Tag Archives: watercolor

Soup Bowls, Rocks and Piece of Broccoli -Painting with Imagination


The Bosco di Querce – watercolor and ink , 81 cm x 26 cm  (For Sale)

Following on from the painting of the Olive Grove, this one is entitled Old Oak Trees. It’s the second in the series, taking inspiration from the Medieval book of trees, it features elements of an imaginary ancient landscape.

St David of Wales

When I thought of a cluster of oak trees, naturally, my mind went to the Celtic legends, tales of dragons, druids and secret places. So, this long painting is filled with a series of old, gnarled oaks and a tor with a stone monument on top.

Making a landscapes


Table top monument

Whereas the olive grove painting was of trees in my local area of Italy, the oak trees were completely invented. To do this I used an old artist’s trick, making an artificial landscape out of bits of broccoli, some stones and an upturned soup bowl. Perfect!


Creating myths

This formed the basis of the painting, along with the usual stylistic elements from the 13th century masters, their hills, rocky ledges and fields. The particular way in which they painted the trees and sky finishes the composition.
To complete the scene we could add suitable names. The road leading to the stream is Via Sant’Agnese or St Agnes Street. Some of the stones came from the River Aggia, the others are ballast from the railway, (the ferrovia or the iron way). Put all of this together and you can create a myth of epic proportions.
The Bosco di Querce, follow the Iron Way, past the Stones of Aggia and up the Tor of St Agnes.” All from some broccoli, a few stones and a bowl.


The Old Olive Tree


The Old Olive Tree – Watercolour and ink, 40 cm x 22 cm (For Sale)

After completing the Medieval Tree Book, I decided that I’d had fun painting them but wanted larger paintings of trees. More complete landscapes, so here is the first of the woods, forests and groves collection. It is intended that these have a group tree themes within a fantasy landscape.

olivetreeThe first, the Old Olive Tree, came out of an old tree I spotted in Citta di Castello. An impressive, 25 foot tall tree, old and weathered, it seemed the perfect centre piece to an olive grove painting. The rest of the painting is made up of other, similarly twisted and gnarled trees with the background comprised of similar trees in the distant.

The hills in the beyond are a combination of hills in Lorenzetti’s landscape the “Allegory of Good and Bad Governance” and the skyline outside of my kitchen door.

So next look out for stone circles, scarecrows and rocky outcrops populated with lots of trees.

Painting Course in Umbria

Recently, I had the joy of running a painting course in Umbria for a group of visiting artists whose tutor had been injured days prior to leaving. It was a great opportunity to meet new people, get outside and paint and impart some of my own particular thoughts on painting.

IMG_20190322_100413[1]Painting outdoors

The event was organised by the Civitella Ranieri Foundation and was based in the fabulous, 15th century castle near Umbertide.   This location is perfect for artists, perched high above the old town with expansive views of the Umbrian countryside.

This time of year the weather is somewhat unpredictable so we had studio based exercises on the cloudy, windy days and trips out, painting au plein air on the sunnier days.  Here, high above the Asino Valley, we spent our time capturing the hills, woods and fields before us. A couple of days later we followed this with a drive into the beautiful hill town of Montone, where the students painted the buildings of the town.

Art in Umbria

IMG_20190326_151042[1]The highlight of the week, for me, was visiting the Archeologia Arborea just outside of Citta di Castello. This is a tree museum, where they care for over 400 native fruit trees, grape vines and wild flowers. It’s a lovely peaceful place to sit and paint but sadly the weather was against us on the day we were there. Despite this, it was a thoroughly enjoyable trip with Isabella, the owner, explaining the history and importance of the orchard.

All in all the week proved to be an inspirational success for everyone, with students picking up new skills and experiences along with unforgettable memories of the Umbrian countryside.

