Tag Archives: drawing

Drawing Gothic

The early styles of the International or High Gothic period are dominated by a lack of perspective. Artists at this time were rediscovering the ways of showing three dimensions and their attempts are an interesting exercise in drawing.

3bec70db40e6dfde02ae3a4769e550faGothic art

They were aware that things changed over distance but were not sure how to depict distances or foreshortening. Although devices are commonly found in Greek and Roman art, down the years the techniques had been discouraged and lost. Now artists found themselves experimenting to reinvent the illusion of depth.

With a relaxing of regulations by the church controlling art and a growing merchant class with money to spend, more naturalistic lifelike studies  began to emerge. People, landscapes, buildings and vegetation all appeared in paintings.

Drawing perspective

DUCCIO FIRST DENIAL OF PETERThe first uses of perspective were simple oblique projections, whereby angled ,parallel lines were used to indicate that a building was going into the distance. Ariel perspective, the bluing of the horizon, was another early device for showing objects further away.

Gradually the idea of vanishing points took hold and artists had all lines converging at a single point. Quite often this was the centre of the room and painting panelled ceilings and tiled floors were popular to show their mastery of the technique.

There was however a tendency to give each object their own vanishing point in the picture, which gives the scenes a chaotic but interesting look. There are chairs at strange angles, beds that Annunciation of Death of the Virgin_Siena,Museo dell opera del Duomoseem to float and objects that sit in a completely different plain to the things they rest on.


Painting nature

By the end of the High Gothic artists could comfortably draw ellipses, understood how objects sat next to each other and where shadows naturally fell. All important developments in illustrating three dimensions.  As each mystery unfolded their worlds took on a more realistic appearance.

KitchenDrawingOver the next two hundred years the skill of using one, two, three and four point perspectives would be unlocked and by the start of the Renaissance  artists were comfortably creating realistic rooms, elegant street scenes and marvelous landscapes.

It was through these early experiments during the Gothic period that led to the later, accomplished designs. They do provide an interesting instruction on how to draw perspective and show how the different ways effect the look of a painting.

 

Sketching Trip to the Lake

Lake Trasimeno

Island of Polvese

I took a nice sketching trip out to Lake Trasimeno yesterday to get some drawings and photographs for my next painting. Early autumn can be a great time for packing up your tools and going into the wilds to draw.

 

Lago Trasimeno Rocca

Polvese Castle ruins

Autumn art trip

It was a warm day with that particular bright, piercing sunlight you get in September. The subject for this picture is Polvese, the largest of Trasimeno’s islands and the least inhabited.

Once a thriving fishing community lived here and its ruined castle and abandoned monastery attest to the fact that it used to be home to many more people than it is today.

Isole Polvese

Water logged trees

Walking tour

The island is a lovely place to walk, the gradients aren’t too steep and there are plenty of interesting corners to photograph or paint and a little cafe bar to pick up a snack.

Like the neighbouring island of Isole Maggiore there is a regular ferry,

Monestario Polvese

Polvese Monastery ruins

running almost every hour (except lunchtimes) and it doesn’t cost a fortune. Alternatively you can cruise around the lake capturing the towns along the shoreline and the olive grove strewn hills behind.

If you should find yourself on an art holiday in Umbria, then a day on the lake is a rewarding way to fill up a sketch pad. Happy drawing 🙂

Planning Orvieto

Orvieto drawing

Orvieto sketch

I’m working on a painting of Orvieto in the southern part of Umbria. This ancient town stands on top of a tuff outcrop, which are the remains of a long extinct volcano.  This already dramatic sight is made all the more so by the  magnificent duomo that proudly highlights the town.

Orvieto-braun_hogenberg

They started erecting the cathedral in 1290 and it features frescoes by Fra Angelica and Luca Signorelli‘s masterpiece, “The Last Judgement”, painted around 1449.

For this Signorelli was paid 800 ducats, lodgings and two measures of wine each month.  Now I like that idea, especially as Orvieto is famous for its pale yellow wine, favoured by popes and princes alike.

OrvietoG2The soft tuffa rock beneath Orvieto, makes tunnelling easy and along with a 65 metre well there are numerous caverns, rooms and secret passage  ways. These are also prone to collapsing and from time to time there are the odd landslides . Lets hope the erosion doesn’t cause the same fate as nearby Civita di Bagnoregio, which these days is all but abandoned.

The painting shows off the town’s sheer cliff face with its ramps and walls with the sprawling collection of woodland, olive groves and of course vineyards around the base. We’ve had a couple of days of impressive, stormy weather recently, so the sky will most likely reflect this. Lots of orange, yellow and pinks with rays of light piercing the scene.

 

Cartoon of a Medieval Village

Medieval Village sketch

Santa Giuliana Gatehouse

Drawing the village

Setting out the composition for the gatehouse at Borgo Santa Giuliana I decided there were four main areas that should draw the eye. The gatehouse itself, the tower, the twin cropped pine trees in the foreground and Janet and Jed’s house.

