Painting the Ponte Rialto, Venice

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Ponte Rialto, Venezia – watercolour & ink. 60cm x 40cm (For Sale)

Painting in Venice

The next set of paintings sees a trip to northern Italy, to the watery city of Venice. This is a wonderful city full of magic and wonder. There are no cars on the islands and all transport is done on either the vaporetti and gondolas or you can take a traghetto across the Grand Canal and of course you can travel along the canals by foot.

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Rialto Bridge, Venice

The first painting, in the set, is the famous Ponte Rialto, which has stood since 1591. A popular attraction with visitors it spans the 48 metres of the Grand Canal and has shops built into the bridge. One of only four such bridges in the world today.

Watercolor on the Grand Canal

This picture uses three different view points, from the centre of the Grand Canal, looking directly at the bridge, and on either bank to achieve the flat perspective. The feeling of depth is created by over lapping the buildings and piers as well as diminishing object size with difference.

The painting makes use of aerial perspective and dark shadow to give added depth. The idea is to show how a completely flat painting can still exhibit three dimensions and create a visual puzzle for the viewer.

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Gubbio – The Saint, The Wolf and a Race

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Gubbio – The Saint, The Wolf and a Race, watercolor and ink. 36 cm x 68 cm (For Sale)

Gubbio is a fascinating town in Umbria, said to be one of Noah’s first twelve cities, it is also the place where St Francis spoke to a wolf, who was terrorising the residents. Each May there is a famous mountain race where three teams carry 25 foot totems to the basilica above.

Gubbio landmarks

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Ceri dei Gubbio

The main landmarks around Gubbio are depicted including the ancient Roman amphitheater, the churches of saints Francesco, Ubaldo and Pietro as well as the magnificent Palazzo dei Consoli.

The painting is a sister to the one of Assisi with the sky following from one to the other. It is painted with a lack of linear perspective as a way of exploring differing ways of depicting depth.

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Palazzo dei Consoli

The style is a modern interpretation of the Medieval Gothic work of such artists as Giotto and Martini who were both active in this region over 700 years ago. Great examples of their works are shown in Assisi.

Medieval pallet

The painting employs a pallet typical of the era. With earthy tones and the occasional splash of colour thrown in. Ultramarine was especially reserved for depictions of the Madonna and so a cerulean blue is used instead for the sky.

The greens are mainly viridian, sap and terra verde with titanium and Chinese whites providing the highlights. As always vermilion is used for the bright red roof tiles.

Painting Gubbio – St Francis and the Wolf

Town in Umbria, Italy

Gubbio progress

Gubbio was one of the first 12 cities created, by Noah, after the biblical flood. It is also where St Francis talked a wolf out of terrorising the residents. The painting shows the main landmarks and obvious points of reference around the town.

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Cable car view of Gubbio

Perched on the mountain top is the Monastery of St Ubaldo that can be reached by cable car. It is here that they light the famous giant Christmas tree each year. In the foreground is the ancient Roman amphitheater, which is still in use today, along with the Palazzo dei Consoli and the churches of St Francis and St Peter.

Gubbio’s streets

Halfway up the hillside the remains of the town’s defenses poke out of the olive groves and scrub, with the crumbling towers and debris clearly visible as you approach the town. Gubbio itself is a maze of narrow cobbled streets and interesting buildings, fountains, piazzas and shops.

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Giotto’s trees in Assisi

At present the painting starts to capture the grey and tan stonework that have been used in the town’s construction. These are played off against the trees and bushes that are scattered around Gubbio’s streets.

Giotto trees

The large trees pay homage to Giotto di Bondone, who worked around Umbria 900 years ago and a collection of his frescoes can be seen in Assisi.

A little more work and we’re there.

Gubbio – Sister Painting

The next project is the Umbrian town of Gubbio. This is to be a sister painting to the last one of Assisi.

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Gubbio’s Roman Amphitheater

Sister paintings

Sister paintings came from the reality that if I painted something for my wife my sister-in-law would want one too and visa versa. Therefore many of my watercolours have a twin, painted around the same time and are similar in style, colour or content. These tend to be two pictures that can comfortably sit side by side.

Gubbio’s history

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Cable car ride

Gubbio is a fascinating place and sits in the foothills of the Apennine mountains. It is claimed to be one of the original twelve cities created by Noah after the great flood and is the place where Saint Francis had a word with a wolf that had been stalking the townsfolk.

 

Clustered around the base of Mount Ingino are Gubbio’s narrow, medieval streets, leading to its piazzas and some of its iconic buildings, such as the Palazzo dei Consoli. As you approach the town you also pass the large

Gubbio Tree

The World’s Tallest Christmas Tree

park, which houses the ancient ruins of the amphitheater that is still in use today.

Drawing the town

Crowning the mountain is the Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo, that can be reached by a cable car, gliding over the wooded slopes and gives you a great view down on Gubbio’s streets and buildings.

 

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Gubbio sketches

An element I’d love to include in the painting is the world’s largest Christmas tree. Each year the hillside is lit up in the shape of a fir tree. I think I might be able to hide brightly coloured dots amongst the trees that mark out the famous landmark. We’ll just have to see how it goes.

The one event I’ll pass on this time is depicting the crazy Ceri race that takes place each year. This is when three 25 foot totem poles are carried through the town and up to the Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo. A mad dash skywards that in 700 years has always finished in the same order.

Okay, lets get Gubbio painted.

