Tag Archives: hills

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 travellingcontent@gmail.com



50 Shades of Tuscany

When it comes to painting Tuscany I’m presented with a dilemma. I’m more used to the verdant mountains of the Umbrian landscape as opposed to the bronzed hills of Tuscany. This means I’ve had to sit down and set out my palette with a little more thought than normal.

Montecuccio in colour

Montecuccio in colour

Tuscan hues

The Tuscan landscape is full of tones of orange, terracotta and of course it’s own ubiquitous burnt sienna. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have its fair share of greenery.

The fields and hills around Montecucco are full of trees, bushes and scrub-land but there’s a little more formality to the Tuscan plan. The fields around the farmhouse have a regimented feel to them, a sort  of quilted comfort of olive groves, vineyards and orchards.

Gorge at Amiata

Gorge at Amiata

Earthy tones

There is a natural earthiness to the landscape, with the green of the various agricultural landmarks under pinned by the rich sienna soil. The painting features the bright luscious grasses in the foreground, freshly tilled fields and sap green wooded copses.

The colours also tip a nod to the Early Renaissance painters who walked the area, painting their subjects. There is the presence of the lapis blue commonly found in the skies of the grand masters, as are the ruby reds and florescent purples. Although these tend to be reserved for the garments of the religious figures depicted in the frescoes.

DSCN3931Drama at sunset

In this case the cool blue sky is enhanced with a dramatic sunset, when the Tuscan sky comes to life with a rainbow of colour. The horizon burns bright with fiery yellows, gorgeous oranges and pastel pinks, fringed with the purples and violets of nights on set.

The natural hues of the Tuscan hills is constantly accented by an array of brightly painted buildings. The greens and browns are highlighted with subtle shades of mustard in the villages, golden brown churches and yellowed palaces. There are dark, rusting farm out houses and strange distant towers, all adding splashes of intensity to the winter shades.

Montecuccio Oak

Montecucco Oak

Colourful Tuscany

Fifty shades of Tuscany is not without its stories and one look across the vista and you can see that this is a land that, if it spoke, could shock and arouse you. A walk down the winding lanes, over the ancient bridges and through the musty woods is all you need to feel its history. This is anything but grey.

Touring Tuscany

Over the New Year’s I had the pleasure of staying at a wonderful farmhouse in the shadow of Montecucco in Tuscany. It was a gorgeous old building with fabulous vistas of the surrounding countryside.

Castello di Velona

Castello di Velona

Tuscan Hills

The rolling Tuscan hills with the villages of Castelnuovo,  Amiata and Montenero, and a skyline dominated by the rebuilt ruins of Castello di Velona, now an exclusive spa resort.

The hillsides are full of typical Tuscan patterns, olive groves,  cyprus lined avenues that lead up to lovely old villas and being wine country there are  plenty of vineyards.

DSCN3974Wines of Tuscany

This, after all, is the land of  Montalcino and Chianti.  During the winter months the countryside is also patchwork of freshly ploughed, sienna fields, just waiting on the arrival of spring and the sowing of the crops.

The landscape around Montecucco is straight out of a Lorenzetti or Gozzoli fresco. Along the roadside it is full of tall, oddly shaped  trees, large formidable rock formations and neatly furrowed slopes.  All you needed to complete the picture was a parade of sixteenth century, Medici dukes on horseback.

Sunset over Montenero

Sunset over Montenero

Tuscan sunset

The weather, for the middle of winter, was also spectacular, clear sunny days, with breath taking sunsets. A collage of yellows, pinks, oranges and purples, or at least to me they were anyway. The sun as it set silhouetted perfectly the hillside scramble of buildings that make up Montenero. Vague outlines of the olive groves and little lights of the village buildings as darkness enveloped the landscape.

Land, Sea and Townscapes all Together

Welsh town - Saundersfoot

Saundersfoot – West Wales

I’ve finally come from behind my Italian mountains and taken on a new viewpoint. This time it is the beautiful town of Saundersfoot in West Wales. The scenery combines perfectly sea, land and townscapes all in one painting. The town, complete with its little harbour, colourfully painted houses and rolling hills topped with trees makes an idyllic study.

