Tag Archives: design

Gubbio – Sister Painting

The next project is the Umbrian town of Gubbio. This is to be a sister painting to the last one of Assisi.

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Gubbio’s Roman Amphitheater

Sister paintings

Sister paintings came from the reality that if I painted something for my wife my sister-in-law would want one too and visa versa. Therefore many of my watercolours have a twin, painted around the same time and are similar in style, colour or content. These tend to be two pictures that can comfortably sit side by side.

Gubbio’s history

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Cable car ride

Gubbio is a fascinating place and sits in the foothills of the Apennine mountains. It is claimed to be one of the original twelve cities created by Noah after the great flood and is the place where Saint Francis had a word with a wolf that had been stalking the townsfolk.

 

Clustered around the base of Mount Ingino are Gubbio’s narrow, medieval streets, leading to its piazzas and some of its iconic buildings, such as the Palazzo dei Consoli. As you approach the town you also pass the large

Gubbio Tree

The World’s Tallest Christmas Tree

park, which houses the ancient ruins of the amphitheater that is still in use today.

Drawing the town

Crowning the mountain is the Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo, that can be reached by a cable car, gliding over the wooded slopes and gives you a great view down on Gubbio’s streets and buildings.

 

GubbioSketches (2)

Gubbio sketches

An element I’d love to include in the painting is the world’s largest Christmas tree. Each year the hillside is lit up in the shape of a fir tree. I think I might be able to hide brightly coloured dots amongst the trees that mark out the famous landmark. We’ll just have to see how it goes.

The one event I’ll pass on this time is depicting the crazy Ceri race that takes place each year. This is when three 25 foot totem poles are carried through the town and up to the Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo. A mad dash skywards that in 700 years has always finished in the same order.

Okay, lets get Gubbio painted.

 

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Using Google Earth to Paint

Assisi painting

Assisi cartoon

When setting up a painting I like to take a fact finding trip, do some sketches, take photos and get a feel for the location I’m planning to paint. My work is an emotional, visual interpretation of the landscape, so a good investigation of the area is essential.

However, once you’re back in the studio and working out your composition there’s always a nagging doubt about a particular point. Did you capture a certain angle correctly? Were the photos clear enough? Did you position yourself too far away to see any detail? This is where I find Google Earth comes in handy.

Assisi (31)

Assisi photograph

No matter how long you spend researching a location there’s always something you miss or while thinking about the picture you discover another interesting point of view in the landscape you hadn’t considered.

Researching Assisi

The Assisi painting is a great example. I spent a warm summer’s day there, took lots of photographs of the town and sketched many fascinating features. When I was back in the studio I began thinking hard about the composition and how best to interpret Assisi.

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Google image – Fortrezza Minore

I was taken with the idea of having the town wall and its gates along the bottom of the picture. Big problem, I’d only been through two of the eight gates. Also, perched above the town is the Rocco Maggiore which, in the middle of August, was far too hot a day to go climbing up hills.

Google Earth view

So Google Earth to the rescue, although I’d got images of the castle, I needed a little more

Assisi_Photo_View

Photo view

detail. A quick wander around online and I’d gotten a better idea of how the fortress was constructed. The same for the missing gates, virtually walk along the road and you can explore the town wall and locate the missing entrances.

 

Once I started filling out the buildings that make up Assisi, I looked for patterns and shapes within to give it a sense of place. These came from a long range photo, so the detail and construction was somewhat ambiguous. Google maps

Assisi_Street_View

Google street view

allowed me to get up close to the buildings and see where the windows were, how the building was put together and gave me an idea of the colour and texture.

Adding detail

What the site allows you to do is look at the landscape in greater detail, from more angles and positions than are possible during your visit. You can check out distant points of interest to see what they actually are, instead

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Tower sketch

of jumping to an uneducated conclusion. Was that blimp on the horizon a church, windmill or a statue? Use Google Earth and make sure.

You can also use it to scout suitable locations for drawing or painting. Have a virtual walk around your painting destination and see where the best views are. Your subject matter, composition and time in the field can all be enhanced with a little online research. It is a useful tool for artists painting landscapes and takes the guess work out of landmarks.

Why not check out Assisi on Google for yourself.

 

 

Devilishly Hot

DSCN7629The beautiful town of Morro d’Alba is our next destination on Lucifero’s journey around Le Marche in Italy. This place is famous for its Lacrime (tears) wine. A delicious drink that, given the opportunity, everyone should try.

Lacrime d’Alba walk

The now famous “Lucifer” heatwave has been enough to make even the most heat loving person cry. So visiting the town was a relief from the blazing sun and cool comfort was found within its covered walkway. The medieval town wall has a vaulted corridor, with regular archways, that afford visitors the chance to take in the breathtaking scenery of the surrounding countryside, all the way down to the Adriatic Sea.

DemonLunchtime break

It’s by no way a massive place to explore but makes a fabulous destination for lunch or dinner. Especially if you order a bottle or two of the Lacrime to go with your meal. The walls have been cleaned up, giving them a subtle orange glow, there is the Museum of Tools and apart from that, it’s a charming pit stop.
The painting, like the previous one, will feature a Medieval portrait of Lucifer in one corner. Spewing his hot breath over the landscape. This time however, the bulk of the picture will show the town wall with some stylised trees in the foreground. Hot tongues of flame will lick the sky, reminding you (if you happened to find yourself in southern Europe) of the sheer heat of 2017.

