too hot to even be at the beach.
This painting was done in the shade under the pine trees (being English) at the beach in Liguria I often go to. I liked this little view with Porto Venere and the Palmaria in the distance (once you get past the couple having a loud discussion about how “Basta!! This place is rompendo i coglioni and we have to go away to another beach immediately because someone has taken our reserved sun lounger”! Finding shade is important when painting outside because working under the sun is hot and uncomfortable not to mention having sunlight on your canvas and pallet which will cause the values to be misjudged, i.e when you take your painting indoors you will find out you have painted everything too dark. If you have to paint in direct sunlight without an umbrella then you can mix your values lighter to compensate and if you have an umbrella dont attatch it to your easel on a windy day, you can imagine what would happen…it would be a case of a rompicoglioni moment!
The Palmaria is a small island near the Cinque Terre that lies infront of Portovenere and you can reach it by boat either from La Spezia or from Portovenere. With cool sea breezes and clear, clean blue waters it is by far the best place to be, both for swimming and sunbathing and especially painting. I look forward to going back and walking around the island which you can do in about one hour to search out more painting spots.
The first painting I did is looking toward the Gabbiano beach in the afternoon, the clear sunny colours and the beach stretching out into the sea inspired me to paint this view.
The second painting I did while using the same spot and same time of day when I painted the first painting but just turning around 180 degrees. Now the light was coming towards me so the church of San Pietro and the sunbathers were silhouetted against the sky which is an idea I like in this composition probably because the painting process was quicker as I was using a less colourful palette and concentrating mostly on the shapes.