The Geometry of Gothic Stained Glass

Gothic ArchWhile preparing for the new series of stained glass courses I got to thinking about the design work that went into Gothic cathedral tracery. These stone pillars support and divide the leaded lights and so wonderfully illuminate, both physically and metaphorically, these old buildings.

Medieval stained glass

Looking over photographs of Chartres and York Minster cathedrals my mind wandered back to my mathematics and technical drawing classes at school. After all, much of the beauty in these old windows owes itself to the mathematical principles of the golden mean and the sacred geometry.

GothicWindowWhether you believe in Divine design or not, there is much satisfaction, to be gained in observing how the craftsmen of old put these windows together. Look at any Gothic stained glass window and you will see an array of equilateral triangles, circles and squares all delicately put together to form perfect symmetry.

 

Window geometry

 

neal-winfield-gothic arch

These simple shapes are flipped, rotated and reversed in a complicated format to produce the awe inspiring lights we see in churches across the globe. It is fascinating how with nothing more than a compass and straight edge you can copy these designs and create your own Gothic, Norman or Tudor arches.

GothicTracery

Strike an arc, join the intersecting points and you’ve got an arch Rotate a circle three or four times and you have perfect trefoils and cinquefoils. The repetition of of our most earliest geometric exercises at school allow us to accurately replicate the stained glass windows of the Medieval artisans.

Next time you find yourself beneath a perfectly constructed rose window, have a look at the way the shapes were constructed. A marvelous combination of straightforward geometrical shapes, creatively assembled.

If you would be interested in finding out more about stained glass courses in Italy please email me at:  travellingcontent@gmail.com

 

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Painting the Sign

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I’ve always loved calligraphy, lettering and sign writing, so this project gave me a chance to get back to some of the things I love drawing. Namely letters and the Italian countryside.DSCN7240

Sign design

The sign is for an agriturismo, B&B, just outside of Pierantonio, Umbria and was to be completed on an old, but well preserved, wooden, window shutter. I decided to use the inside face and make a feature out of the old barrel hinges that were still intact.
Once the wood had been prepared, I set about designing the image. The only other prevision was the inclusion of the establishment’s name, “Villa Santa Caterina”.

Google Earth exploration

Although I’d never visited the site before I know the location well and easily found it on Google Earth, a great tool for exploring areas. You can really have a good nose around places and get the feel of the landscape. Obviously it’s not as good as a visit but as I’d driven the approach road often enough I knew the layout.
SantaCatViewThe idea for this image was straightforward. As you drive down the SP169, there’s a wide valley, a gentle curve and a distinctive manor house. This is where you turn off and if you look up into the hills on your right you can make out the Cyprus trees that ring Villa Santa Caterina above you.

Acrylic painting

VillaHouse2The painting would hang outside so I opted to use acrylic paint and this, along with a dozen or so coats of varnish should protect it from the elements. As the lettering was to be the main event, and not the image behind, the other major decision I had to make was to paint a subtle landscape. This meant lashings of titanium white to give the hills and trees a pale look but leaving the buildings with enough emphasis so that they stand out. The whole effect is finished off with a bright red border.
Green trees, terracotta buildings and splashes of red in the roofs, that’s the Umbrian landscape.
Drop me a line if you think your tea room in Wales, antique shop in Portland or haberdashery in Coober Pedy would suit one. I’ll happily sort something out for you.

 

Stained Glass Course in Italy

How would you like to spend a wonderful week in the beautiful Umbrian hills, south of Lake Trasimeno learning the ancient art of stained glass production?

DSCN7188Well! In August, 2018, I’ll be running an introductory stained glass course at the lovely Arte Umbria venue. This will be a great opportunity for you to visit Italy, experience its unique atmosphere and learn a new skill.

Beginners stained glass course

The course is aimed at beginners and will give you a taste of the 1,000 year old practice that has left us with some of the world’s most colourful and distinct artworks. By the end of the week, you will be able to design patterns for glass, cut glass and lead and solder a panel together.

DSCN7199You will have all the necessary equipment and materials supplied and there is a kit with the most essential tools to take home so that you can practice on your return.

There will also be a series of informative talks about the history of leaded lights, style and design, and a fascinating guided trip to the nearby Piegaro Glass Museum where, for centuries, they manufactured handmade, Chianti wine bottles.

Accommodation and food

Arte Umbria is set in 225 acres of verdant, hilly countryside, teeming with wild flowers, woodlands and all manner of animals. The landscape, as far as the eye can see, is studded with hill top towns, old castles and Medieval watchtowers. IMG_20170616_0001

The course is full board and along with the well appointed rooms, in a traditional Umbrian style, with a swimming pool, library and peaceful walks around the grounds to be enjoyed. There is a daily feast prepared by the on-site chef with ingredients grown or bought locally, giving you a real taste of Italy, there’s also plenty of wine from around the area.

For full details, dates and prices, or check out Arte Umbria‘s site for more information on the venue. Hope to see you in the summer.  Neal 🙂

 

 

 

Paintings at Artisti al Monte

We had a great weekend at Artisti al Monte. I set my artwork up on the loggia at Valerie’s house in the beautiful Umbrian countryside. There were lovely views of the Aggia Valley all around, down to Sansecondo and the Upper Tiber Valley and on up towards Gioiello and Monte Santa Maria Tiberina.

