Sunday, September 30, 2007

More Walking and Sketching

I slept in this morning. No motivation to walk. After we took the dogs up to the bar for coffee and pastry, it had turned into a beautiful day so, better late than never, I headed into the hills. I'd been up this particular road many times looking for a little white church I'd been told was in a beautiful location. Each time I've turned back without finding it.

This morning I trudged on. The Val di Chio is dotted with lovely villas. I could have stopped anywhere to paint.

The little country road curled on through a paese (little villiage) and continued on uphill. Finally I came upon an olive grove more manicured than usual and then I head the bells.

A bit further on I finally found the church.

Madonna del Bagno

Rather grand for this quiet spot among the hills but much loved judging by the number of cars departing from morning mass. Soon I had the whole place to myself so I lit a candle for world peace. Mightn't do any good but I figured it wouldn't do any harm. As I left I was feeling pretty peaceful myself.

A little further down the road I found a beautiful view through the olive trees of our hill-top town and settled down to make a quick watercolour sketch. No, I'm not going to post a photo reference, I'd be too embarrassed. I didn't think much of my effort at all but it was my first attempt at painting a landscape without first sketching with pen or pencil. Less impressed with the performance of my waterbrush today. I think I'll take proper brushes and water next time. It was all a bit wishy washy in the end. But I liked it more when I got home and didn't have to compare it with the view.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Images from a Tuscan Landscape

Haystacks - Large Moleskine Watercolour sketchbook

You can still sometimes see old fashioned haystacks in the Tuscan countryside though it is more likely to be big machine-made rolls of hay. My watercolour teacher, Gabriele is very fond of the old style and has painted them many times. So this is a scan of my watercolour after his watercolour which is actually after one of his oil paintings of haystacks in the snow. Monet I am not!

Gabriele also decided I should learn to sketch the beautiful white Chianina cattle. When he was boy they pulled the plough and the wagon. Today, sadly, they are bred for their famous beef.

Caran d'Ache Technalo water-soluble pencil

If you are lucky there's still an opportunity to get close to these beautiful animals during Medieval parades. These two passed right by my front door. Which reminds me that I must one day post about all the strange and wonderful sights that pass by my front door.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Walking and Sketching

W&N Watercolour Sketchbook 10 x 7"

Most mornings I try to roll out of bed around seven and head off into the Tuscan countryside for a walk. These Autumn mornings are the best time of year here. The other day I finally took my sketchbook and made a quick study of this old aqueduct. The watercolour was added later.

Katheryn Tyrrell of Making a Mark has been blogging about Gardens in Art for the past few weeks. Today she has a wonderful post on Monet. I've been dying to join in but I find masses of foliage really challenging. Hopefully little exercises like the one above, might eventually lead to a garden painting. I am happy with play of light.

There are also lovely views of our hilltop town along my wallk. Something else to tackle in the future.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Watercolour Class Update

Moleskine Watercolour Sketchbook

My watercolour teacher does a demonstration for me at the beginning of each class and then I attempt my version of the picture. Gabriele paints most of his own pictures en plein air. Once painted he is able to recall it, so his demonstrations are all from memory/imagination.

There are thousands of little shrines dotted all over Italy and you come across them in the most remote and unexpected places. Almost always, someone has recently left an offering of flowers. Gabriele chose this one to give me some practice painting stone walls.

I am hopeless at painting in class, stage-fright I think, so I usually have a second attempt at the subject once I get home. The little painting above is from my memory/imagination of Gabriele's memory/imagination.

Gabriele almost always puts a figure or more into his compositions. I'd never noticed that I don't. I didn't even include them when there were dozens leaning over a bridge I was trying to sketch in Venice! So now I'm learning to paint little people as well.

Friday, September 21, 2007

After John Singer Sargent

After JSS Campo dei Gesuiti (Venice) watercolour 26 x 36cm
Original painting 1902-1904 is 35 x 50cm (Private collection)

This is my second attempt to copy a John Singer Sargent watercolour, the first some time ago, I think was more successful.

The Sargent and Venice exhibition I saw earlier this month was inspiring. It would have been wonderful to paint in the gallery which I had pretty much to myself, being on the tale-end of the exhibition. Unfortunately not enough time.