Santa Giuliana, Umbria

A little more detail

Rather than paint another distant image, this time I wanted to get in the thick of it, paint the walls and windows in more detail and give a real impression  of this magnificent walled village.

Taking a liberty

Santa Giuliana is situated on the steep hillsides of Monte Corona and at this point, is hidden from view by many trees. So I had to take a little liberty with the composition, artistically chop down the woodland. I’ve still left you with a feeling that this is a wooded area but made enough space to see the buildings and gate and bell tower without having to dodge the foliage.

Skething in Umbria

Santa Giuluana Cartoon

The pine trees have moved around a little during the design stage and are now echoed by the clouds on the opposite side. There is also a strong left to right diagonal, which draws the eye to the building in the centre. While the house and the shrine on the left, with the olive grove behind give a sense of the village being a part of the landscape.

Santa Giuliana’s history

Santa Giuliana

The village from below

In it’s heyday the slopes would have been cleared giving the defenders an unobstructed view of approaching armies. In a way this returns the village to its historical past and shows what an imposing  figure it would have been in the landscape.  … Okay! Now for a bit of colour.

Painting the Walls of Citta di Castello

I’ve tackled Citta di Castello’s walls on a couple of occasions but this time I fancied painting a long section of the ancient defences. Previously, the works concentrated on the area around the Duomo but with the encouragement of Pamella, I decided to depict the whole of the west wall.

15th Century German Woodcut

15th Century German Woodcut

German woodcuts of the 15th century have always appealed to me, I love the way they big up the height and importance of their fortresses as if to deter invasion through art. So I thought Castello’s walI should be formidable and prominent in the picture.

Buildings everywhere

This poses a couple of problems, firstly there are a number of buildings opposite the wall, secondly there are lots of trees obscuring the view. So the way around it is to use the Medieval process of painting unimportant things to a smaller scale, therefore the buildings are tiny in comparison.

City Wall

City Wall

The trees likewise needed trimming, as there are great clusters of cropped firs, a stand of palm trees, some shaped garden trees and a lot of empty deciduous trunks.  The best way to take on the trees was to paint one of each group and make them fit around the wall, either painting them taller and thinner or drawing them small and squat. Problem solved.

Google Earth – Useless

Citta di Castello

Town Wall sketch

Next comes the structures behind the wall. With all this foliage, stones and concrete it’s impossible to see what it looks like over the edge. Even driving up into the hills a mile away proved ineffectual. Google Earth was no use as the Google car stupidly decided to drive out on a foggy day when nothing was visible.

The solution to this one was a stroll around the streets drawing the buildings from ground level and imagining them from another view point. I was also lucky to be teaching at the Unicredit Bank, where I discovered they have a marvellous reproduction of a sixteenth century map of Castello. This gave me additional ideas for the buildings around the wall.

Umbrian background

Castello Duomo

Duomo Drawing

The background always sets the theme with the sky providing the drama. Citta di Castello should never be without the beautiful Belvedere Monastery nestled in its wooded slopes. I plan on having the Apennine Mountains on the horizon and some farms, villas and maybe the Cyprus filled cemetery on the edge of town.

As spring is in the air I think a nice blue sky with a blazing sun and the odd fluffy white cloud scattered about. This should set the tone for future paintings as we leave the leaden skies of winter behind. It will mean that there is less distraction from the busy streets of Castello below. Hey, let’s see how it turns out.

Castello wall

Panorama of CdiC Wall

The Journey to Sanctuary

Monte Corona Abbey

Badia Monte Corona

The latest landscape painting sounds like it could be  a board game or the next film in a vampire franchise. The reality is that it follows the trip I’d been taking throughout August up Monte Corona, south of Umbertide, where I was staying at Prato di Sotto during the summer months.

The directions are simple and this picture, guiding you, has the feel of an old treasure map seemingly detailing, albeit in a slightly distorted fashion, the landscape of an earlier time.

Medieval village

Borgo di Santa Giuliana

Once you cross the bridge, make sure you avoid the monastery and travel up and around the hill. Continue down the road until you reach the iron bridge and the little cabin. Turn left onto the white road.”

“Follow this rough, stone trail for 4Km, past the houses, the wood piles and over the little bridge until you reach the picturesque medieval village. Do not turn right at the farm and head into the valley but carry on up the hill until you reach the B&B. If you push on further up the hill, you’ll reach the sanctuary of the hermitage of San Salvatore on top of Monte Corona. ”  GAME END!

sanctuary

Eremo Hermitage San Salvatore

The style still contains the elements taken from the Lorenzetti and Gozzoli frescoes but features more modern houses and bridges. The trees are purely influenced by these early Renaissance artists and copies that exploratory feel that their work possesses.

Drawing Monte Corona

Monte Corona Skecthes

Once again I’m planning on having a dramatic sky, all oranges, pinks and purples but we’ll see how that turns out. At the moment I’m just struggling with how to paint a page full of trees and foliage.  Let’s wait to find out how it ends up shall we?

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.