If you are interested in a painting course or guided au plein air trip to study the landscape of central Italy, please drop me a line at travellingcontent@gmail.com  🙂

The Medieval Greenhouse of Eden


Greenhouse of Eden 35 cm x 35cm

The Medieval Greenhouse of Eden plays on the same ideas as the other room paintings in this series. It uses a 13th century style, with its weird perspective and limited palette to create a modern image in a Medieval way.

It takes inspiration from my neighbour’s banana tree, the florist over the road and the tall umbrella pines that populate the nearby park.


Medieval Garden

The facade is drawn as a front-on elevation linked to multiple vanishing DSCN7344points throughout the painting. The idea is that viewers are forced to use other depth cues in order to create a three-dimensional view. This ultimately gives the painting a topsy turvy feel.

Strange perspective

Blurring of the images behind the glass windows, overlapping, size difference and aerial perspective all give depth and three-dimensions to the painting. The blue sky and verdant green background, orange ochre tiles and red pots create a spacial effect and make the conservatory stand out.


Like an M. C. Escher etching, the viewer believes and disbelieves in the same breathe. You can see the depth in one moment and then are unable to the next. This is how one-eyed people see the world, through a series of snapshots that on occasion don’t add up but then with a twist of the head, all make sense again.



13th Century Cigarette Lighter


Cigarette lighter

If in the 13th century Ismail al Jazari had had the opportunity to design a cigarette lighter, I feel sure his painting would have looked something like this.

He would have incorporated a sealed pot to hold the gas and somehow tied down a piece of flint. There would have been a cog that when turned could adjust the height of the flame and the whole mechanism would have been put in a decorative box.

As with the previous machines, I’ve used the phonetic alphabet to give the painting an air of mysticism. The strange symbols and the addition of the mathematical formula for a burning match gives it a real sense of this being a scientific document.

Prints, postcards and mugs of this fascinating Medieval Lighter are available from my on-line shop.

The Modern Medieval


Carrying on from the modern landscapes in a Medieval or International Gothic style and the contemporary saint avatars, I have started a series of medieval instruction manuals.

I discovered the 12th century, Arabian polymath, artist/inventor, Ismail al Jazari’s works and have taken them as a starting point. Al Jazari produced a manuscript book detailing 100 different machines that people could make. These included fountains, clocks and musical machines.

Ancient manuscript

Using the format and devices Jazari created I am producing drawings of modern appliances in his medieval style. This includes strange spiky cogs, flaming furnaces and water wheels, all linked up to power and operate my machines.

Al Jazari machine

Al Jazari’s Manuscript

Al Jazari’s designs also contain Arabic lettering and symbols to explain the working of his creations. Not speaking Arabic and not wishing to write complete nonsense I decided to use the phonetic alphabet to annotate my drawings. This gives it a mysterious feel but is also legible if you know how pronunciation is written.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the first design is a coffee machine. Obviously water flows from the tank on the right, into the boiler and is pumped up into the filter from where coffee drips into the cup. If you have any ideas that you’d like me to try out please add to the comments section. 🙂

Prints, postcards and mugs are available of the wonderful Coffee Machine from my on-line shop.



Saint Emygdius – The Saint of Rock and Roll

Saint Emygdius

St Emygdius

Continuing with the modern emoji saints, here we have St Emygdius. Born in Treves, Germany, he converted to Christianity and made his way to Rome. On route he performed a number of miracles and cured the sick, as a result the pope made him a bishop and packed him off to Ascoli Piceno.

When Emygdius arrived the governor, Polymius, offered his daughter’s hand in marriage and tried to get him to worship Jupiter. Instead Emygdius converted her to Christianity, incurring the governor’s anger, who then had him beheaded. St Emygdius simply picked up his head and walked off into the hills, where his followers built an oratory.

When, in 1703, Ascoli Piceno was spared destruction during an earthquake, people put it down to the hand of Saint Emygdius. He has ever since been invoked against the effects of earthquakes and is always shown holding up a  crumbling building while dressed in his episcopal robes.

Other saints in this series – St David, St George, St Andrew, St Patrick , St Michael and St Francis