Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Beautiful View of Belvedere

Citta di Castello Belvedere
The Belvedere Sanctuary
watercolour and ink 12cm x 20cm (Sold)

Standing proudly above the ancient town of Citta di Castello is the marvelous Belvedere Sanctuary. Distinctive in its pale ochre colour set against the green of the woodlands, It too, like Canoscio a little to the south, is brightly illuminated at night, as stands out against the clear dark sky for miles around.

BelvedereSactuaryThe sanctuary, dedicated to the Madonna, was build in 1684 and is a typical Baroque style building of the period. Once you enter the church through its semicircular portico you can see the Martyrdom of St. Vincent painted by Giovanni Ventura Borghesi in 1699. The churches position also offers spectacular views of the town and the Alte Tevere Valle beyond.

For a view of the Belvedere on Goodgle Maps, click here.

Canoscio – Sanctuary on the Hill

Santuario Canoscio

Canoscio Sanctuary
Watercolour and ink 5cm x 8cm (Sold)

The Canoscio study forms the start of a series of small hill top features that are dotted around the Citta di Castello area. Monasteries, ruined castles, watch towers and old farm houses all populate the horizon, which makes for interesting, smaller studies.
As 70% of Umbria is still wooded, it is no surprise that trees play an important part of these landscape studies,  as few of the slopes have been cleared for cultivation, woods, forests, copses and glades abound. The greens of the hillsides always make for an interesting contrast against the bright tones of the terracottas, ochres and yellows of the buildings.
The modern church, built in 1855-78 stands on the site of much older places of worship and includes the Shrine of the Madonna of Canoscio with its natural water spring and grotto.
Canoscio sketches

Canoscio sketches

The church can be seen for many miles proudly standing on the hilltop, the pale yellow walls lit up and the luminous blue cross, shining out like a beacon. You can follow the “Monks Walk” from the village of Fabbrecce at the foot of the hill, through the tree lined path and wooded groves to the monastery where it is possible to visit the church, buy a drink or sit down for a meal. Whatever you choose, you are treated to gorgeous views across the Upper Tiber Valley.

Click to View  the location of the monastery, on Google Maps. Like the artist, why not have a virtual wander around the lanes.

Drawing Arms

Black Prince

Black Prince

I’ve always been fascinated by heraldry and coats of arms, so studying stained glass gave me a natural outlet for this interest. Over the years I was lucky enough to recieve a number of commissions on the subject and have always enjoyed researching and designing heraldic devices.

Whilst taking a trip down memory lane the other day I came across these designs, which made me laugh. They were obviously done pre-Photoshop as they were properly “cut & pasted”. A time when glue got everywhere and pieces of magazine being found days afterwards.








These days there are online programs for making photocollage but I remembered the fun of searching through magazines for appropriate shapes and colours, only finishing when I’d ran out of publications to dissect.  Some days is just fun to get back to basics and enjoy making things for no other reason than to play.


New Banner Design

After a lot of umming and ahhing I finally came up with an image I liked for the top banner. The default one was okay but not quite what I had in mind. Eventually I found an image of the precariously situated Civita di Bagnoregio, Viterbo.

ImageThis ancient town sits on top of a volcanic tufa whose crumbly nature has put the inhabitants in constant danger of losing their houses. Plans are afoot to reinforce the cliff face and preserve this spectacular site that guards the Tevere Valley below.

Many buildings have been destroyed over the centuries, both through erosion of the hillside and earthquakes and visitors can see the remnants of old cellars, stairways and drainage cut into the disintegrating rocks.

The drawing is for sale, measuring 30cm X 10cm and executed in pen and ink. Although I will retain the right to use the image as it forms a part of the website.

ink sketch banner

Headline Banner Design

Colour Blind Artists

Colour blindness is not that uncommon, around 8% of men experience some form of color deficiency, while only about 0.5% of women are susceptible. It therefore follows that over the years there have been a number of practicing artists and great masters that have had difficulty distinguishing colours.

History of colour blindness

DotsIn 1798, colour blind scientist, John Dalton put forward the first idea of colour deficiency as a condition. The standard colour blindness test, a circular plate covered in spots with hidden images, numbers and letters was devised by Dr Isihara in 1917. So prior to this identifying any artist as colour blind is a matter of conjecture.

Many of the likely candidates such as Constable, Turner, Cezanne, Picasso and Van Gogh have been put forward but there is no proof that they suffered for their art. In most cases it is pure speculation and mainly based on their use of a limited palate and bright colours.