 

Assisi – Home to Saints Francis, Ruffino and Clare

watercolor Assisi

Assisi – watercolour and ink, 35 cm x 70 cm. (For Sale)

This Assisi watercolour is a very busy painting filled with lots of detail and colour. Like the town itself, you can easily get lost looking at the buildings, alleyways and churches. The three major cathedrals of St Francis, St Ruffinus and St Clare are all prominently featured, as are five of the medieval gateways.

Dawn sky

DSCN7606The sky is a beautiful sun burst pattern, one commonly seen in the Umbrian dawn. While the picture is divided into three views by two trees, which depict the styles of Giotto and Simone Martini. Both of whose work can be seen in the magnificent Basilica di San Francesco.

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As you walk the streets, what strikes you most is the array of arched doorways and windows. The town is full of arches, some ancient ones, long blocked in, others leading to delicious restaurants and bars, while others lead you down interesting back alleys to new and captivating piazzas.

Using Google Earth to Paint

Assisi painting

Assisi cartoon

When setting up a painting I like to take a fact finding trip, do some sketches, take photos and get a feel for the location I’m planning to paint. My work is an emotional, visual interpretation of the landscape, so a good investigation of the area is essential.

However, once you’re back in the studio and working out your composition there’s always a nagging doubt about a particular point. Did you capture a certain angle correctly? Were the photos clear enough? Did you position yourself too far away to see any detail? This is where I find Google Earth comes in handy.

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Assisi photograph

No matter how long you spend researching a location there’s always something you miss or while thinking about the picture you discover another interesting point of view in the landscape you hadn’t considered.

Researching Assisi

The Assisi painting is a great example. I spent a warm summer’s day there, took lots of photographs of the town and sketched many fascinating features. When I was back in the studio I began thinking hard about the composition and how best to interpret Assisi.

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Google image – Fortrezza Minore

I was taken with the idea of having the town wall and its gates along the bottom of the picture. Big problem, I’d only been through two of the eight gates. Also, perched above the town is the Rocco Maggiore which, in the middle of August, was far too hot a day to go climbing up hills.

Google Earth view

So Google Earth to the rescue, although I’d got images of the castle, I needed a little more

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Photo view

detail. A quick wander around online and I’d gotten a better idea of how the fortress was constructed. The same for the missing gates, virtually walk along the road and you can explore the town wall and locate the missing entrances.

 

Once I started filling out the buildings that make up Assisi, I looked for patterns and shapes within to give it a sense of place. These came from a long range photo, so the detail and construction was somewhat ambiguous. Google maps

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Google street view

allowed me to get up close to the buildings and see where the windows were, how the building was put together and gave me an idea of the colour and texture.

Adding detail

What the site allows you to do is look at the landscape in greater detail, from more angles and positions than are possible during your visit. You can check out distant points of interest to see what they actually are, instead

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Tower sketch

of jumping to an uneducated conclusion. Was that blimp on the horizon a church, windmill or a statue? Use Google Earth and make sure.

You can also use it to scout suitable locations for drawing or painting. Have a virtual walk around your painting destination and see where the best views are. Your subject matter, composition and time in the field can all be enhanced with a little online research. It is a useful tool for artists painting landscapes and takes the guess work out of landmarks.

Why not check out Assisi on Google for yourself.

 

 

Designing Assisi

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Assisi Sketch

Just how do you go about drawing a famous, 28,000 peopled town with a 3,000 year old history and a number of famous saints and landmarks?

Painting landscape

When drawing an iconic place it is important to identify the patterns, lines and shapes that make up the town. What is in the surrounding landscape and the natural forms that define it?

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Assisi bell towers

What are the key buildings that make up its skyline and how do people remember it? Where are its landmarks and stand out buildings? Once all that has been worked out it’s time to consider the colours and textures of the town. Once all these questions have been answered the town’s shape and essence will form.

 

Sights and shapes

It isn’t important to capture every window or roof tile but you need to draw its likeness. When someone looks over the

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Rocca Maggiore, Assisi

final image, will they recognise it as Assisi or will it be just a confusing collection of buildings, set amongst an undecipherable landscape? If you’ve done your job properly the answer is no.

Defining Assisi

So what are Assisi’s defining characteristics?

It sits on the slopes of Mount Subasio, with it’s gentle curves and distinctive shape. The lower reaches are covered in lines of olive groves and vineyards. Trees also lend a sense of place to an area and the Umbrian countryside is full of Cyprus, Umberlla pine, oak and the occasional palm tree.

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Assisi’s gates

The saints of Assisi

The striking feature of Assisi has to be the Basilica of Saint Francis, rising majestically from the valley floor. It dominates the mountain and can be seen from miles away. The town is also famous for Saint Clare and Saint Rufino, who both have cathedrals here.

 

Bell towers and castles

Perched high above the city’s churches, houses and streets are the ruins of the 12th century castle, the Rocca Maggiore. Long abandoned but still a formidable sight.

Leading off from the defensive fortress are the

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St Francis’ Basilica

remains of the town walls with the eight main gateways. Unlike Spello, which is situated at the other end of Mount Subasio, Assisi’s gate designs are pretty unremarkable but they do add to the town’s overall splendour.

To create a true semblance of Assisi you need to accurately capture these features. Its varied bell towers, the clock tower, the Medieval buildings surrounded by greenery and curvy hillsides. And of course, you can’t ignore the domineering presence of Saint Francis.