3 Doorways to the Tuscan Lifestyle ~ Tuscan Retreat

A Question is like a doorway. Opening a question changes everything.

My Retreat in Tuscany did this. The question I opened was “how to absorb the Tuscan Lifestyle into my life and artistry?”

Three doorway paintings explore this idea.

verdigris door painting dorothy fagan
Verdigris Door, oil, 10″ x 10″

Doorway #1 ~ Verdigris Door

In Verdigris Door, I was initially fascinated with the iron scroll work above the door. My first study was this oil wash and line drawing. You can see how my focus shifted from the detail scroll in the study below to color, light and shadow in the finished painting above.

Tuscan doorways
Scroll Door, wash and line drawing, 5″ x 7″
Tuscan doorways
Verdigris Doorway oil study, 8″ x 6″

#2 ~ Vermilion Doorway

Struck by the wonderful vermilion color, I tried several times to paint it. This version where the color is framed by an open archway, seemed a way of playing with the color without letting it dominate everything.

Three arched doorways, one to the right, the next front and center, and a third through the passage ~ lead us through the painting. A slice of sky opens light on the tower, street, and the next doorway.

Like a dream, I wonder what it means? Just writing the question, I see how this painting is open doorways, while the door in the first paintings were closed.

The quest of my Tuscan retreat did open me ~ connecting heart and mind in a gentle, compassionate way.

Vermilion Doorway Dorothy Fagan
Vermilion Doorway, oil on cradled wood panel, 10″ x 8″

The figure gives scale to the doorway, small in relation to a larger structure. A silhouette suggests questions. Who? An aspect of myself? Someone ancient? Or a new way of seeing myself?

Experiencing the Tuscany lifestyle, exploring slowly, letting the colors, flavors, and laughter seep in DID give me a deeper appreciation of life. I feel amazed and privileged to be here. Every moment of every day is precious and colorful. You can see this reflected in these paintings.

Loro Cuifenna
Loro Cuifenna village

This photo of Jim was my inspiration for the painting. There is nothing extraordinary about the photo. It looks like any tourist photo, poorly lit with the person looking the other way.

And yet … Jim standing in the doorway was an invitation to explore something hidden inside myself. Looking back on it now, I can see how it sparked my dream, colors and shapes hidden inside me that I never would have seen.

Green Door Dorothy Fagan
Green Door, oil on cradled wood panel, 10″ x 8″

#3 Green Door

From the same village of Loro Cuifenna, this narrow passage called for exploration. Yes, that IS a figure down in the passageway!

At first I painted the figure distinctly. Then it seemed to feel better as I blurred the form. I thought about painting it out completely. Then reluctantly, I let the human form be suspended between the sky and earth tones of the village.

Writing this, I see myself the same way.

Tuscan doorway
Green Door, oil study, 7″ x 5″

Writing about a painting AFTER it is painted, opens another doorway. There are things we ‘know’ about ourselves innately. Playing with colors and lines is one way of exploring something inside. Jotting questions, writing a simple description of each painting, these simple journaling techniques open new understanding of the soul inside.

Another Doorway

I am taking a group on a Tuscan Retreat. Watercolor journaling like this, writing, painting, cooking, wine tasting, exploring the Tuscan Lifestyle ~ What would it look like to absorb and live it? Find out more>

Tuscan Landscape Oil & Pastel

This Tuscan landscape oil painting and pastel study is finally complete. I began the oil this past winter. Along the way, I did the pastel to help resolve several issues that came up in the painting. Coming home to pastel completed the connection between drawing and painting, head and heart.

Tuscan Landscape Oil Painting

Tuscan landscape painting
Volpaia Village, oil, 20 x 24

The pastel palette is hundreds of colors pre-mixed, laid out where I can see them. In a flash, I can grab one and thrust what ever I am feeling at the moment onto the page.

Pastel Palette Schmincke
Tray of warm tone pastels.

The oil palette has an infinite number of colors ~ waiting to be mixed! Stop and think, which color do I want? How to mix it?

After all these years of painting, how to mix it is not an issue. Yet ~ the spontaneity of pre-mixed suggestions on my pastel palette is as powerful a force as ever. I received my first set of 45 sticks when I was 12.

After graduating college I began painting in pastel exclusively. The heart connection is immediate. Holding a large chunk of pigment in hand, the wavelength touches the heart directly. No detours through the head. Emotion channeled directly onto the painting.

Spilling one’s guts is healing. Though not acceptable in society as a rule, saying exactly what is in the heart moves mountains. A piece of paper and a few pieces of raw pigment seems a safe place to let loose.

The problem I was having in the oil painting was that there were so many objects (houses, trees, lines, colors) in the painting, I got lost from what inspired me to paint it in the first place. This is a very common problem.

Instead of spinning wheels with oil paint, a small pastel study addresses the issue. Unify the palette, pull the shapes together as a unit, and return to the source of inspiration. Pray it turns out, literally!

Tuscan Vineyard Landscape

I really like the subject and composition in this Tuscan vineyard landscape. I have been working on an oil painting of this view since January. But I became attached to too many things in the painting.

Attachment is a deadly thing that kills creativity, unless it is acknowledged and used as a creative force.

Realizing I was attached to something in the painting, I set it across the room and put a clean piece of paper on the drawing table. This did two important things. It acknowledged my attachment issue AND created space to solve it.

Two main issues got solved with this Tuscan Vineyard Landscape

1 – Working with a Diagonal Composition

The first is the slanted mountain repeated twice across the painting. When working with a diagonal composition, a counter-balancing element must lead the eye back to center. Since I didn’t want to give up the hillside, I chose instead to use the vertical cypress trees to bring the eye down. And the buildings to wedge the slanted focus back to center.

Notice how the tree in the foreground anchors your eye back to the signature corner with it’s shadow.

2 – Resolving the Busy-ness

The second element is the subject matter itself. So many buildings and so many trees can get busy very quickly. In the oil painting, I became too enamored with them, and the vineyard itself.

Stopping myself from going in circles on the oil painting was a good thing. Still I was reluctant to give up  my attachment to all the details.

Switching gears, I started fresh with the small pastel. Painting from the oil painting, I blocked in the simplest shapes. The smaller scale helped me see only the most dominant shapes.

In the pastel, I attached the buildings in the middle ground together. I also moved the foreground building closer to them. This allows the viewer to see the structures more as a single unit. Do you see how the foreground trees complete the wedge shape of the buildings?

Insights for Life

As usual, solving something on canvas solves something in life. I often don’t see it until I write about it. Both of these issues do have parallels in life. I see how I have solved a slanted life issue by structuring an integrated unit of well-formed compositions. And I see something else too about mitigating busy-ness ~ but that’s a subject for another post!

I’m still transferring my new filter from the pastel to the oil painting. I’ll post it soon.