DSCN7124Art tour

In total there were 29 artists dotted around the wonderful landscape where visitors could follow the trail to various sculptors, painters and craftspeople from the area. The largest collection was in Monte’s castle vaults but more could be found in the restaurants, guest houses and local studios.

I spent the weekend sketching on the airy loggia, chatting with our guests, while Valerie sat below making a ladybird mosaic and telling people all about the process. Everyone was really interested, especially the kids.

DSCN7143Fun for the kids

The committee had come up with the great idea of awarding a prize to the child who collected the most signatures. We had an endless stream of enthusiastic artist hunters coming through our doors. The serious side was to help raise funds for this little school to help with trips and equipment, it was fabulous to see the little ones joining in.

FullSizeRenderSuccessful art event

This is a wonderful way of bringing the community together and showing off the talents in the area. It proved to be a popular event with picnics arranged, family trips out and lots of people happily chatting in the spring sun. Now in it’s 5th year the Artisti al Monte continues to help the local school, show off its artists and bring people together. What more can you ask from a weekend?

 

Medieval Treadmill Workout

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Medieval Gym – Watercolour and ink – 21 cm x 29 cm (For Sale)

“The steady rumbling of the water wheel, turning, turning, turning, working to the beat of the race. The straining of the machine, the thump against the punch bag, the sacks of flour and the groaning, panting and sweating of the work out. Gym day, Thursday is here again. “

Watermill2Old watermills

The idea came from images I saw of old watermills, simple representations that looked fun to play with. I liked the idea that the waterwheel could also be used as a piece of gym equipment, endlessly driving people on.

The mill machine

Watermill3So the Medieval gym was filled with a punch bag, exercise bike, medicine ball, wall ladders, pommel horse and a climbing rope. The locker cabinet is based around the Ikea  cupboards. The idea is that the gym equipment somehow looks like the wheels and cogs of the mill, so in truth you’d get a work out there whether you went for exercise or as part of your job.

Painting watermills

I decided to make the watermill a natural partner with the windmill painting by using the same deep Prussian Blue sky. The dark blues in the watermill are countered by bright orange, browns and yellows to give the picture some colourful visual points.Watermill

The style of the water comes from the way traditional stained glass artists would paint water and is one I’d used previously in the painting of Positano

Artisti al Monte – Artists in the Mountains

Watercolor still life landscape

Monte Santa Maria Tiberina 54 x 56 cm

Monte Santa Maria Tiberina (MSMT) will be hosting the 5th Annual Artisti al Monte event on the 13th and 14th of May, 2017. Neal will be taking part this year and will be based at Valerie Zanotto’s house in Pompeo. The turning for this is just past the village of Croce di Castiglione on the road to MSMT.

Art exhibition

In total there will be 29 artists, sculptors and crafts people displaying their talents around the area. There are workshops and studios that are open to the public, there is also an exhibition in the Castello Bourbon in Monte Santa Maria Tiberina itself.

Not only are they increasing the awareness of the skills this part of Umbria has on offer, the event also raises money for the local school. This allows the children to take part in lots of cultural and social experiences.

If you’re in the area it would be nice to see you.

MSMT Map

Map of Monte Santa Maria Tiberina area – UmbriArt will be at #2 Pompeo

Windmills in the Wind

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Medieval Laundry Room – watercolor & ink, 21 cm x 29 cm (For Sale)

“Highlighted against the storm brushed horizon the windmill groaned. Its sails idly turning as the early evening sky began to bruise. From the depths inside came the groans and grinding of a dank, dark place, heavy with gloom. The flapping of the clean clothes, whip-like, as they cracked out their punishment. Yes! it’s wash day again. “

Medieval WindmillMedieval Windmills

I’ve always loved the way the Gothic painters, woodcut artists and print-makers portrayed windmills. Strange boxes, mounted on legs or humps with crazy, spindly sails, twisting and turning in the breeze.

So when it came to the next in the Medieval rooms series I thought a windmill would make the perfect laundry room. Noisy places, vibrating machinery, canvases flapping in the wind and a sense of foreboding, well perhaps that’s just my laundry room.

laundry-bagFurnishing the windmill

The idea for the furnishings of the windmill came straight out of the Ikea catalogue. The washing machine, linen basket, laundry bag and shelves are all products from the Swedish company.

I also liked the idea of including a chain mail shirt and a Boudica-esque bra with copper finish and swirls. The whirligig behind, with its CrosssectionMillwashing reflects the mill, turning, spinning and drying the clothes.

Landscape painting

Instead of the gold leaf effect background, I have opted for in previous paintings,   I chose an alternative deep, Prussian blue sky, tinged with a hint of black.

Nowadays the use of black and white in watercolour painting is somewhat frowned upon but in the International Gothic period it was a perfectly acceptable practice.

Painting techniques windmill1200_0

This technique is how the painters of the past created depth, shadows and highlights. While their attempts may look clumsy and simplistic there is also an element of sophisticated understanding that gradually develops into the Renaissance period.