It isn't until I try to copy Sargent that I realise how deceptive is the simplicity of his watercolours. This palette is quite simple but the values are very hard to get. I will attempt this picture again, taking a little more care with my vertical lines and proportions. Next I will try this palette with one of my Venice photographs.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sketching Frenzy

Watercolour thumbnail from photo reference

I won't bore you will all the quick sketches I've done today, suffice it to say I was in a sketching frenzy. I'm so excited to finally have a teacher and so depressed that I haven't focussed enough before on quick sketches from life. So after a few more thumbnails with various media this morning, I headed out to tackle some quick sketches before the weather turned sour.

Charcoal pencil & water

The challenge here was to sketch in minutes rather than my usual hours. Raindrops all over the cheap sketch pad spurred me on. This is the first time I've mixed charcoal with water and I rather like it.

On the way home the sun came out so I stopped at the San Francesco church and tried my Pental waterbrush with watercolours. I was amazed how well it worked just wiping the brush on a paper towel between colours.

10" x 7" Cotman CP 140lb paper
fineline uni pen and watercolour wash

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Watercolour Teacher at Last!

Thumbnail - fountain pen and brown ink

Thumbnail - black watercolour pencil

With the help of our Italian neighbours, yes, the ones who feed Dermott because he sits on their cisterna slobbering, I have finally found a watercolour teacher. Yowza! His name is Gabriele and he's a delightful man who has a passion for painting spaventapasseri (scarecrows) and makes wonderful pen and ink caricatures and political cartoons.

I carted a modest selection of my watercolours along to our first meeting. He looked at a couple of them and put them aside. That's when I knew I'd be starting from the beginning. He started sketching tiny monochrome Tuscan landscapes - beautiful. Then he handed the brush to me and I froze. That's when he took me for a walk in his orto (vegetable garden), where he fed me bunches of grapes oozing with sugar and ordered me to stand clear while he shook ripe peaches out of a tree for me. I was sent home with a bag of fresh green radicchio and instructions on exactly how to shred it and soak it to remove the bitterness before dressing it with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I have a lot to learn.

I have another lesson in a week's time. I think when I'm up to scratch with these little pen and wash or watercolour thumbnails, I will be set loose in the Tuscany landscape. It could take a while, judging from my first efforts (above).

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Venice Door, Take Two

Watercolour 7" x 10" /Cartiera Magnani HP Portofino

I think this is better than my first effort but not close to what I was hoping to achieve. I want these Venice paintings to be looser than my usual efforts and I'm really struggling against too much detail. While these narrow canals deliver beautiful reflections they are usually devoid of dramatic shadows.

Next step, I think, is to attempt to copy some of John Singer Sargent's watercolours , before I come back to my own images.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Venice Door

Watercolour 10 x 7 in Cotman CP Not

I'm struggling to find my Venice palette. This is much too warm and cheerful for my taste. I think I'm a bit closer with the water.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sargent and Venice

Pen & Watercolour Pencil large Moleskine sketchbook

I've just had a couple of magical days in Venice wining and dining with Margaret and David and enjoying a feast of art. I couldn't believe my luck when I discovered the Sargent and Venice exhibition had been extended into September. A couple of hours with John Singer Sargent's inspiring watercolours was such an education. The next day, looking for a quiet spot to sketch I stumbled upon an Albrecht Durer print exhibition which was a rare treat too. I desperately wanted to sketch the cloister at the Museo Diocesano which was the venue for Durer but I had a train to catch and they don't allow photographs. Finally an exhibition Artempo: Where Time Becomes Art at the Palazzo Fortuny was an the opportunity to see the amazing Veiled Lady 'Purity' by Antonio Corradini.

And sketching in Venice? Not very productive I'm afraid. I should have heeded Katherine's advice on sketching en plein air and realised that the friendly early morning sunlight was going to turn into a blazing torch before I'd finished my drawing. I had to complete it at home.

I 'd carted watercolours and paper along with my pencils and pens in my sketching stool/bag on my back, but such were the crowds and other temptations I didn't get to use them. I did manage some photographic references that I hope to make into paintings in the next couple of weeks.

Venice is even more special now I see her through the eyes of Sargent, Turner and Whistler and the thousands upon thousands of dreamers like myself who stand clutching a sketchbook, awestruck by her beauty.
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