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!
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!
My favourite time of day for painting is in the early evening, around 5pm when the light is softer and the shadows a little longer. I am glad to show my daughter that painting or drawing nature is a valuable lesson and it is helpful for her to notice the small and simple things as well as all the wonderful colours that it offers which can sometimes go unoticed. P.S. My dog Gwen who is a retired sheepdog likes to keep watch over the cat now that she has no sheep!
During a trip to Florence i managed to paint the famous walls on the Oltrarno. It was so busy because it was an important festa, (The Feast of the Immaculate Conception) and I was unable to find a position in the centre and there was no way i was going to stand in the middle of a million tourists as i would loose my concentration in a second and probably end up in Japan! This is a view from the walls between Porta S. Giorgio and Porta S. Miniato, one of the entrance gates to the town as well as an old watch station, then to the left is the old gate of San Niccolo, standing 60 metres tall it is the tallest of the towers still standing today.
This is one of the beaches in Cinque Terre, in the village of Riomaggiore as you turn left by the harbour. its only access is a narrow pathway carved out of rock which brings you to a very hot and stony beach! Both an uncomfortable painting and sunbathing spot, I suppose you have to suffer if you need a suntan or a painting. Painted out of season in November there were less tourists in the Cinque Terre but still the sun was quite hot.
This painting was painted during the summer 2014 at the sea we often go to in Italy. The sea can be reached from the rocky coast that surrounds most of Liguria, this area is called Maralunga, it is a small peninsula in the Mediterranean among many others near the port of La Spezia.
Below are a series of still life paintings that I did in the studio during 2008-2013. Those were the days when I could leave things untouched on a table to paint because now I share my ‘studio’ with a hurricane called Two Small Monsters! Although the mess on the ground does make for some inspiring compositions its a matter of time to capture it, you have to be quick.