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Tag Archives: watercolor
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
“Highlighted against the storm brushed horizon the windmill groaned. Its sails idly turning as the early evening sky began to bruise. From the depths inside came the groans and grinding of a dank, dark place, heavy with gloom. The flapping of the clean clothes, whip-like, as they cracked out their punishment. Yes! it’s wash day again. “
I’ve always loved the way the Gothic painters, woodcut artists and print-makers portrayed windmills. Strange boxes, mounted on legs or humps with crazy, spindly sails, twisting and turning in the breeze.
So when it came to the next in the Medieval rooms series I thought a windmill would make the perfect laundry room. Noisy places, vibrating machinery, canvases flapping in the wind and a sense of foreboding, well perhaps that’s just my laundry room.
Furnishing the windmill
The idea for the furnishings of the windmill came straight out of the Ikea catalogue. The washing machine, linen basket, laundry bag and shelves are all products from the Swedish company.
I also liked the idea of including a chain mail shirt and a Boudica-esque bra with copper finish and swirls. The whirligig behind, with its washing reflects the mill, turning, spinning and drying the clothes.
Instead of the gold leaf effect background, I have opted for in previous paintings, I chose an alternative deep, Prussian blue sky, tinged with a hint of black.
Nowadays the use of black and white in watercolour painting is somewhat frowned upon but in the International Gothic period it was a perfectly acceptable practice.
This technique is how the painters of the past created depth, shadows and highlights. While their attempts may look clumsy and simplistic there is also an element of sophisticated understanding that gradually develops into the Renaissance period.
The Gothic Kitchen has all the mod-cons necessary for today’s life but drawn in a 14th century style. The stove and work surface/ sink are completely flat but given depth through the use of shape and colour. The fridge is drawn at a crazy angle, typical of the time and has a very bulky feel to it, again the perspective is deliberately drawn as if for the High Gothic period.
The floor level is raised at an unrealistic angle but the accurate depiction of perspective in the tiles adds dimension to the room. It features a cooker hood in the manner of Medieval kitchen’s but then has a modern electric light fitting hanging from the ceiling. The cooker is also modern, white, clean and has an old style pot boiling on top of what looks like a wooden fire.
The building, having all the elements of a 14th century house wouldn’t look out of place with a seated Madonna and an angel inside. The background as is often shown in religious panels of the time, is painted in gold acrylic, giving it a reverential feel.
This time I explored the Medieval bathroom, complete with contemporary fixtures and fittings. IKEA don’t make baths and shower units so I had to look elsewhere for a modern tub. However, the shower curtain, the basket and the toothbrush glass all come from the Swedish furnishers.
Painting the old and new
Again the painting has a typical 14th century palette and I’ve got some gold acrylic paint to replicate the gold leaf commonly found in Medieval manuscripts. These pictures have the feel, colour and style of the original artworks but with the fun inclusion of electric sockets and brass taps. All fitted into impossible spaces, at weird and wonderful angles, just like the International Gothic artists did.
When planning this series it suddenly came to me that IKEA are an excellent choice for the furnishings. Their designs are clean and simple but most of all they are a world renowned brand, instantly recognisable and easy to identify with. Giving their products a Medieval spin but still making them obviously IKEAesque.
Imagining how past things might have been portrayed in a modern light has always interested me. As with images, the same applies to music. Today, would the group Buggles have written YouTube killed the MTV star, instead of the long dead video killing the radio star. Blondie’s classic “Call me!”, most likely would be “Text me!” while Joni Mitchell hails an Uber cab instead of her Big Yellow Taxi. Next up, a kitchen I think.
I’ve always loved the works of the International Gothic period. A time when conventions were being broken and new techniques explored. Artists in this era were busy exploring ways to represent three dimensions, trying out different ways of painting trees and attempting to understand the nature of water.
The thought behind this current crop of works is to take the idea of these magnificent rooms and fill them with modern furniture. I found it amusing
playing with how someone like Simone Martini might paint a modern IKEA chair or see how his bed spreads would look on a Hemnes bed.
Using a typical palette of the day and acrylic gold paint gives these watercolours a wonderful sense of a Medieval artist’s take on the modern world. Living in Italy it’s not difficult to find 700 year old buildings so the only garish thing is to fill their ancient rooms with cheap, modern furniture. This I’m sure happens all over the country, not everyone can afford or will like antique furnishings.
The aim is to continue in this way, creating bathrooms, sitting rooms, kitchens and dining rooms, all featuring IKEA furniture within a medieval surrounding. Each will have bold, bright colours and dark or golden backgrounds, giving them a dramatic effect. Obviously if people want their own lounges recreated in a period fashion, I’d happily look at that too.
Fingers crossed for a fun time. 🙂
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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.
Views 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 email@example.com