Monthly Archives: October 2016

The Italian Wedding Garden


Garden View from Montone – Watercolour and ink 53 cm x 31 cm

This wedding present features the Italian garden where the happy couple got married. It is next door to the ex-San Francesco Church in Montone. A beautiful location with lots of trees to shade the guests and a spectacular view behind.

garden-view-20Views from Montone

From this lofty position you can see across the Val Tiberina towards Trestina, Fabbrecce and the hill top monastery of Canoscio. In the distance is the little village of Lugnano and on the horizon the omnipresent Monte Santa Maria Tiberina.

Painting the landscape

The garden itself features three distinctive trees, two birch and a large palm tree. Between these is a bench. I liked this as a metaphor for married life, two becoming one and looking out on the bright new future with the sun raining down. Corny of course but I think it makes for a nice composition too.

If you’d like your special place captured in watercolour or think it would make a perfect wedding gift, drop me a line at


Feathers from the Angel’s Wing

feathers-danaprescottThe other week I had the wonderful opportunity to attend Dana Prescott’s presentation of her new book, Feathers from the Angel’s wing, at Civitella Ranieri castle in Umbertide. By lovingly collecting poems over the last 20 years, Dana has taken a novel approach to viewing artworks that explore a person’s emotional reaction to the paintings of Piero della Francesca.


Piero’s influence

Piero was born over the border in Sansepolcro, Tuscany and within a short distance of his birthplace you can still find many of his works. Over the last 600 years his artwork has influenced and touched many poets and painters down the ages. Feathers from an Angel’s Wing, brings to life the thoughts of those long departed, as well as contemporary poets still alive today.



Over time, there have been many commentators on Piero della Francesca’s paintings but where this book differs is by collating the feelings poets had when viewing his images. Artists naturally deal in emotions, and what better form of compliment than having a poet describe their reaction to a piece of work.

The book also features  poems in Italian and acknowledges the valuable and often overlooked contributions of the translators, who were on  hand to recite poems in their native language, giving the presentation a wonderful, international feel.


Painting ingredients

My personal favourite is 1400 by the American poet, Albert Goldbarth. This one sentence monologue goes through the various ingredients Piero would have used in mixing his paints back in the 15th century.

“Saps, and the anal grease of an otter, and pig’s blood, and the crushed-up bulbous bodies of those insects that they’d find so thickly gathered on barnyard excrement it makes a pulsing rind”


Madonna del Parto

It is a list of the gory, the common place and the down right strange but as the poem concludes, it perfectly illustrates the care and commitment that went into producing the medium for depicting the saints and angels of the Early Renaissance.


Where to find della Francesca?

Piero della Francesca’s artwork can be found around Tuscany, Umbria and Le Marche,  his painting, Madonna del Parto, can be seen in Monterchi. A couple of miles away, The Resurrection and Polyptych of the Misercordia are on display in Sansepolcro and on the coast, in Rimini, there is the fresco, Malatesta praying in front of St Sigismund.


Duke and Duchess of Urbino

The Flagellation of Christ and the Madonna di Senigallia, can be found in Urbino and the beautifully detailed History of the True Cross and Magdelana are in  Arezzo. While in Perugia you’ll find the Polyptych of Perugia and a little further north in Florence you can see the famous portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino.

Feathers from an Angel’s Wing is available from Amazon

Painting – How Do Colour blind Artists See Colours?

Colour Vision Deficiency (CVD) affects about 8% of the male and 0.5% of the female population. So, with these figures, it is natural to assume that there are a good number of practicing, colour blind artists.

Although there are plenty of reports,data and thesis’ that discuss this particular visual impairment there doesn’t seem to be much written about how artists operate under these circumstances.

Colour test


Deep Purple Badge

As a lifelong artist with CVD I’ve always had an interest in colour and how I perceive it. Over time I’ve realised that how I see a colour, or if I’ve used the correct one, isn’t of importance as my pictures are a representation of how I view the world. I was curious how I could sometimes get things right and other times be so wide of the mark. So I started to catalogue the possible reasons behind this.

All my life I’ve been asked to validate my  colour blindness with adhoc tests where people would point at things and ask me the colours. “What colour is this pen?”, “Is your jumper red or green?”. It became a standard at school and at times I would deliberately get things wrong as people looked so upset when I was right. If only they’d asked about the turquoise instead of the blue pen, that one would always get me.



Catalogue of colour

So over time we build up a bank of colour associated things, some natural, green grass, blue sky, some are social conventions, red phone boxes, black taxis, while others are personal, a purple badge or an orange mug. Our brain stores these colour things and then when we have a conflict it searches out possible matches to correct our perceptions.

This could partly explain how we sometimes can see the red flowers in a bush or the girl in a crowd wearing the peach dress. The mind cleverly finds the right match through past objects we associate with a certain colour.

Problems with Tone


Red Postbox

Tonality is another colour aspect that can help and hinder the CVD viewer. The same colour brightly lit or in deep shade will take on a different hue. So a dark green may be confused with deep red, but if the green is a few tones lighter, the conflict will not arise. It may be difficult to find a red tiled roof in a forest during the summer. However, as the leaves change during different seasons the roof will be more visible as they become paler or darker.

Dusk and dawn are times when colour identification can be tricky. At these times the clues are less obvious, the differences not so pronounced and this is when we have trouble deciding between the choices. Equally, two colours, brightly lit can be troublesome.

Colour shapes

Just as we draw conclusions about colours from their environment, our brains can also make connections with shapes and give the known forms a colour code. Objects which have a certain shape, tend to be a particular colour. A leaf, or a plum for example have shades that we would recognise and the brain knows this.

Colour swamping

Colour swamping and object context can also affect our chart. By sheer intensity you can have one colour over-powered by its surroundings. For instance a ginger kitten on a luscious green lawn. The massive quantity of green grass will turn the poor kitty green with no problem. Although if you look long enough the brain can change it back to ginger as it knows there are no green cats.


Green Leaves

I experienced a similar effect when watching the Dutch football team play. Their kit is an incredibly luminous orange, so much so that it changes the colour of the pitch. Now even I know that grass is not orange.

The brain is a wonderfully, adaptable organ and I think that once it knows we struggle with colours it goes some way to help us get things right.

I don’t believe it cures our colour perception but over time, building up a bank of colour knowledge and a list of known colour objects it can make calculated choices. It’s not always correct and most often not right at all. Although this could explain how occasionally we defy the odds and see the berries in the trees.

Watercolor on the Lake – Isola Polvese



Isola Polvese – watercolor and ink, 52 cm x 21 cm (Sold)

Here’s the finished watercolor of the third island on Lake Trasimeno in Umbria, Italy. The picture captures the lusciousness of the place, covered in oak woodlands and olive groves. Dotted around the island are a collection of buildings,a cafe bar by the dock, a ruined castle and an abandoned monastery. The island also has its own oil press where they produce their olive oil.

Tuscan umbria castle towns

Castiglione del Lago 

Travel painting

As it’s perpetually shaded, even on a hot day, it’s a cool place to walk around. The island is now an unspoilt nature reserve with thousands of birds flocking to its shores each year to take advantage of the lovely natural habitat.

Lago Trasimeno, Umbria

Isola Maggiore

Island joy

The painting is part of a threesome, with the Isola Maggiore and a study of the town of Castiglione del Lago completing the set. Lined up together you get an idea of the large expanse of water that makes up Lake Trasimeno and the wooded hills that surround it. However, most of all, you can feel the tranquility of the water as it laps along the shoreline and the serenity that can be found all over the islands.