Plein Air Painting in Tuscany ~ Loro Ciuffenna

plein air painting in tuscany

Plein Air Painting in Tuscany

Abstract Cityscape in Oil

Plein air painting in Tuscany

Captivated by the red clock tower that dominates this Etruscan village and it’s colorful patchwork of villas, I just had to paint it. I love the juxtaposition of old and new. The way Loro Ciuffenna overhangs the gorge took my breath away. But where to start?

How to create a painting that captures the spirit of this magical village?

Since I had been in this village a week ago, I had time to reflect on my experience of it. Going back to capture the palette en plein air, I took with me a clear vision for my painting. I didn’t want all the information and details of the scene. I wanted only it’s essence.

When we visited a week ago, we walked the town and took photos. I painted a couple small studies at home. Today I came fully prepared to paint the abstract cityscape I envisioned.

That’s where I began ~ with my vision ~ NOT with the view of the town. This is the important part which many people don’t realize. The painting is INSIDE the artist.  I began creating my painting when I visited last week. Today I have the opportunity to complete it.

The center of my vision is the tower, all other structures are drawn in relationship to it. It’s  vertical shape anchors the composition. The buildings in front of it extend it’s vertical lines downward, completing the vertical axis of the painting. This makes the rooftops, mountains, and sky function as a horizontal elements in relation to the clock tower.

I began by blocking in the warm tones.This ties all the warm tones together ~ in my mind and on the canvas. Notice the way the warm tones cluster together.

The cool tones are opposed to the warm ones. That is, they balance the warm areas. Some are massed together. Others step into the warm areas creating a playful dance.

I am working with oil paint thinned with Gamsol Solvent Free Gel. It doesn’t run like thinner mediums, though it is not at all stiff. Using the medium helps me block in my colors quickly. This quickness helps capture how I feel ~ without thinking too much. I love the resonance of the transparent colors on my white ground, energetic and spontaneous.

The stage is important as well. Another part of my work is done long before I even arrived in Tuscany. I designed special custom painting panels which would make it easy for me to work on location.

I prepared my painting panels with 2 special gessos. The first is toned with a warm sienna color. The second is Sennelier Heavy Body White Gesso. When this heavy body gesso is brushed over the first, it creates wonderful brush stroke textures. The two tones create depth. So when I paint my thinned oils on it, they run into the deeper areas and are thinner on the peaks. This creates a wonderful vibrancy of color.

Once my warm and cool tones are blocked in, I switch to a smaller brush and develop color tones. Using heavier paint, I mix colors on the palette and on the panel. This is where the rich textures develop in contrast to thinner glazes of underpainting.

Adding details is the last part. This is where the painting process slows down considerably. Details are not part of the vision, so it is essential to slow down and take time finding them. Choosing only to include the ones that complete the vision is important. Including too many overcrowds the painting and obscures the vision.

As I was finishing the painting, a lady stopped by to admire it. She pointed excitedly at the red house in the center and told me it was her house! How fun! It’s amazing to me how much Italian I can understand without speaking ten words ~ and how a painting speaks thousands in any language!

I was delighted to be able to include a line of laundry against the side of one of the villas. Italians don’t use electricity to dry clothes. Clothes lines are everywhere. To me this small detail in the painting speaks volumes.

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I love the way this painting turned out! The palette is warm and inviting, yet pastel. Earth tones accent the play of neutrals and reds. I think it would look fabulous in a living room or den. It’s different, refreshing ~ a blend of old and new.

With this vision in mind, I have designed a Canvas Print of Loro Ciuffenna.  I will publish it in November when I return from Italy.
24″ x 30″ Canvas Print on Deep Gallery Wrap Stretchers
Wired & Ready to Hang without a frame.
The image goes around the edges.

plein air painting in tuscany
Loro Ciuffenna, oil
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Loro Ciuffenna

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Author: Dorothy Fagan

Experimenter, gardener, grandmother ... Dorothy Fagan plays with creativity, dreams, and paint every day.