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Stained Glass Course in Italy

How would you like to spend a wonderful week in the beautiful Umbrian hills, south of Lake Trasimeno learning the ancient art of stained glass production?

DSCN7188Well! In August, 2018, I’ll be running an introductory stained glass course at the lovely Arte Umbria venue. This will be a great opportunity for you to visit Italy, experience its unique atmosphere and learn a new skill.

Beginners stained glass course

The course is aimed at beginners and will give you a taste of the 1,000 year old practice that has left us with some of the world’s most colourful and distinct artworks. By the end of the week, you will be able to design patterns for glass, cut glass and lead and solder a panel together.

DSCN7199You will have all the necessary equipment and materials supplied and there is a kit with the most essential tools to take home so that you can practice on your return.

There will also be a series of informative talks about the history of leaded lights, style and design, and a fascinating guided trip to the nearby Piegaro Glass Museum where, for centuries, they manufactured handmade, Chianti wine bottles.

Accommodation and food

Arte Umbria is set in 225 acres of verdant, hilly countryside, teeming with wild flowers, woodlands and all manner of animals. The landscape, as far as the eye can see, is studded with hill top towns, old castles and Medieval watchtowers. IMG_20170616_0001

The course is full board and along with the well appointed rooms, in a traditional Umbrian style, with a swimming pool, library and peaceful walks around the grounds to be enjoyed. There is a daily feast prepared by the on-site chef with ingredients grown or bought locally, giving you a real taste of Italy, there’s also plenty of wine from around the area.

For full details, dates and prices, or check out Arte Umbria‘s site for more information on the venue. Hope to see you in the summer.  Neal 🙂

 

 

 

Dressing the Part

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Martini’s Altarpiece with predella designs below

Sometimes art requires that you do strange things.

On a recent project with Dr Gaie Burnet, about a lost predella of Simone Martini,

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Peasant with mop staff

I was given the opportunity to try on women’s skirts in the name of art. This was not out of some sexually repressed need to dress as a woman, after all, I’m British and this comes as second nature to us. However it was necessary for me to capture the likeness of medieval peasants for the panel.

And why?

It did come as a surprise to my wife, when I walked into the sitting room to ask her a question, wearing one of her skirts, I did explain it was for artistic integrity. Bags, walking sticks, a dressing gown for a flying monk’s habit, hats and belts all helped in creating the right look for the drawings.

My dogs were somewhat concerned by my behaviour as I darted around, changing clothes and then setting the camera to timed, running across the kitchen to strike a pose. Only to repeat the chaotic process two seconds later. For them balancing, prone on a stool, to imitate the flying saint was the final act of a madman.

Martini in Siena

FlyingSaint

Flying monk

 

 

 

In this way and with the absence of my own willing peasant I managed to create a series of pictures that were used in drawing the missing panels from Beato Augustino’s altarpiece, which is now on display in the Palazzo Siena (check). The exercise was an illustration for Dr Burnet’s own work on the painting and how it may have been used for religious instruction and as a way of establishing the Augustinian Order during a time of great change.

CloakedPeasant

Peasant with cloak

Both Dr Burnet and myself found the process of working together an interesting one and exploring Martini’s works at Assisi and Siena was a wonderful experience. It was fun to see how these great works were not just pretty frescoes illustrating the lives of the saints, bishops and Christ but were being used for political propaganda, very much like today’s elaborate electioneering boards proclaiming one belief over another.

Dissecting the message

While I was able to bring my knowledge of painting, colour and design to the project, for me, it was fascinating to hear the political and religious history around the time the artist was working and discover the messages his patrons were most likely trying to convey. What, on the surface of things, appear to be simple depictions of people are quite often more complex, with much of the true meaning being forgotten over time.

I would thoroughly recommend artists and academics working together on projects like this, as both stand to gain a lot more than they realise about the process of making art. Both from a practical perspective of painting and design but also in terms of understanding what clients were trying to get across when commissioning these great works.

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Beato Augustino flying in

 

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Saint saves baby

Inside Borgo Santa Giuliana

After the excitement of the Niccone Valley project and finally completing the long thoughtout Mount Subasio and Assisi painting, it’s back to Santa Giuliana.

Painting the borgo

Village in the mist

Foggy village

Borgo Santa Giuliana is so unique, I never get tired of painting this little Medieval walled village. And when Janet and Jed told me they’d like a painting of the place I jumped at the chance to get inside the walls.

This is truly an example of how you properly create a gated community. Siege engines struggled to get into this compact village, which consists of some twelve dwellings. In the end the attackers gave up and picked on someone less well prepared instead.

Visiting Santa Giuliana

On a sunny Sunday afternoon I finally got to see what I’d been drawing and painting from afar. It’s a magical spot, fascinating architecture, narrow sunken alleyways, a church and all around breathtaking views of the Umbrian landscape.

Medieval village Umbria

Santa Giuliana sketches

Until now I’d not managed to get a close up view of the gatehouse and its portcullis. So armed with sketches and photos of the main entrance and the fact that you can see Janet and Jed’s house from this angle, this is the view I’m painting this time around.

Also, just like Citerna in the  Valtiberina painting, I’ve decided to create an undisturbed view of the curtain wall and its buildings by raising and lowering the treeline to give a nice, open view but retaining the feel of the surrounding vegetation. Lets get started then. …

Solving the Problems of Painting Lippiano

 

Tuscan Umbrian Hill Town

Lippiano

 

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.

Lippiano

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.