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Tag Archives: Italy
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
Whilst relaxing in Le Marche this summer I decided to do a landscape of the surrounding area that resounded to the uncharacteristically high temperatures we’ve been experiencing in Italy.
The 2017 heatwave has been nicknamed “Lucifer” and I felt a title of such biblical proportions deserved a similar rendering. The name itself conjures up images of plague, death and destruction. A scene of a time of old school torment and scorched lands, laid waste.
This isn’t that far from the truth as everywhere is dry and brown. There are massive water shortages in 11 regions of Italy and with a month of unseasonably high temperatures, averaging around the mid-forties, a Medieval painting of the Devil’s wrath seemed apt.
Demons in Manuscripts
Looking at a number of Medieval manuscripts I decided that it would be fun to have a stylised demon in one corner and paint the sky in all hellish shades of red, orange and purple. This is very much the way the sky naturally looks at sunset each night.
Although the grain has been harvested, and all that remains are the dried stalks, there are thousands of blackened, shrivelled sunflowers scattered across the landscape.
These and the baked fields all serve to create the impression of a barren countryside, abandoned and forgotten. Well naturally the countryside is deserted, everyone has decided it’s time to visit the seaside, where it’s cooler, wetter and fresher.
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?
Well! 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.
You 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.
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.
We had a great weekend at Artisti al Monte. I set my artwork up on the loggia at Valerie’s house in the beautiful Umbrian countryside. There were lovely views of the Aggia Valley all around, down to Sansecondo and the Upper Tiber Valley and on up towards Gioiello and Monte Santa Maria Tiberina.
In total there were 29 artists dotted around the wonderful landscape where visitors could follow the trail to various sculptors, painters and craftspeople from the area. The largest collection was in Monte’s castle vaults but more could be found in the restaurants, guest houses and local studios.
I spent the weekend sketching on the airy loggia, chatting with our guests, while Valerie sat below making a ladybird mosaic and telling people all about the process. Everyone was really interested, especially the kids.
Fun for the kids
The committee had come up with the great idea of awarding a prize to the child who collected the most signatures. We had an endless stream of enthusiastic artist hunters coming through our doors. The serious side was to help raise funds for this little school to help with trips and equipment, it was fabulous to see the little ones joining in.
Successful art event
This is a wonderful way of bringing the community together and showing off the talents in the area. It proved to be a popular event with picnics arranged, family trips out and lots of people happily chatting in the spring sun. Now in it’s 5th year the Artisti al Monte continues to help the local school, show off its artists and bring people together. What more can you ask from a weekend?
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.
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. 🙂
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.
Views 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s the finished watercolor of the third island on Lake Trasimeno in Umbria, Italy. The picture captures the lusciousness of the place, covered in oak woodlands and olive groves. Dotted around the island are a collection of buildings,a cafe bar by the dock, a ruined castle and an abandoned monastery. The island also has its own oil press where they produce their olive oil.
As it’s perpetually shaded, even on a hot day, it’s a cool place to walk around. The island is now an unspoilt nature reserve with thousands of birds flocking to its shores each year to take advantage of the lovely natural habitat.
The painting is part of a threesome, with the Isola Maggiore and a study of the town of Castiglione del Lago completing the set. Lined up together you get an idea of the large expanse of water that makes up Lake Trasimeno and the wooded hills that surround it. However, most of all, you can feel the tranquility of the water as it laps along the shoreline and the serenity that can be found all over the islands.