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Tag Archives: landscape
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.
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.
I was recently asked, by the Circolo di Monte Santa Maria Tiberina, to take part in a project to decorate the utility meter doors scattered throughout the ancient town. The remit said that it needed to fit the panel, be relevant to the medieval town and take into account the lock on the door.
Designing door covers
In total thirteen artists were asked to join the group and one Sunday a couple of weeks ago we all met up to choose our doors. Mine is the ENEL cover at the top of the stone stairs leading to the Palazzo and the main piazza.
Naturally I decided that I’d do a landscape of the area but I needed to disguise the black plastic door lock. I thought the best way to do this was to give the painting a harvest theme and hide the lock inside a strange, black, fantastical plant. Continuing the Fruita di Bosco the scene with a nectarine and more flowers in a vase, the meaning behind the books remains a mystery.
Urban art project
The access panel is quite large, some 58 x 54 cm and I felt that a landscape just plonked in the middle of the street would seem strange. So I included a terracotta tile window sill, on which the books, vase and nectarine stand, giving the impression you are looking through a window or archway.
The town is drawn from the same angle at which you look at the panel, so it has the effect of creating a world within a world. A fairground hall or mirrors, with infinite repeated views of Monte Santa Maria Tiberina stretching off into the distance.
The paintings will be printed onto film and the doors covered and hopefully remain in place for a couple of years. If you are interested in seeing them they will be ready for the town’s festa, which runs on the 8,9 and 10th October.
I hope to see you there. 🙂
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.
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.
The 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.