Tag Archives: townscape

Big Up Assisi


Assisi – watercolour and ink 960 cm x 600 cm (sold)

Well here you have it, the Assisi painting. Purely because of its size this commissions was great fun to work on. Measuring 960 cm x 600 cm meant I had lots of space to play with so I was able to include lots of detail.

Assisi’s landmarks

There are the usual suspects, the basilicas of St Francis, Clare and Ruffino, the old clock tower and the ruined fortrezza on top of the hill. However, if you looks carefully around Assisi, there are also iconic domestic buildings that stand out. These are the places that give the city its character.

Olives and wine

The olive tree in the foreground is in the centre of a traffic roundabout as you arrive at the town. Towering above it is the bastion of Saint Francesco’s churches, you will also drive through miles of vineyards and olive groves on your way to town. These are illustrated in the bottom corners.

The scale of the painting allows you to get lost exploring the little alleyways, spotting details and identifying the landmarks. Everyone has their favourite spot and it’s fun to see where each person’s journey takes them. Enjoy your own trip around Assisi. 🙂

Planning Orvieto

Orvieto drawing

Orvieto sketch

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.


They started erecting the cathedral in 1290 and it features frescoes by Fra Angelica and Luca Signorelli‘s masterpiece, “The Last Judgement”, painted around 1449.

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.

OrvietoG2The 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.


Nice Painting Nice


Nice, France  – Watercolour & ink 74cm X 24 cm (Sold)

I’ve finally finished my Nice painting and it’s turned out well, nice. This is the largest townscape I’ve undertaken and my first in France, so it was quite a challenge. The image concentrates on the promenade, highlighting some of the most interesting buildings that fill the street. The centre has the Colline du Chateau, with the old castle tower and stairway that leads up to the gardens, and the harbour behind.

The town has a gallery dedicated to Mondrian, so I thought, why not have a Mondrianesque sky. The other option was Chagall but I’m not sure a violin playing goat in the sky would have worked. Perhaps next time.

Bright liners and speed boats

Mont Boron on the right has some really interesting, strange shaped and exotic buildings on its slopes. Below is where the bright liners also leave giving the area a splash of colour, in their yellow livery.

The Prom at Nice is covered with rows of palm trees and to include these essential elements I decided to raise them up so that they didn’t obstruct the buildings along the foreshore. This seems to have worked out okay. To cap it all off there are two boats bobbing about in the foreground.

Nice, I hope you like it.



Fun Trip Painting the Tiberina Valley

Umbrian valley


The completion of this painting means, artworkwise we’re ready for the “Points on the Horizon”exhibition in Montone next week. Nothing left to do bar the panicking.

Driving down the valley

The Valtiberina stretches from the heights of Monte Santa Maria Tiberina (MSMT), perched on the top of a hill, right down to the main valley at the confluence of Monterchi and Citerna. At this point the two ancient Umbrian and Tuscan towns continue their time honoured face-off.

View from Monte Santa Maria Tiberina

View from Monte Santa Maria Tiberina

The beauty of the trip are the four villages, MSMT, Lippiano, Monterchi and Citerna. Each different but all typically Italian. Caffe bars and breathtaking views are what you should expect here, this is not a trip of designer shopping. Although Monterchi does have a Piero della Francesca painting and Citerna a Donatello sculpture.

Autumnal fields



Along with the towns, the painting shows the diversity of vegetation and crops you’ll encounter as you travel down the valley. Initially the slopes are densely wooded but this gradually thins out to reveal olive groves, grape vines and fields of sunflowers. Although when I made the trip the sunflowers had long since gone and all that remained were their sad, short cropped stalks.

Again the painting features tall stylised trees, that pay homage to the early Renaissance and High Gothic masters Giotto, Lorenzetti and Gozzoli who all pioneered landscape painting and often featured strangely alien trees.  But this was a time of experimentation and their efforts led the way to more formal renditions of fields, gardens and parklands.

