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The Wedding Gift


Citta di Castello South Wall  – Watercolour and ink 74cm x 32cm (Sold)


When Lucia and Leo decided to get married, Lucia’s sister Beatrice asked me to do them a painting of Citta di Castello. This I was delighted to do as I’d been teaching them English for the last two years and know the three very well.

Town wall

LuciaLeoSo we’d decided on the town and just needed the layout. This time I decided to paint Castello’s south wall, which features the impressive gateway, the Pinocoteca decorated by Versari and a half-hidden view of the bell tower and duomo.

Painting tall trees

The length of the wall is cloaked in trees so I chose to paint them in a similar way to Citerna and Nice. Raising them above the scene to give uninterrupted views of the town but keeping the verdant look.

As the painting was for a wedding I put a dawn sky in, with lovely and pinks and purple, the start of a new beginning etc. This spiritual undercurrent was completed with the “Angel fingers” sun rays peeping out through the cloud and covering the town.

Noteable buildings

CdiC Wall (37).JPGCitta di Castello is flanked by hills with the outstanding Belvedere sanctuary on one side and the former Montessori, educational institute, Montesca on the other. The scene is completed with the bell towers that grace the skyline and the modern roundabout on the left.

Secret surprise

As it was for a special occasion the lovely couple’s initials “LB LF” were also inscribed as graffiti on one of the doors and the scoreboards on the Bocce ball court feature the date of their wedding “0206”.

The wedding itself was a wonderful event, the service was held at Canoscio and afterwards we retired to the hills above Sansepolcro for a wonderfully typical Italian reception. I was happy to have been asked to play a small part in their memorable day.  Tanti auguri tutti.


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.

Watercolour Painting in Le Marche

Le Marche village

Cantiano – Le Marche
Watercolour and ink 33 x 55 cm (Sold)

Cantiano is a little town in Le Marche, situated in the Appennine Mountains, 40 km south of Raffaello Sanzio’s birthplace, Urbino. The town sits on the base of a deep cut valley with towering hills all around and the little hamlet of Il Borgo clings to the side of Monte Petrano.

DSCN3030The views across the Sierra Burano are gorgeous, with Monte Catria, crowned with a massive iron cross, being one of the stand out features of the landscape. The countryside is littered with ancient bridges, mysterious tunnels and Romanesque churches.

The painting focuses on the river with a row of brightly coloured houses opposite, behind this there is one of the oldest streets in Cantiano, said to date back to the Medieval period. This leads into the large piazza, with the ochre clocktower building and the church of  San Nicolo and a  little further down the road the Collegiate di San Giovanni Battista.


Cantiano sunset

The road leaves town and gradually climbs through the rugged, hills until you come to Palcano, with the collection of houses, Il Borgo is higher up the hill. Here the slopes are wooded, scrubland, there is the occassional olive grove and field but very little cultivated land at this height.

For the sky I settled on the gorgeous sunset, oranges and pinks we saw during out visit, It was slightly cloudy and just as the sun headed towards the horizon the sky was lit up.

Raphael Sansio

The Knights Dream – Raphaello

The now familiar tree motif is one inspired by Raphaello, it takes its shape from the way the local boy painted foliage on his trees. These were often tall trunked trees with roughly hinted, stylised leaves. This one uses the tree at the centre of a “Knights Dream” as the starting point.



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.

Giro around the Valtiberina

Monterchi study

Monterchi study

The next painting is a trip down the Valtiberina Valley, a pure delight, especially if you approach it from the Aggia Valley side. Drive up to the stoic walled town of Monte Santa Maria Tiberina (MSMT) and follow the winding, narrow road down to where Monterchi and Citerna stand staring each other out, as they have for centuries.

Lippiano Castle

Castle at Lippiano

Halfway down you’ll see the hill top village of Lippiano in front of you. Its strange tower dominates the horizon as you get closer.  This is a lovely, quiet little place with an elaborate fountain and a supposed, Templar church as well. The views from here are gorgeous and you can make out MSMT in the distance, amongst the wooded skyline.



Crossing from Tuscany, back into Umbria and rounding the hills you get your first close up of Monterchi. Famous for its Piero della Francesca painting, “Madonna del Parto“. Not to be out done in their rivalry, Citerna recently discovered a long lost Donatello sculpture, “Madonna col Bimbo”.

The landscape also takes a turn, instead of rough woodland and rocky fields, there is more agriculture and you’ll pass vineyards, olive groves and fields of bright yellow sunflowers (at the right time of year).

Stormy sky at dawn

Stormy sky at dawn

A change in the weather as autumn sets in has brought us some dramatic skies, with leadened clouds, heavy with rain. These swirling masses with the pale yellow peaking through will make a great backdrop on which to paint the four towns, once again bathed in all shades of green, with maybe a little seasonal orange, red and ochre for good measure.

Painting Old Montone in Italy

Caporali Montone

Montone, Umbria
Watercolour and ink, 50cm x 30cm (Sold)

It’s always nice when you sell artworks but to sell a piece twice in less than 24 hours is special. It was just too late for Jeff who wanted my painting of Montone. However, after a meeting, a lovely lunch and a walk around Montone we came up with an idea for a new painting.

Caporali Montone Large

Madonna della Miscordia

Jeff mentioned that in the local museum there was a medieval banner by the artist Bartolomeo Caporali. The painting of the “Madonna della Miscordia”, was completed in 1482 and beneath the canopy of the Madonna’s brightly coloured cloak there is an image of Montone.

The banner was used to provide protection against the plague and towering over Montone you can see a scythe weilding, Grim Reaper, getting ready to level the town.

Medieval Montone painting

Montone circa 1482

A view of St Francis' Church

A view of St Francis’ Church

There are a number of interesting features in the painting which after all these years are still present today.

Clearly visible is the St Franciscan church, the Del Verziere Gate and the clock tower. Although long since vanished is the crumbling remains of Braccio Fortebraccio’s fortress but many of the formidable town walls are still standing.

Del Verziere Gate

Del Verziere Gate

Whilst not represented in the original painting, the church at the bottom of the hill is dedicated to St Gregorio who is also the patron saint of the town. Having been built around 1,000 AD it would have been standing when Caporali painted Montone.

The fields and woods that populate the painting are not the exact replication of any particular view point. Instead they are taken from around the area and are fitted into a pleasing composition that captures the spirit of Montone’s landscape.

Montone landscape

Montone landscape

If you drive around the hillsides you’ll see the olive groves, the clusters of fir trees and ploughed fields. There are distant farms on the hill tops and the distinctive Monte Acute, behind Umbertide, is ever present.

I found it fascinating that an image of this picturesque  Umbrian town, painted over 530 years ago, still has many of the original features present. And that the landscape has a familiar feel to it. I wonder whether in another 500 years the scene will still be a peaceful and tranquil.