It’s not far from my other Welsh study, Tenby and as it’s an area I know quite well. Painting Saunderfoot reminded me how much I love that part of the world and that I should spend some time there working again.

Wales town


It was great drawing a place in Wales, with different shaped roofs and buildings to the ones I normally paint in Italy. There was a lack of terracotta or cream  and the trees were less sculpted. I like painting the sea too, there’s a tranquil feeling to be had making repetitive wavy lines. It’s a kind of artistic Pilates.

The sky gives a nice sense of drama to the composition and for me anyway, a bright pink and orange sky is the norm first thing in the morning and last thing at night.


The Colour in Cantiano

Le Marche hills

Le Marche hills

Well it’s time to add a little colour and unlike the greens of Umbria and the yellows of Tuscany, I wanted la Marche to have a nice steely feel to it with an undercurrent of lusciousness.

Being colour blind this is always a challenge and I have to plan ahead, so there’s very little room for spontaneous daubing. Otherwise God only knows what combinations we’d end up with in my lust for freedom.

Sneaky Peek

Sneaky Peek

As with all water colourists, I find the best way is to start light and gradually turn up the brightness. This does lead to the feeling that the painting, for many hours, has a boring look to it. I constantly have to keep my enthusiasm in check  and leave the darker tones and shadows until later. ……… Much later.

It’s all coming together nicely at the minute and the modeling on the hills is starting to give the painting a nice sense of depth. Rolling Italian hillsides, covered in trees are gradually emerging and the peaks are taking on an ominous presence. I can’t put off thinking about the sky for much longer now.

Cantiano Composition

Cantiano composition

Cantiano composition

Well the planning and design is all sorted, we’ve got Cantiano roughed out in the bottom left hand corner, with its river and the hill that it curls around. Over towards the right is the motorway and the bridge under which you drive to reach Pantano and Il Borgo, higher up in the mountains.

Filling the hills

Each little hills is like a mini-landscape and has to be considered so, while the larger stylised trees are used to divide the picture up into sections.

On the top left is Mount Catia with its massive steel crucifix and the hills above Il Borgo fill the right hand side. The countryside is mainly scrub land, woods and the occasional area of cultivated land, such as olive groves. These are all linked by the meandering roads that steadily climb the slopes.

Drama Queen Sky

Drama Queen Sky

Next I need to decided on the colour scheme. One thing I am sure of it a dramatic sunrise/set, just like the ones we saw during our stay in Le Marche.

Although by tomorrow morning I’m likely to have changed things again.

Fun Trip Painting the Tiberina Valley

Umbrian valley


The completion of this painting means, artworkwise we’re ready for the “Points on the Horizon”exhibition in Montone next week. Nothing left to do bar the panicking.

Driving down the valley

The Valtiberina stretches from the heights of Monte Santa Maria Tiberina (MSMT), perched on the top of a hill, right down to the main valley at the confluence of Monterchi and Citerna. At this point the two ancient Umbrian and Tuscan towns continue their time honoured face-off.

View from Monte Santa Maria Tiberina

View from Monte Santa Maria Tiberina

The beauty of the trip are the four villages, MSMT, Lippiano, Monterchi and Citerna. Each different but all typically Italian. Caffe bars and breathtaking views are what you should expect here, this is not a trip of designer shopping. Although Monterchi does have a Piero della Francesca painting and Citerna a Donatello sculpture.

Autumnal fields



Along with the towns, the painting shows the diversity of vegetation and crops you’ll encounter as you travel down the valley. Initially the slopes are densely wooded but this gradually thins out to reveal olive groves, grape vines and fields of sunflowers. Although when I made the trip the sunflowers had long since gone and all that remained were their sad, short cropped stalks.

Again the painting features tall stylised trees, that pay homage to the early Renaissance and High Gothic masters Giotto, Lorenzetti and Gozzoli who all pioneered landscape painting and often featured strangely alien trees.  But this was a time of experimentation and their efforts led the way to more formal renditions of fields, gardens and parklands.

The apartment looks towards MSMT and like the painting, when the sky in that direction starts to bruise, within a couple of hours, we can normally expect rain. At this time the sky can be lit up with bursts of lightening and the clatter of thunder rattles around the hills.