Monthly Archives: June 2014

Solving the Problems of Painting Lippiano


Tuscan Umbrian Hill Town



The views of Lippiano

Lippiano Tuscany

Views of Lippiano

Lippiano is a small hill town on the Tuscan/Umbrian border between Monte Santa Maria Tiberina and Monterchi. In the main, an unremarkable place but there is a nice castle that’s open to the public, a good cafe and fabulous views. The castle has been recently renovated and it’s possible to visit it on certain days so it’s worth checking first  There is also the interestingly shaped church as you approach Lippiano, said to have been a Templar refuge.


Sketching Lippiano

I had problems with Lippiano from the start. I wasn’t sure how to set it out but at least the sketches were looking good. Once I got the first picture underway, it was obviously not working. There was just something about the whole composition that didn’t feel right. So I decided to scrap it and start again.

Lippiano sketch

Lippiano first draft

Normally I persevere with a picture but this time I just felt it was beyond salvage. I think the problem was down to poor planning and that I hadn’t thought the composition through enough. I’d also managed to confuse the layout of the village and discovered the church wasn’t half way down the hill as I’d remembered. 

Rip it up and start again

Initially I wasn’t happy with the second attempt but after leaving it for a bit and working up number three, I decided there were some nice touches to it and managed to save the painting.

Not working out

Not working out


Try again

I liked the idea of giving more prominence to the piazza and with a little reworking it seems to fit. The church gave me some cause for concern. Along with its positioning, the colour had me stumped but the green banding works for me anyway and so it stays.

The third version takes a view from around the corner and dispenses with the piazza, which was causing me problems. This concentrates more on the field patterns and uses the village as a skyline. However, that’s one for later.

Prints of all these paintings are available at Fine art America.



The Story of Women’s Art Down the Ages

How many pre-20th century female artists can you name?

Judith beheading Holmes

Artemisia Gentileschi

The BBC’s program “The Story of Women and Art”  addresses this with an interesting journey over the often unheralded contributions women have made, down the centuries, to art, craft and fashion.

Why women in art?

I’d always been interested in the topic since having been introduced, during the 1980s at art college, to the turn of the century painter, Gwen John. I also went on to research an article three years ago detailing the women artists of the Renaissance. So the three part series was a great chance to expand my knowledge.

The few

The Last Supper

Sister Plautilla Nelli

The expected artists, Artimisia Gentileschi and Sofonisba Anguisola were present, the French Impressionist, Berthe Morisot and American Georgia O’Keefe. But what was interesting were the determined women I’d not heard of and equally those women I’d discovered and loved, who, for some reason, didn’t make the cut.

One of the greatest challenges was undertaken by Sister Plautilla Nelli who in 1550 painted an epic, 21 foot canvas of “The Last Supper”. Of her many hurdles with this piece, the main one, was that she couldn’t use male models. Her painting therefore has a charming femaninity to Christ and the apostels with their gentle, bearded looks.

Adventureous female painters

Elizabeth Thompson Lady Butler

Elizabeth Thompson Lady Butler

While I adore the story and beautiful images of Victorian botanical painter Marianne North, 150 years earlier Maria Sibylla Merian really went all out to record the natural plants and insects of Sirunam in the Caribbean.  Her images are like a Gothic horror show from the natural world and all this in 1699.

Elizabeth Thompson, Lady Butler also made a strong impression with her war art. Not the expected topic for a titled lady in the 1870s but her rendering of the battles of the empire are striking.  They touchingly concentrate on the ordinary and the moments just before battle commences, rather than the blood and guts of actual combat.

The innovators

Hannah Hoch

Hannah Hoch

The artists that I thought strange not to mention include Rosalba Carriera who pioneered the use of pastel sketching during the Roccoco period and whose work was popular with young men on the Grand Tour.  Innovative Dadaist, Hannah Hoch with her ground breaking use of printed magazine photos and multimedia paintings.

Another great designer missing was Clara Driscol, who was responsible for many of the iconic lamp designs made by Tiffany. A feat for which she is only now being recognised. 

The legacy of women artists

The Cradle

Berthe Morisot

What the program emphasised is the sheer prejudice female artists had to negotiate just to put brush to canvas. There was a lack of opportunity for art education, rules against studying the human form and sneering by the establishment at the finished results. Often even those who broke through suffered instant anonymity after their deaths.

Recent investigations and discoveries have enriched the art world as a whole and given these talented women the place in art history they justly deserve.  

If this gives you an interest in watching the programs, follow the links below for all three episodes of “The story of women and art”

Part one

Part two

Part three

Get Drawing! Eight Ideas that Really Work

Umbrian river

Fiume Aggia

Sometimes the hardest part of getting drawing is just coming up with an idea for a project. This is especially true once you’ve left school or art college. When there is no longer anyone to set you work and you’re left to your own devices.

Whether you’re suffering from creativity block or always wanted to draw, here are eight ways to get you started.

  1. Attend an evening class – it can be hard getting started when you’re away from the classroom. So why not take up an evening art class? Even for an experienced artist being part of a creative community can be incredibly productive.  This will give you access to similarly creative people, new materials and different styles of work. In the company of others you’ll find your enthusiasm grow. Life drawing can be a real winner.
  2. UK flag wallet

    Leather Wallet

    Start a sketchbook journal or diary. A nice, new fresh sketchpad is just the ticket for bringing out ideas. Why not use it to record your week, trips or travels? Apart from being great to look back on, they can serve as excellent idea generators and point of reference.

  3. Copy the old masters. Examine someone’s work you really like. Try making reproductions or take influence from their works. This is a good way of trying styles that you’ve never worked in before and looking at how other artists interpret things.
  4. Try a new medium. If you have only ever worked in oils, why not give charcoal a whirl? You may find that a new way of working really fires your imagination. Again local evening classes are useful for this approach.
  5. Read a book or use rousing music. One of the old classics, full of imagery and passion could lead to a whole series of pictures. It’s a good idea to practice interpreting other peoples words. This is an especially good skill when taking on commissions.
  6. Montefalco countryside

    Grain, grapes, olives, tree and sky

    Go out fo a walk. Getting out and about. Looking at the countryside, sketching people in the town centre or taking photos at an event can all help kick start a project.

  7. Explore an unfamiliar style. If you always see yourself as an abstract painter, why not have a go at something impressionistic? Put down your paints and model something in clay.
  8. Visit an exhibition or art gallery. Strolling around a gallery, looking at the works can’t help but inspire. Ideas, styles and medium are all on show and you can get really good ideas looking at other people s work.

Half the battle is getting started. Once you’re up and running you’ll find that ideas start flowing, your technique improves and you’ll find there aren’t enough hours in the day.