Recently, I had the joy of running a painting course in Umbria for a group of visiting artists whose tutor had been injured days prior to leaving. It was a great opportunity to meet new people, get outside and paint and impart some of my own particular thoughts on painting.
The event was organised by the Civitella Ranieri Foundation and was based in the fabulous, 15th century castle near Umbertide. This location is perfect for artists, perched high above the old town with expansive views of the Umbrian countryside.
This time of year the weather is somewhat unpredictable so we had studio based exercises on the cloudy, windy days and trips out, painting au plein air on the sunnier days. Here, high above the Asino Valley, we spent our time capturing the hills, woods and fields before us. A couple of days later we followed this with a drive into the beautiful hill town of Montone, where the students painted the buildings of the town.
Art in Umbria
The highlight of the week, for me, was visiting the Archeologia Arborea just outside of Citta di Castello. This is a tree museum, where they care for over 400 native fruit trees, grape vines and wild flowers. It’s a lovely peaceful place to sit and paint but sadly the weather was against us on the day we were there. Despite this, it was a thoroughly enjoyable trip with Isabella, the owner, explaining the history and importance of the orchard.
All in all the week proved to be an inspirational success for everyone, with students picking up new skills and experiences along with unforgettable memories of the Umbrian countryside.
If you are interested in a painting course or guided au plein air trip to study the landscape of central Italy, please drop me a line at email@example.com 🙂
Medieval Study – watercolour & ink – 23cm x 29cm (For Sale)
The Medieval Study continues the collection of watercolour paintings in a 13th century style with furniture from the IKEA catalogue. It looks at the modern world from the viewpoint of a medieval artist and interprets how they might have painted life in the 21st century.
The room features a castellated doorway with a circular, stone window above. The study itself contains a writing desk, children’s table and chair and a storage unit and there are also medieval instruments and a chart of symbols on the wall. All give the room a feel of studious activity.
The depth perception created using typical techniques of the period and uses multiple one-point perspectives, strange lines and weird angles. the floor runs off in one direction, while the furniture in another. The colour pallet also is of the period and the addition of acrylic gold paint re-creates a gold leaf effect.
Other Medieval rooms include library, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom.
Modern Medieval Electric Toothbrush – watercolour and ink
This is the latest in the series of paintings that explore the design style of the 11th century polymath, Ismael al Jazari. He famously produced a manual with over a 100 designs for clocks, fountains, water pumps etc.
These paintings take the designs of al Jazari’s machines working parts and use them to paint modern devices such as the electric toothbrush.
The original paintings have Arabic script and symbols, however, not wishing to make linguistic errors, I decided to use a phonetic alphabet instead. This gives the designs a mystical feel, while retaining their use as the labels that can be understood, once you decipher the writing.
I love the way Jazari conveys pumps, gearing systems and camshafts,but had to explore ways of portraying modern components, such as batteries, electric motors and wires. Next step circuit boards I think.
Others in the series include a steam iron, coffee machine and cigarette lighter.
Greenhouse of Eden 35 cm x 35cm
The Medieval Greenhouse of Eden plays on the same ideas as the other room paintings in this series. It uses a 13th century style, with its weird perspective and limited palette to create a modern image in a Medieval way.
It takes inspiration from my neighbour’s banana tree, the florist over the road and the tall umbrella pines that populate the nearby park.
The facade is drawn as a front-on elevation linked to multiple vanishing points throughout the painting. The idea is that viewers are forced to use other depth cues in order to create a three-dimensional view. This ultimately gives the painting a topsy turvy feel.
Blurring of the images behind the glass windows, overlapping, size difference and aerial perspective all give depth and three-dimensions to the painting. The blue sky and verdant green background, orange ochre tiles and red pots create a spacial effect and make the conservatory stand out.
Like an M. C. Escher etching, the viewer believes and disbelieves in the same breathe. You can see the depth in one moment and then are unable to the next. This is how one-eyed people see the world, through a series of snapshots that on occasion don’t add up but then with a twist of the head, all make sense again.
Medieval Garden Shed – watercolor 20cm x 30cm
I love the idea of combing eras and this one places a modern garden shed in a medieval style Gothic, herbal garden. The shed design is based on one from a B&Q garden centre catalogue but it has been given a 13th century twist.
It features iron hinged, shutters, a trefoil fan light and is drawn in a flat perspective. Inside, the storage box and plant pot come from the Ikea product range.
Medieval Herb Book
The medieval garden draws inspiration from an ancient herbal manuscript, with its twisted trees and over grown plants. Meanwhile, the gardening tools are taken from an old German wood cut.
The colourful marrows and onion plants look strangely at home alongside the modern, wooden shed, stocked with its range of intimidating implements.
Others in this Modern Gothic rooms series, include the library, kitchen and the bathroom.
Prints, postcards and mugs of the Medieval Garden shed are available from my on-line shop.
If in the 13th century Ismail al Jazari had had the opportunity to design a cigarette lighter, I feel sure his painting would have looked something like this.
He would have incorporated a sealed pot to hold the gas and somehow tied down a piece of flint. There would have been a cog that when turned could adjust the height of the flame and the whole mechanism would have been put in a decorative box.
As with the previous machines, I’ve used the phonetic alphabet to give the painting an air of mysticism. The strange symbols and the addition of the mathematical formula for a burning match gives it a real sense of this being a scientific document.
Prints, postcards and mugs of this fascinating Medieval Lighter are available from my on-line shop.
Carrying on from the modern landscapes in a Medieval or International Gothic style and the contemporary saint avatars, I have started a series of medieval instruction manuals.
I discovered the 12th century, Arabian polymath, artist/inventor, Ismail al Jazari’s works and have taken them as a starting point. Al Jazari produced a manuscript book detailing 100 different machines that people could make. These included fountains, clocks and musical machines.
Using the format and devices Jazari created I am producing drawings of modern appliances in his medieval style. This includes strange spiky cogs, flaming furnaces and water wheels, all linked up to power and operate my machines.
Al Jazari’s Manuscript
Al Jazari’s designs also contain Arabic lettering and symbols to explain the working of his creations. Not speaking Arabic and not wishing to write complete nonsense I decided to use the phonetic alphabet to annotate my drawings. This gives it a mysterious feel but is also legible if you know how pronunciation is written.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, the first design is a coffee machine. Obviously water flows from the tank on the right, into the boiler and is pumped up into the filter from where coffee drips into the cup. If you have any ideas that you’d like me to try out please add to the comments section. 🙂
Prints, postcards and mugs are available of the wonderful Coffee Machine from my on-line shop.