Took a lovely drive this afternoon out to Volpaia. Wonderful old stone winery with high tech equipment. Chianti Classic is one of the best wines in the region — not at all what we remember from college! Lots of great painting material too!
What a great way to loosen up and have fun painting! Watercolor crayons changed my attitude about being a watercolorist. No longer concerned with making the paint do what I want it to do, I am playing with paint, water, color, and shapes.
These small watercolors were experiments. I wanted to see what would happen if I wet the paper and drew with the watercolor crayons. The soft bleedy lines are how it looks to draw on wet paper. And when a puddle accumulated, the effect was even greater.
The most important thing was that it freed me up from trying to be good and professional at watercolor! I had so much fun, I don’t care! And I was rewarded with a couple fun paintings! When I went to title this one, I suddenly recognized my old theme of Three Sisters.
This one got off to a slow start. I thought it looked to simple, until I laid in a couple strong color fields of bright yellow and the whole painting popped. Leaving the white paper show is a leap of faith for an artist who has worked in opaque mediums like oil and pastel.
How to paint a complex cathedral, or any complicated structure, building, tree, city? In contrast to the sky, the Duomo in Siena is white. I began by painting the sky shape.
When dry, I wet the white paper a little and drew the cathedral with a watercolor crayon in lavender. Lavender is a shadow color. I didn’t try to make too many details, only prominent ones.
Then I blocked in a few of the larger shadow shapes with light Ultramarine Blue. I used a lime green watercolor crayon to draw in a few highlight colors. A day later, I added another layer of Cerulean Blue to the sky to make it a deeper color and to touch a few details into the spires of the cathedral. A cerulean highlight on the circular window make the dark window appear lighter.
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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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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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