Monthly Archives: June 2015

A Return to the Niccone Valley

Val di Pierle

The Niccone Valley – Watercolor and ink, 70cm x 32cm

The Niccone Valley stretches from the village of Niccone at one end to the Pierle and Lisciano Niccone Castles at the other. This lush green landscape has the border between Umbria and Tuscany weaving its way down the valley, with fortified points along the way that for centuries have kept guard over the territory.

Halfway along you have the walls of Reschio and Sorbello castles, both now hidden amongst the trees. You can, however, imagine the lords keeping the slopes clear of trees to maintain a constant view of their neighbour’s comings and goings.

The battlefield has now been given over to crops and grain, sunflowers, onion patches, olive groves and grapevines are everywhere. Each adds its own particular shade of green to the hillsides and the valley floor making for a picturesque place.

Painting an Umbri Tuscan Sky

Painting the sky for the Niccone Valley study I decided I wanted a nice summer one. Lots of celesta blue, blazing yellow sun and a few fluffy white clouds. As the image is to be used for the Lisciano Niccone commune promotions I felt it should have a bright, cheerful feel.

Perugino Painting 

St Paul and the Key

Perugino’s Clouds

I was looking through Piero Perugino’s back catalogue of work and came across a wonderful way he painted his clouds, waves of blues overlaying each other. So in honour of the great man I’m going to use this form for the clouds.

Tuscan sky

Umbrian Clouds

Yesterday was a beautifully clear day with the odd cloud in sight, unlike the storms of the previous days. These were the perfect copy of Perugino’s clouds and gave us a gorgeous Renaissance sky in the late afternoon.

Tuscan Sun

The sun, which as it sets, is technically a Tuscan sun, will be a shining star in the top right, echoing the Pinturicchioesque tree in the bottom right. Both will be bold circular shapes and have touches of yellow to make them stand out.

Return to the Niccone Valley

The lovely people of Lisciano Niccone have approached me about painting their gorgeous valley again. This one will be for their publicity material.  Both a good advertisment for me and a chance to take another look at the stunning Niccone Valley landscape.

Publicity for Lisciano Niccone

Lisciano Niccone Castle

Lisciano Niccone Castle

As it’s a promotional image I’ve decided to keep it bright and cheerful, just like summer. There should be a bold sun, a few clouds and lots of green hills with the ubiquitous castles that makes the valley is famous.

Drawing the Valley

Niccone Valley Sketch

Niccone Valley Sketch

I’ll keep the dimensions roughly the same as the first version, which was in the region of 70 cm by 32 cm. This should give me a large enough canvas to paint in detail and also plenty of room to cover the 16 miles that make up the valley.

Drawing Mount Subasio

In the centre of Umbria stands the whale shaped mountain of Mount Subasio. This is the famous haunt for the wandering Saint Francis and home to the pious Saint Clare.

Assisi Umbria

St Francis’ Basilica

Dominating the mountainous western slopes are the massive bulwarks of Assisi. Gleaming pink and orange in the early morning light they support the twin churches of St Francis’ Basilica. While towering above the town the ruined remains of Cardinal Abornoz’s Rocca, ragged and crubbling now and a shadow of its imposing former self.

At the other end of the mountains gentle curve lies the ancient Roman town of Spello. Perhaps not as well known as its neighbour but equally as interesting and captivating.

Drawing gates

Sketch of Assisi Gates

The tortourous curves of both town’s walls are punctuated at regular intervals by numerous gateways, each having a distincitve look of their own. The skylines are also litter with a collection of church towers and steeples that go into giving Assisi and Spello unique profiles.

Painting Subasio
The idea behind this painting is to capture the beauty and individuality of these two towns and the six churches that you pass as you drive along Superstrada 75. This winds its way merrily along the olive grove and vineyarded foothills of Mount Subasio.

Mount Subasio

Assisi and Spello

Once you look past the commercial and industrialised landscape that litters the valley, you are left with the image of a gorgeous monolith with its ancient towns either end and the collection of religious buildings along the roadside. These are surrounded by tall, cyprus trees, ragged olive trees and spiny palms.

The Artists of Subasio

Giotto and St Francis

Giotto’s Tree

When considering the artists of the area then you cannot ignore Giotto and Martini who are both credited with frescoes in San Francescos’ basilicas. Pinturicchio too spent time painting in Spello and used the town as a backdrop for at least two of his works. Perugino completed the fresco in the little Porzuincola church inside Santa Maria degli Angeli and Gozzoli worked in nearby Montefalco.

All in all there is a lot to consider in terms of composition, design and colour in this painting. Although, early signs are that it’s working out.