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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂
Medieval Study – watercolour & ink – 23cm x 29cm (For Sale)
The Medieval Study continues the collection of watercolour paintings in a 13th century style with furniture from the IKEA catalogue. It looks at the modern world from the viewpoint of a medieval artist and interprets how they might have painted life in the 21st century.
The room features a castellated doorway with a circular, stone window above. The study itself contains a writing desk, children’s table and chair and a storage unit and there are also medieval instruments and a chart of symbols on the wall. All give the room a feel of studious activity.
The depth perception created using typical techniques of the period and uses multiple one-point perspectives, strange lines and weird angles. the floor runs off in one direction, while the furniture in another. The colour pallet also is of the period and the addition of acrylic gold paint re-creates a gold leaf effect.
Other Medieval rooms include library, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom.
St Cosmas & St Damian
The two brothers, Cosmas and Damian came from Arabia. They were Christian physicians who freely administered care and relief to the sick of the area until their martyrdom in Syria, in 287 AD.
When arrested and tortured they proved pretty indestructible, surviving hanging, crucifixion, stoning and being shot at with arrows. Still they refused to recant their beliefs, so the Prefect of Cilicia ordered the pair beheaded.
The brothers are most often depicted together surrounded by medical paraphernalia. Due to their healing skills they have been adopted by physicians, doctors, surgeons, dentist and veterinarians as their patron saints. St Cosmas is usually associated with physicians and is depicted holding a pestle and mortal, while St Damian is normally shown holding some form of remedy.
Other saints in this series – St David, St George, St Andrew, St Patrick, St Michael and St Francis
I thought the four great saints of the British and Irish isles would be a great set to paint. Each has their own idiosyncrasies, their colours, attributes and associations, all are colourful characters.
Saint David, a peaceful preacher who is pictured in full regalia, with his crozier and a dove. Being Welsh, it wouldn’t be right not to include a daffodil and a dragon. The colours reflect the red, green and white (hence the clouds) of the Welsh flag too.
George has been adopted by many countries, along with the English, Russia, Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro are all patrons of the armour wearing, spear wielding, dragon killing saint. He has also been adopted by the scouting movement, the military and syphilis sufferers.
Andrew the Apostle is another favoured saint and as well as the Scots, the people of Georgia, Malta, Cyprus, Romania and Spain are also great followers of the man. Scotland’s interest stems from the belief that relics were brought from Constantinople to St Andrews in Scotland. He was crucified on a Saltire cross and this accounts for the white cross on a blue field that makes up the Scottish flag.
Ireland’s Romano British missionary who is feted as the founder of Christianity in Ireland. He famously used the shamrock as a tool for teaching the holy trinity and is credited with driving all the snakes out of Ireland. It is also said that his old walking stick when thrust into the ground and left, grew into a tree.
The four can be bought as mugs or postcards, which would make excellent gifts for anyone interested in the saints of the British and Irish isles.
Other saints in this series include – St Francis, St Michael, St Emygdius, St Cosmas & St Damian
Posted in Painting, watercolour
Tagged Andrew, cross, David, Dewi, dove, dragon, George, Patrick, saint, Saltire, shamrock, watercolour
Ponte Rialto, Venezia – watercolour & ink. 60cm x 40cm (For Sale)
Painting in Venice
The next set of paintings sees a trip to northern Italy, to the watery city of Venice. This is a wonderful city full of magic and wonder. There are no cars on the islands and all transport is done on either the vaporetti and gondolas or you can take a traghetto across the Grand Canal and of course you can travel along the canals by foot.
Rialto Bridge, Venice
The first painting, in the set, is the famous Ponte Rialto, which has stood since 1591. A popular attraction with visitors it spans the 48 metres of the Grand Canal and has shops built into the bridge. One of only four such bridges in the world today.
Watercolor on the Grand Canal
This picture uses three different view points, from the centre of the Grand Canal, looking directly at the bridge, and on either bank to achieve the flat perspective. The feeling of depth is created by over lapping the buildings and piers as well as diminishing object size with difference.
The painting makes use of aerial perspective and dark shadow to give added depth. The idea is to show how a completely flat painting can still exhibit three dimensions and create a visual puzzle for the viewer.
Prints, postcards and mugs are available to buy from my on-line shop.
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.