Doorways ~ Portals to Inspiration

No two doorways the same! On a whim,  I photographed a few doorways in Loro Ciufenna. More appeared in Cortona, and still more in Volterra. Yesterday I stayed home and painted doorways!


Rosa Porta, oil, 5 x 7

Quickly I discovered myself painting color fields. These simple compositions, though small 5 x 7 inch panels, inspired me to paint bold color and simple design shapes.

I began with Rosa Porta because it’s vibrant vermillion pinks and horizontal design stuck in my mind since 5 days ago when I photographed it in Loro Cuiffenna. What seemed like a simple painting ~ paint the wall pink and the door brown ~ turned into so much more!

I discovered myself playing with color; Alizarin Crimson with a touch of Lemon Yellow, add a bit of Cadmium Red light to warm it up, then a swatch of Indian Yellow transparent over the pink. I mixed Alizarin Crimson with Violet Gray to paint the door, and Violet Gray with a touch of Ultramarine for the deep tone of the interior. Both of these reddish violets make the wall ever more vibrant.

The point is that color is relative. How it appears depends on what is beside it. A complex color statement in a tiny painting.

Porta il Verderame, oil, 7 x 5

Inspired I selected the opposite side of the spectrum for my second painting. I love the Tuscan palette when all shades of verdigris compliment warm sunny shades of terra cotta.

This one I sketched out the shapes lightly with willow charcoal. On the first one my exuberance expanded the shapes off the canvas, and I had to pull them back in at the finish. This time I wanted to hold the design a little more in form.

I am using Gamblin Solvent Free Gel as my medium. It is new to me as I purchased it for this trip, though similar to Gamblin Neo-Megelp which I regularly use.  A soft gel, it brushes on easily without running. It holds soft brush strokes, not rigid ones. In this painting the door is transparently painted, with my gesso brush strokes showing through.

Porto Rossa, 7 x 5, oil

Excited by the first two, I substituted Red Vermillion on the third painting. My inspiration source was the verdigris door with the fan shaped grill work. The specific building was not red, as were others in town. In this painting I brought the two together to make my color statement.

Cadmium Red Light with lots of medium on a white panel will make an opaque pigment transparent. That’s why it looks so vibrant. Also it is contrasted by the cooler Alizarin Crimson red in the two squares on either side of the doorway. This anchors the wall and the doorway, which is Phthalo Green mixed with Violet Gray (Holbein).

The same gray is mixed with a touch of Ultramarine for the shadows and cobble stones. Linear details are willow charcoal. I like the way the tiny stick of willow charcoal carves lines in the paint, just enough texture to contrast the transparent brush strokes.

Blue Window, oil, 7 x 5

Inspiration for The Blue Window was the color of the shutters in contrast to the crumbling wall. I also like the tree against the white wall. While I began with a photograph, the painting didn’t really take off until I forgot about the photo and just painted. It’s always amazing to me that there is more information ~ colors, shapes, play ~ in me that comes out when I let the photo go.

Porta il Gelato, oil, 5 x 7

More of a story painting, Porta il Gelato began as a color field painting. I was attracted to the lime green interior of the building. Jim and Chincia walked in to order gelato ~ our third day in a row! I stepped back to make the photo and then saw the stones as pink. This color play of lime green against pink was the jumping off point for this painting.

Once I blocked in the pink and green shapes, I had a lot of fun playing with the tiny details in the painting. The linear details are created with watercolor pencil drawn into wet oil paint.  My textured white gesso brush strokes show through both the paint and drawing.

Porto Rotolo, 7 x 5, oil

Porto Rotolo’s inspiration was the scroll work above this teal colored doorway.  I kept the shadows light by using Violet Gray. Only sun lit the teal door’s color fully. Watercolor pencil is deep red, creating a shadowed rusty iron look to the details.

What would this painting look like if the pencil lines had been black instead?

Small Paintings Shipped from Tuscany

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Abstract Architecture ~ Loro Cuiffena

abstract architecture
Villa Vermillion, 7 x 14, oil

Muse Chincia’s impact overflowed into brilliant color. Street scenes abstract colors, gritty textures juxtaposed flowed eagerly onto two canvas panels.

Villa Vermillion, a house down the street from our apartment in Poggio Alla Croce, had been haunting me since we arrived a week ago. Finally getting it on canvas felt wonderful. I can’t wait to paint it again from another view.

Tenda Gialla (The Yellow Curtain), oil, 14 x 11

Tenda Gialla (The Yellow Curtain) countered with the cooler end of the  Tuscan palette. While my inspiration was a bright yellow curtain blowing out the upper window, stucco walls of yellow create a curtain of their own. I love the slice of blue sky peeking between them!

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A Muse in Tuscany ~ Plein Air Painting

Plein Air Painting ~ View of Figline Valdarno

oil painting tuscany
Olive Grove, plein air oil, 5 x 7

The first muse accompanied me to the balcony overlooking Fignine Valdarno to paint.  She wanted to watch me paint!

How do you start? she wanted to know. I showed her how I create a little thumbnail painting ~ an abstraction of color shapes ~ to establish the central theme and composition.

Plein air painting, particularly with an expansive panorama like this one, it is so easy to lose yourself in the details. In this view, my heart was in the villa in the foreground. The landscape around it created such a lovley heart shape. That is where I began with the 5 x 7 oil paining above.

oil painting Tuscany
Figline Valdarno, oil, 16 x 20

As I painted a local gentleman stopped by to see what I was doing. Speaking only Italian, and I only English, I quickly returned to my easel. Not so with the Muse.

Chincia (the first muse) had a lengthy and complex conversation with the Italian gentleman ~ right at my elbow! I didn’t understand much of what they were talking about. She was using Google Translate to decipher his Italian, and to help him understand her.

Their game of words infected my game of colors and shapes. Their play came alive in my landscape. Wiggly brush strokes, fun colors danced on my canvas.

Unsure of the new feelings, I urged them away from my easel. From the top of the hill, I could still hear their banter. I grabbed the willow charcoal and pulled a few details out in the foreground. Stepping back ~ I rather like the fun look!

I picked up my thumbnail study and finished it’s details with the same whimsy, afraid that it might all go poouf with the muse’s departure! Capture it now while the spirit moves me.

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