Simulated colour blindness

Van-GoghIn 2012 Kazunori Asada created an app that simulated colour blindness and used it to explore Van Gogh’s paintings. The system uses a filter to increases the intensity of the hues and by giving pictures an extra boost, it illustrates perhaps how the artist himself envisioned his works. Although to be honest, for me there is no difference between the sets of pictures, which I guess proves it works.

The colour blind theory

It is true that someone who has experience of colour deficiency would be more likely to employ less colours but other factors could just as well play a part. Things such as cost, availability and personal preference are good enough reasons too .  From my own experience all of these have at one time or another been the case.


Lets be honest, why put down six shades of green when you can most likely only see three anyway. My advice to the colour blind artist is accept it and paint what you see. If you feel the necessity to try and capture the real light, plan ahead with this in mind.

Always set out your palate the same way so you don’t lose the oranges or purples and confuse the browns and greens. If possible use tubes of paint as these come with the names on; once you’ve unwrapped watercolour blocks it can be difficult to identify.

The colour wheel

the-colour-wheelStudy the colour wheel and colour theory, this will help when deciding which colours to use alongside each other and ensure you pick a more logical scheme for your painting. A knowledge of opposites, harmonies and complimentary colours takes a lot of the guess-work out of painting and helps to produce a more balanced picture.

Remember at the end of the day, it’s how you see the world, so don’t feel compelled to replicate what you can’t see. If like me, you see green, ginger tom cats and bright pink, storm clouds then why not paint them that way. Those in the know believe that colour sighted people don’t all see hues the same, so why worry.

Trevi – Behind the Hill

Italian hill town Trevi

Watercolour and ink 24cm x 70cm

Trevi is a beautiful hill town best appreciated  by travelling on the Rome to Ancona railway line. After Terni you journey through a steepsided, rocky gorge, interspersed with rich verdant woodland, which eventually opens up into a wide river plain

TreviThese foothills in the Apennine Mountains provide home to the towns of Spoleto, Clitunno, Montefalco and then you come upon the marvelous sight of Trevi.

The entire hillside rises into the heavens and from the southern side appears to be completely covered with buildings. The slope is topped off with the Church of Sant Emiliano and you can see the Madonna delle Lacrame brightly decorated with frescoes by Perugino.   

Trevi2The town is a wonderful combination of houses, churches, towers and walls, coloured in delicate pinks and subtle terracotta all set within a green frame of trees and vegetation. You can carefully trace the route of the wall and the large retaining walls that support the maze of streets as they cling precariously to the hillside.

Drawings of Trevi

Trevi Sketches

As well as being a lovely town to explore it is also a place of historic importance and home to a number of Renaissance masterpieces. Trevi makes for an interesting visit and has some breathtaking views across the province and is most definitely a great place to draw and paint.

High quality art poster copies available here. 😀


Painting Montefalco

Italy Montefalco
Montefalco, Umbria
Watercolour and ink (Sold)

The story behind the image

During the summer 2013, I spent two lovely weeks at my friends house, dog sitting. This afforded me a lot of sketching time and walks in the countryside below Montefalco.

Surrounding countryside

Montefalco drawing

Montefalco sketch

Montefalco is renowned for its olive oil and more especially its wine. The hillsides around the town are covered with vineyards and olive groves and each year they have marvellous festivals to promote their unique products.



The sketches were all made just outside the village of Fabbri, which is nicely nestled between the towns of Montefalco and Trevi. Here you have the perfect views looking up to the old medieval town walls with its distinctive church towers and the more unusual water tower, which resembles an alien spaceship that has landed on the town’s outer limits.

Picture layout

Old town centre with water tower

Old town centre with water tower

When you look at the landscape there are four distinct buildings with clusters of houses around each and it is these points I concentrated on in composing the painting. The slopes below are populated with an array of olive trees, vines and grain, along with the occasional vegetable garden and wooded copse.

Painting at the end of the summer the fields were full of colour with a dusting of pale blue flowers, lots of earthy yellows, browns and ochre and the deep reds of the town roof tiles.

Montefalco is just south of Assisi and with  the lovely towns of Trevi, Spello and Bevagna all nearby there is plenty of interest to see. There are some good examples of Gozzoli’s frescoes and excellent views of the countryside as you walk along the narrow, cobbled alleyways.