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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Il Castagno de Becattini

Breakfast on the veranda turned into a painting lesson. Play of light and shadow on a naples Yellow stucco wall created a warm backdrop for sunlit umbrella and table. Purple in the shadows gives yellow a complimentary punch. This oil is only 5 x 7 inches, making it easy to see the abstract shapes. Less is more.

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Loro Ciuffenna ~ Inspiration for Abstract Paintings

How to paint this beautiful Etruscan village called Loro Ciuffenna?

A fourth century village wowed us with her vibrant Vermillion, Naples Yellow and earth toned stone. Archways framed stunning colors. Rosa stucco with verdigris shutters juxtaposed the Cerulian sky.

Loro Cuifenna

Loro Ciuffenna

Limonata and limeade refresher  at Le Bella Piazza…

Loro Ciuffenna

Narrow stone streets led us through a maze of ancient structures. Explorers, we discovered a myriad of doorways, windows and passages ~ each with distinctive texture, color and light play.

Loro Ciuffenna
Stone bridges span the deep gorge and torrent  that gives the town its name, Ciuffenna. Loro is from ancient Latin for bay tree. Houses along the gorge are inhabited by young families. Bright flowers and colorful laundry hang from windows, dinner on balconies.


Hanging balconies and cat walks cascade down into the gorge.

Loro Ciuffenna

Love, love, L O V E the chartreuse bicycle against the old stone and iron railing. What would an abstract thumbnail of this look like???

Loro Ciuffenna Loro Ciuffenna

No two doorways the same,  I must have photographed dozens. This one in particular is striking for it’s play of neutral tones, warm and cool. With two tubes of Gamblin Torret Gray, one green/blue gray and one warm yellow gray, I have been experimenting. Will post some in the next few days.


Loro Ciuffenna

Loro Ciuffenna