Sketch of Supersized Assisi
I have been commissioned to paint a supersized version of Assisi. Once framed the picture will measure around 1300 cm x 900 cm.
A Child’s view
The commission is for a young lady who bears the name of this wonderful city. The intention is to create a painting full of detail with alleyways, gateways, buildings and wooded hideaways where a child can let loose their imagination and make up tales of wonder and mystery.
Assisi will feature prominently in the centre with vineyards and olive groves filling the foreground. This is pretty much in keeping with the landscape around the town. Field boundaries, copses of trees and little isolated farmhouses will lead up to the start of the town with its gates and walls.
On the left, sitting low to the horizon, will be the Basilica of San Francesco. The upper slopes of Mount Subasio will then fade off on the right hand side. The sky will be a bright, sunburst, a mixture of yellow, orange, pinks, blue and lilacs perfect for this setting.
I’d also like to fill the picture with secret letters, numbers and images to fire a young person’s imagination and get her to look deeper into the painting. We’ll see how this idea pans out though.
Towers, steeples and archways
The size of the watercolour will allow plenty of space to paint a fantastic, magical landscape where kids can have fun adventures. The hope is that people can return to it time and time again and discover new things hidden within the picture.
With the paper successfully stretched it’s time to get painting Assisi in all it’s magnificent detail.
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.
The 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.
Streets of Assisi
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.
Marmore Waterfalls – watercolour and ink, 90 cm x 30 cm (For Sale)
A question, often asked of artists is “how long did it take you to paint that?” Well the waterfalls at Marmore took me 8 years. I first visited them back in 2009 and decided I had to capture the area on paper.
The actual design, once I put pencil to paper, took about two weeks to dream up. Those who followed the paintings progress on Facebook know that it took five days to paint. So depending on how you look at these things, anywhere between eight years or three weeks.
Some times you can’t rush things.
Umbria Film Studio
Behind the painting
The painting features the 2,200 year old, man-made waterfall at Marmore, popular with artists, the medieval hill top village of Papigno, through which your drive on your way to the base of the falls and pass the Umbria film studios.
The studios are where Roberto Benigni filmed his classic movie “La vita e bella” and has a strange collection of building facades along the river, with the large, metal cladded buildings behind.
Around the corner from the studios you come across the waterfalls. If you visit, choose your times carefully as they are not always flowing. The water is diverted through a hydro-electric plant and for the greater part of the day they are quiet.
However, twice a day the sluice gates are opened and you can experience the full glory of the water cascading over the cliff face and through the trees. It is this spectacle that artists and poets down the ages have come to witness and area is a truly tranquil place to explore.
Lacrime di Lucifero – Morro d’Alba – watercolour and ink 44cm x 28cm (For Sale)
Lacrime di Lucifero. Lacrime refers to the delicious wine of Morro d’Alba, Lacrime (meaning tears) and Lucifero being the nickname given to the heatwave of the summer of 2017. One of the things you need to ease the midday temperatures is a good wine and believe me, this is a great wine.
Morro d’Alba painting
Morro d’Alba is 12 km from the coastal town of Senigalia in Le Marche, Italy and is perched high above the Adriatic Coast. From its covered walls, you can look down on the endless fields of sunflowers, vineyards and olive groves.
The main piazza, on the left, sits on top of a small hill, with the rest of the town sloping away from it. All around the town walls there are pine trees and oaks along the road side. During the summer months these provide much needed shade and were especially welcome in 2017.
Again the style is an apocalyptic, Gothic stylised painting, with a red faced demon, blasting hot air down on the town and the typical trees and buildings that can be found in Medieval manuscripts. The idea is to give the painting a doomsday feel to it. Soaring temperatures, parched landscape and bleached, dry towns. All very “The end is nigh”.
Lucifer’s Summer – watercolour and ink, 26cm x 40cm (For Sale)
After the heatwave, that drifted over southern Europe for three weeks, the summer of 2017 earned nickname “Lucifer’s Summer”. The average temperature was in the mid-forties and the heat was stifling.
The painting features the village of Belvedere Ostrense in Le Marche, with the silhouettes of Barbara and Ostra Vetere in the background. The hills had either been ploughed, which left hardened clods of earth or black, dried sunflowers, making the usual verdant landscape turn various shades of black and brown.
The never-ending heatwave had the feel of a biblical prophecy to it so I decided to paint it in a Medieval manuscript style, complete with a demonic head in the corner. From its foul mouth swirl the stinking, reeking heat of hell. Well that’s how it felt for quite a few days that summer
I’ve always loved calligraphy, lettering and sign writing, so this project gave me a chance to get back to some of the things I love drawing. Namely letters and the Italian countryside.
The sign is for an agriturismo, B&B, just outside of Pierantonio, Umbria and was to be completed on an old, but well preserved, wooden, window shutter. I decided to use the inside face and make a feature out of the old barrel hinges that were still intact.
Once the wood had been prepared, I set about designing the image. The only other prevision was the inclusion of the establishment’s name, “Villa Santa Caterina”.
Google Earth exploration
Although I’d never visited the site before I know the location well and easily found it on Google Earth, a great tool for exploring areas. You can really have a good nose around places and get the feel of the landscape. Obviously it’s not as good as a visit but as I’d driven the approach road often enough I knew the layout.
The idea for this image was straightforward. As you drive down the SP169, there’s a wide valley, a gentle curve and a distinctive manor house. This is where you turn off and if you look up into the hills on your right you can make out the Cyprus trees that ring Villa Santa Caterina above you.
The painting would hang outside so I opted to use acrylic paint and this, along with a dozen or so coats of varnish should protect it from the elements. As the lettering was to be the main event, and not the image behind, the other major decision I had to make was to paint a subtle landscape. This meant lashings of titanium white to give the hills and trees a pale look but leaving the buildings with enough emphasis so that they stand out. The whole effect is finished off with a bright red border.
Green trees, terracotta buildings and splashes of red in the roofs, that’s the Umbrian landscape.
Drop me a line if you think your tea room in Wales, antique shop in Portland or haberdashery in Coober Pedy would suit one. I’ll happily sort something out for you.
Niccone Valley Castles – Watercolour and ink 38 cm x 58 cm (Sold)
The Niccone Valley watercolor painting features the Umbrian and Tuscan castles that have stared out at each other for centuries. This trip takes you past the bar at Sorbello and below its castle, then across the fields and over the border into Umbria, passed Reschio Castle and on up into the hills.
The area around the Castles and Altabella
Houses on the hill
The drive ends in the wooded clearing at the top of the hills where you come to the houses of Altabella, La Quercia with its monolithic sculpture and the villas of Pietra and Casa Piccolo with their beautiful views of the valley below.
The olive tree in the foreground is where Paul and Anne, who commissioned the painting, placed a plaque dedicated to Grace their dog.
The rays of the rising sun converge on the house at La Quercia, drawing the eye to where Paul and Anne spend their winters.
Colours of central Italy
The area is a luscious green, full of woodlands and trees, fields of sunflowers, olive groves and vineyards. Peeking out among the trees you can make out the occasional farm or villa in its distinctive yellow ocher or cream coloured walls.
I decided to paint the castles in the colours that represented their origins. Therefore, Sorbello’s Tuscan stone walls are in raw sienna and the Umbrian castle of Reschio is a rich burnt umber. The trees vary from a sap green foreground to a dark blue/green wooded background giving the painting a nice sense of depth. 🙂
Posted in landscape, Painting, Uncategorized
Tagged castle, green, Italia, Italy, landscape, sunrise, watercolor, watercolour, woods