The apartment looks towards MSMT and like the painting, when the sky in that direction starts to bruise, within a couple of hours, we can normally expect rain. At this time the sky can be lit up with bursts of lightening and the clatter of thunder rattles around the hills.


The Town of the Strong Arm – Montone

Bracchio Fortebracchio

Watercolor and ink
50cm x 30cm (For Sale)

Montone is listed in the 100 most beautiful villages of Italy. It first came to fame under Braccio Fortebraccio (Armstrong), who took on all comers and won. Making the town his base he controlled much of the local countryside down as far as Perugia.

Montone for Neal 010Montone is also famous for the Umbria Film Festival, established by Monte Pythons’ Terry Gilliam and run each July, outside in the main piazza. Its fame grows each year and attracts film glitterati from around the world. Colin Firth’s wife is also said to have been born here and he is occasionally seen around the narrow streets. The town itself creeps up on you as you wind your way up the hill towards its gates. Hidden away from the main highway and surrounded by the wooded slopes there are glimpses of it through the trees, then suddenly you round a corner and it’s there.

Montone 033 Sitting atop its hill, from certain angles, Montone is a deceptively long town and editing it to fit the format required a little creative thinking. Three early versions lay screwed up on the floor in frustrated angst. For the best views however, take one of the little white roads up into the hills opposite and you can look down on it in all it’s glory.

Prints of the original are available here  🙂

Anatomy of a Painting – Monte Santa Maria Tiberina


MSMT Citta di Castello

Monte Santa Maria Tiberina
Watercolour and ink 24cm x 70cm (Sold)

When I was asked to paint the spectacular hill town of Monte Santa Maria Tiberina (MSMT) in the Upper Tiber Valley, it came with the caveat that the local market town of Citta di Castello and the Canoscio monastery above Fabrecce be included.

My initial reaction was…. “Ohh way too much there missus” but thinking about it later the beauty of MSMT is that the sugar loaf mountain on which it perches can be seen from everywhere in the area. As far south as Umbertide and Montone, across the border in the Tuscan towns of Sansepolcro and Anghiari, as well as Castello, Trestina and San Giustino.

So the painting is a kind of road map to its location. The two villages at the bottom are Fabrecce on the left, with Canoscio above and Sansecondo on the right with Dognano on the hill. These two villages are separated by a stone bridge over the Aggia River and it is along this valley you drive to reach MSMT.

MSMT drawing

MSMT sketch

Faintly depicted on the right are the instantly recognisable features of Citta di Castello’s duomo and its notorious bell tower and in the background on the left, the castle town of Lippiano, with the Apennine Mountains filling the skyline behind.


MSMT from the valley

As you approach MSMT through the wooded hillsides the first thing that strikes you are the massive blockhouse buildings on the left, more prominent when you drive from Lippiano but still impressive as you wind your way along the Aggia valley. The two church towers are also distinct features as you approach the town through the woods.

As you arrive, the small, arched town gate greets you, protected on all sides by the dominant walls. Through this gate are hints of the narrow, twisting steps that populate MSMT, enabling both visitors and residents to negotiate the narrow streets. A second gate on the left and the castellated roof of the palazzo inside are further indications of the riches that await hidden behind the town’s walls.



While MSMT is assuredly the site of an ancient Etruscan trading village with the Umbri, its gradual development led to the building of the town’s wall around the 9th century. It uniquely remains an independent state in the region despite many wars, sieges and claims on its title, it was not until Italy’s unification in 1859 that MSMT lost its independence.

Bourbon_del_monte_santa_mariaIt is still renowned as one of the last places in Europe where it was legal to hold a duel to the death and during the Second World War, as the Nazis withdrew from the area, it’s prominent position meant it experienced another hard fought battle for survival.

Now a quiet sentinel, MSMT casts its glance down on the valleys below and steadies itself for the next invasion of people for the fabulous Autumn Harvest that is held in October each year. MSMT is a place that has a distinctive shape you cannot mistake when touring the Upper Tiber Valley but is most definitely somewhere you should visit.