From a Castle on a Mountain Flows a Fertile Dream

About 20 miles east of Florence, the landscape is a spectacular 360 degree vista of vineyards, olive orchards, and farms. I saw it first two years ago, and I wanted to see it again.

Waking Dream

abstract landscape painting red
Fertile Dream, oil on linen, 14″ x 11″ See purchase info>

Finding the Castle

I didn’t see the castle two years ago. I had no idea it even existed. On this visit we took time to have lunch in the lovely restaurant overlooking the spectacular view. It was a conversation with our server that tipped us off.

“Go to the top of the hill and take the switch-back turn and you will be at the castle where they grow all the food we serve here.”

As if the Creator had spoken, we followed instructions and sure enough there she was at the top of the mountain. Standing outside the castle I painted the view, My Side of the Mountain (below.)

See the Tuscany Retreat Paintings>

Back in the studio (in Italy), I continued developing the colors. I felt very attracted to the right side of the painting, and at one point actually folded the painting in half to see how it would look as a vertical.

That did it. I decided I had to explore this half of the painting. And so the second painting in the series began as a vertical composition.

tuscan landscape painting green
My Side of the Mountain, oil on linen, 11″ x 14″, See purchase info>

Switching from horizontal to a vertical perspective changed the way everything looked. Yet it was not until I returned to Virginia, that the warm reds and purples took the lead.

Stepping back into my Virginia studio felt like walking into another woman’s life. I suppose that’s when I actually entered the castle. There were cobwebs on everything ~ even the studio entrance!

Paintings on easels from two months prior startled me. Looking better than I recalled, I felt the urge to finish them with my deeper, enriched palette. I am struggling for words to express the differences. Perhaps the paintings speak far more clearly. See more of these paintings>

How a Dream Becomes Real Le Mas d’Ariveux

Waking up in Provence I felt as though I was dreaming. Jet lagged I’d slept ’til 6, stepped onto the balcony ~ “I must be in someone else’s life!”

Mas d'Ariveux
The garden at Mas d’Ariveux glowed, sunlight slicing between figs and olives.

The garden below beckoned with aquamarine water and quiet seclusion.

I slipped on a suit and into the pool.

Floating alone, I wondered at the magic that brought me here.

Hollyhocks bobbed their deep fuschia heads above me. Sun-drenched clouds washed the Cerulean sky with light.

Provence Oasis c2013 Dorothy Fagan
Provence Oasis, willow charcoal and alkyd wash on canvas, Order Print>

The first paintings were as dreamy and washed as lavender itself.

A good nights sleep didn’t make my trek to the lavender fields any less dream-like. Expecting vibrant purple filled fields ~ instead I discovered internet photos over saturated. A little past peak, like myself, lavender felt delicate and light.

The fragrance too, wafted in and out of awareness. Like the dream, illusive and uncertain.

Hollyhocks Dream, watercolor
Hollyhock Dreams, watercolor, Order Print>

After 35 years of painting with opaque mediums, Provence inspired my first works in watercolor. ¬†I opted for a pack of postcards and thin washes of paint when the sun proved to be just too hot to paint at the easel with oil paint. Sitting instead at a cafe table waiting for lunch to be served, I stuck the brush in a vase of water and began what was to become my “new direction.”

Respite, c2013 Dorothy Fagan
Respite, willow charcoal and oil wash on canvas, Order Print>

Later in my residency, I began experimenting with washes of oil paint thinned with turpentine. I picked up some willow charcoal and drew back into the wet paint, fusing the two media. By the end of my six week stay, things were feeling a bit more solid.

Lavender Dream, c2013 Dorothy Fagan
Lavender Dream, willow charcoal, pastel, alkyd wash.

As I added pastels to the mixture of media, the paintings took on a more robust appearance. Controlling the new palette became difficult and winter gave me a time to dial back a few notches and work with earth tones.

The Lavender Farm, oil on canvas c2014 Dorothy fagan
The Lavender Farm, oil on canvas

Painting over top of the winter version, I lit into the palette with fresh spring colors the following spring. It sat for awhile in a half-way state, waiting for me to catch up and wrap my head around all the changes.

The Lavender Farm, oil on canvas c2017 Dorothy fagan
Le Mas d’Ariveux, The Lavender Farm, oil and willow charcoal on canvas, Order Print>

I wouldn’t have known that this painting was part of this collection at all, had it not been for a friend who came by the studio and pulled it out of my stack.

Of course when a painting gets pulled out and put near my easel it gets re-evaluated by my overly critical eye. And that’s exactly how this one got finished one last time. One or two last colours ~ well, I like it much better now.

C’est la vie!