Tag Archives: landscape

Painting Gubbio – St Francis and the Wolf

Town in Umbria, Italy

Gubbio progress

Gubbio was one of the first 12 cities created, by Noah, after the biblical flood. It is also where St Francis talked a wolf out of terrorising the residents. The painting shows the main landmarks and obvious points of reference around the town.

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Cable car view of Gubbio

Perched on the mountain top is the Monastery of St Ubaldo that can be reached by cable car. It is here that they light the famous giant Christmas tree each year. In the foreground is the ancient Roman amphitheater, which is still in use today, along with the Palazzo dei Consoli and the churches of St Francis and St Peter.

Gubbio’s streets

Halfway up the hillside the remains of the town’s defenses poke out of the olive groves and scrub, with the crumbling towers and debris clearly visible as you approach the town. Gubbio itself is a maze of narrow cobbled streets and interesting buildings, fountains, piazzas and shops.

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Giotto’s trees in Assisi

At present the painting starts to capture the grey and tan stonework that have been used in the town’s construction. These are played off against the trees and bushes that are scattered around Gubbio’s streets.

Giotto trees

The large trees pay homage to Giotto di Bondone, who worked around Umbria 900 years ago and a collection of his frescoes can be seen in Assisi.

A little more work and we’re there.

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Designing Assisi

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Assisi Sketch

Just how do you go about drawing a famous, 28,000 peopled town with a 3,000 year old history and a number of famous saints and landmarks?

Painting landscape

When drawing an iconic place it is important to identify the patterns, lines and shapes that make up the town. What is in the surrounding landscape and the natural forms that define it?

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Assisi bell towers

What are the key buildings that make up its skyline and how do people remember it? Where are its landmarks and stand out buildings? Once all that has been worked out it’s time to consider the colours and textures of the town. Once all these questions have been answered the town’s shape and essence will form.

 

Sights and shapes

It isn’t important to capture every window or roof tile but you need to draw its likeness. When someone looks over the

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Rocca Maggiore, Assisi

final image, will they recognise it as Assisi or will it be just a confusing collection of buildings, set amongst an undecipherable landscape? If you’ve done your job properly the answer is no.

Defining Assisi

So what are Assisi’s defining characteristics?

It sits on the slopes of Mount Subasio, with it’s gentle curves and distinctive shape. The lower reaches are covered in lines of olive groves and vineyards. Trees also lend a sense of place to an area and the Umbrian countryside is full of Cyprus, Umberlla pine, oak and the occasional palm tree.

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Assisi’s gates

The saints of Assisi

The striking feature of Assisi has to be the Basilica of Saint Francis, rising majestically from the valley floor. It dominates the mountain and can be seen from miles away. The town is also famous for Saint Clare and Saint Rufino, who both have cathedrals here.

 

Bell towers and castles

Perched high above the city’s churches, houses and streets are the ruins of the 12th century castle, the Rocca Maggiore. Long abandoned but still a formidable sight.

Leading off from the defensive fortress are the

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St Francis’ Basilica

remains of the town walls with the eight main gateways. Unlike Spello, which is situated at the other end of Mount Subasio, Assisi’s gate designs are pretty unremarkable but they do add to the town’s overall splendour.

To create a true semblance of Assisi you need to accurately capture these features. Its varied bell towers, the clock tower, the Medieval buildings surrounded by greenery and curvy hillsides. And of course, you can’t ignore the domineering presence of Saint Francis.

 

Lucifer’s Summer

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Lucifer’s Summer – watercolour and ink, 26cm x 40cm (For Sale)

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.

Withering landscape

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.

tumblr_m9fs9j2VIR1refr94o1_500Hot summer

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

The Devil in the Landscape

DSCN7633Whilst 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.

Devilish weather

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.

DevilEatingBishopsThis 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.

DSCN7599Demons 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.

DSCN7586Deserted countryside

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.

Watercolour of Italian Castles

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Niccone Valley Castles – Watercolour and ink 38 cm x 58 cm (Sold)

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.

Tuscan Umbria countryside

The area around the Castles and Altabella

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.

Umbrian art

Wooden Sculpture

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. 🙂

 

 

 

The Italian Wedding Garden

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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

 

Watercolor on the Lake – Isola Polvese

 

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Isola Polvese – watercolor and ink, 52 cm x 21 cm (Sold)

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.

Tuscan umbria castle towns

Castiglione del Lago 

Travel painting

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.

Lago Trasimeno, Umbria

Isola Maggiore

Island joy

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.