Sunday, November 25, 2007

From Tuscan Villa to Tropical Island

Watercolour 19x24cm

I used to pass this villa on my morning walk, before it got too cold and dark to get out of bed.

This is the coldest autumn we've experienced since we arrived in Tuscany. I'm starting to miss the sun.

I was looking for some cloud references in the WetCanvas image library when I found a lovely photo by Carlanna and did a quick watercolour sketch from my computer screen. My wonky dinghy was actually a rubber duckie in the photo. The sunny image really warmed me up and raised my spirits.

Watercolour 16x19cm

Speaking of high spirits. While I was painting, I was listening to the results of yesterday's Australian Federal Election. With a win for Labor my homeland now has a government with a commitment to the environment; withdrawing our troops from Iraq and encouraging racial and religious harmony. Oh, and hopefully, supporting the arts.

Now there's a lot of pressure from family and friends for HWEM to come up with a new justification for continuing to live in Italy. Actually, the dogs tell me they aren't ready to go home yet and if I'm absolutely honest, I too love it here.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Guess whose studio/cupboard has a window!

Ever since HWEM (He Who Encourages Me) purloined the annex on our terrace which had been proposed as my studio - and left me with a windowless cupboard inside - he's been feeling a tad guilty. As he should.

He decided if the 'cupboard' had a window it would become a 'room' and he wouldn't need to feel guilty. Since the window would open on to an internal staircase it wasn't exactly going to flood my world with light but I do have a great studio light. At least I'd no longer have to turn the studio light on in order to pick something up from my desk.

Since our apartment building is considerably older than I am, the window needed to be of a style sympathetic to the rest of the structure.

Now it's finished it does look rather nice but a bit like a nun's cell. I wonder if HWEM expects me to take a vow of silence.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A New Palette

I sometimes suspect I only paint because it's an excuse to buy art supplies. I was at it again in Rome earlier this year. I treated myself to a lovely little metal box of Schmincke watercolours. That was months ago and the paints were unused because I just didn't like them. Now before Schmincke starts slitting its wrists, I should mention Laura has wonderful things to say about the extend Schmincke range and the proof is in the beautiful work she has been posting recently. Anyway to my taste there were too many opaque colours in the 12 half-pan set so yesterday I took action.

I dug the paints out of a tiny Cotman by Winsor & Newton 12 half-pan box. I don't like those either but I do love Winsor & Newton's Artist Watercolours which I buy in tubes. I put the Schmincke pans in the W&N box and then filled up the empty pans from W&N tubes. Now I have the tin I love with the paints I love!

The inspiration for my new palette came from Australian artist John Lovett who has a fantastic website with lots of inspiring tips. I love his watercolours. JL recommends a basic palette of Indian Yellow or Quin Yellow, Raw Sienna, Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Sienna, Phthalo Blue and Ultramarine Blue. In addition he sometimes uses Cobalt Blue, Indigo and Permanent Rose or Rose Madder. Since I still had some spare slots in my tin I couldn't resist adding Smalt (a gift from Marta), Brown Madder, Cobalt Turquoise Light, Perylene Green and, because I love them so much, Green Gold and Stil de Grain Bruno from MaimeriBlu. So I now have a total of 15 colours in a very portable little tin. Over time I'll discover which of them earn their keep because I have so many other beautiful colours waiting to get into the tin. So much for my resolve to apply the discipline of a limited palette.

Since I've been spending (wasting?) such a lot of time playing with palettes I don't have much to show for my efforts this week. I do have another excuse but that is the subject of a future post.

The tree was painted at last week's watercolour class.

The street (below) is a disasterous attempt at mixed media - watercolour, pastel pencils, white guache and brown ink. I've ordered some 10 minute DVDs from John Lovett, so I'm hoping to do better down the track.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Craving Colour

San Nicolo - Cortona 24x32cm CP watercolour

San Nicolo is a lovely little church rather a steep walk up through the streets of Cortona. I took a photograph about a year ago and used that as a reference for this watercolour. I'm getting increasingly frustrated with photo references and realise no matter how quick and rough a sketch you make, there is a chance of a better result simply because the sketch will alert an inexperienced artist (like myseslf) to problems not immediately apparent in a photograph. The photograph is then really a great secondary resource.

In watercolour class I've been working a lot with subdued colour and different approaches to texture. Today I realised I had a craving for colour. Below is the result - same subject with watercolour, oil pastel, charcoal and pen. A bit like polishing off a whole bar of chocolate ;)

Mixed media on Cotman CP

Monday, November 05, 2007

Autumn in Tuscany

Watercolour HP paper

There is no surer sign that autumn is here than when the persimmons ripen. The Tuscan countryside is a riot of warm colours but I always find the gold of the persimmons the most beautiful and most elusive. When the autumn palette has faded and fallen, this gorgeous fruit clings to the trees right into the winter. A persimmon tree in the snow is an unbelievable sight.

I painted this one in a small hand bound sketchbook made and presented to me by Marta when we met in Florence. I've finally christened it, Marta and thank you the paper is beautiful!

Still experimenting with watercolour on gessoed paper. Not as pleased with the persimmon below as I was with my first attempt in the previous post.

Watercolour on gesso

We've been painting autumn landscapes in watercolour class. I needed help from Gabriele to get our distant hilltop town right.

24 x 32cm Canson Fontenay CP 140lbs

The other sign that autumn has taken hold is the difficulty in getting enough colour temperature to photograph paintings in natural light. The greens and yellows are more vivid in the original. Before you suggest it, I've never had any luck scanning watercolours.
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