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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Assisi – watercolour and ink, 35 cm x 70 cm. (For Sale)
This Assisi watercolour is a very busy painting filled with lots of detail and colour. Like the town itself, you can easily get lost looking at the buildings, alleyways and churches. The three major cathedrals of St Francis, St Ruffinus and St Clare are all prominently featured, as are five of the medieval gateways.
The sky is a beautiful sun burst pattern, one commonly seen in the Umbrian dawn. While the picture is divided into three views by two trees, which depict the styles of Giotto and Simone Martini. Both of whose work can be seen in the magnificent Basilica di San Francesco.
Streets of Assisi
As you walk the streets, what strikes you most is the array of arched doorways and windows. The town is full of arches, some ancient ones, long blocked in, others leading to delicious restaurants and bars, while others lead you down interesting back alleys to new and captivating piazzas.
Marmore Waterfalls – watercolour and ink, 90 cm x 30 cm (For Sale)
A question, often asked of artists is “how long did it take you to paint that?” Well the waterfalls at Marmore took me 8 years. I first visited them back in 2009 and decided I had to capture the area on paper.
The actual design, once I put pencil to paper, took about two weeks to dream up. Those who followed the paintings progress on Facebook know that it took five days to paint. So depending on how you look at these things, anywhere between eight years or three weeks.
Some times you can’t rush things.
Umbria Film Studio
Behind the painting
The painting features the 2,200 year old, man-made waterfall at Marmore, popular with artists, the medieval hill top village of Papigno, through which your drive on your way to the base of the falls and pass the Umbria film studios.
The studios are where Roberto Benigni filmed his classic movie “La vita e bella” and has a strange collection of building facades along the river, with the large, metal cladded buildings behind.
Around the corner from the studios you come across the waterfalls. If you visit, choose your times carefully as they are not always flowing. The water is diverted through a hydro-electric plant and for the greater part of the day they are quiet.
However, twice a day the sluice gates are opened and you can experience the full glory of the water cascading over the cliff face and through the trees. It is this spectacle that artists and poets down the ages have come to witness and area is a truly tranquil place to explore.
Lacrime di Lucifero – Morro d’Alba – watercolour and ink 44cm x 28cm (For Sale)
Lacrime di Lucifero. Lacrime refers to the delicious wine of Morro d’Alba, Lacrime (meaning tears) and Lucifero being the nickname given to the heatwave of the summer of 2017. One of the things you need to ease the midday temperatures is a good wine and believe me, this is a great wine.
Morro d’Alba painting
Morro d’Alba is 12 km from the coastal town of Senigalia in Le Marche, Italy and is perched high above the Adriatic Coast. From its covered walls, you can look down on the endless fields of sunflowers, vineyards and olive groves.
The main piazza, on the left, sits on top of a small hill, with the rest of the town sloping away from it. All around the town walls there are pine trees and oaks along the road side. During the summer months these provide much needed shade and were especially welcome in 2017.
Again the style is an apocalyptic, Gothic stylised painting, with a red faced demon, blasting hot air down on the town and the typical trees and buildings that can be found in Medieval manuscripts. The idea is to give the painting a doomsday feel to it. Soaring temperatures, parched landscape and bleached, dry towns. All very “The end is nigh”.
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.
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
I’ve always loved calligraphy, lettering and sign writing, so this project gave me a chance to get back to some of the things I love drawing. Namely letters and the Italian countryside.
The sign is for an agriturismo, B&B, just outside of Pierantonio, Umbria and was to be completed on an old, but well preserved, wooden, window shutter. I decided to use the inside face and make a feature out of the old barrel hinges that were still intact.
Once the wood had been prepared, I set about designing the image. The only other prevision was the inclusion of the establishment’s name, “Villa Santa Caterina”.
Google Earth exploration
Although I’d never visited the site before I know the location well and easily found it on Google Earth, a great tool for exploring areas. You can really have a good nose around places and get the feel of the landscape. Obviously it’s not as good as a visit but as I’d driven the approach road often enough I knew the layout.
The idea for this image was straightforward. As you drive down the SP169, there’s a wide valley, a gentle curve and a distinctive manor house. This is where you turn off and if you look up into the hills on your right you can make out the Cyprus trees that ring Villa Santa Caterina above you.
The painting would hang outside so I opted to use acrylic paint and this, along with a dozen or so coats of varnish should protect it from the elements. As the lettering was to be the main event, and not the image behind, the other major decision I had to make was to paint a subtle landscape. This meant lashings of titanium white to give the hills and trees a pale look but leaving the buildings with enough emphasis so that they stand out. The whole effect is finished off with a bright red border.
Green trees, terracotta buildings and splashes of red in the roofs, that’s the Umbrian landscape.
Drop me a line if you think your tea room in Wales, antique shop in Portland or haberdashery in Coober Pedy would suit one. I’ll happily sort something out for you.
Medieval Gym – Watercolour and ink – 21 cm x 29 cm (For Sale)
“The steady rumbling of the water wheel, turning, turning, turning, working to the beat of the race. The straining of the machine, the thump against the punch bag, the sacks of flour and the groaning, panting and sweating of the work out. Gym day, Thursday is here again. “
The idea came from images I saw of old watermills, simple representations that looked fun to play with. I liked the idea that the waterwheel could also be used as a piece of gym equipment, endlessly driving people on.
The mill machine
So the Medieval gym was filled with a punch bag, exercise bike, medicine ball, wall ladders, pommel horse and a climbing rope. The locker cabinet is based around the Ikea cupboards. The idea is that the gym equipment somehow looks like the wheels and cogs of the mill, so in truth you’d get a work out there whether you went for exercise or as part of your job.
I decided to make the watermill a natural partner with the windmill painting by using the same deep Prussian Blue sky. The dark blues in the watermill are countered by bright orange, browns and yellows to give the picture some colourful visual points.
The style of the water comes from the way traditional stained glass artists would paint water and is one I’d used previously in the painting of Positano