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.
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!
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.
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 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!