Montefalco Plein Air

Here are a few paintings from my trip to Montefalco. Again, one of the more picturesque spots on Earth. I’ve been trying to update my geotagged landscape archive so people can take advantage of all the hours I spend scouting around for views (see my earlier post if you have no idea what I’m talking about).

My painting companions this time were Greg Horwitch, Ebba Heuman, Alex Rooney and Rupert Alexander (if anyone was wondering why it’s been raining in Italy for the last two months, it’s because Rupert has been trying to paint outside since early May).

This time, I was very partial to the Clitunno river which runs north through the valley.

clitunno Montefalco Plein Air

Fig Tree on the Clitunno at Casevecchie. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

clitunno 2 Montefalco Plein Air

Tractor Bridge on the Clitunno. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

clittuno 3 Montefalco Plein Air

Another Tractor Bridge on the Clitunno. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

We were there for wheat field season. Always one of the best times for plein air painting. Here are a couple of larger paintings of the fields.

wheat fields Montefalco Plein Air

Wheat fields below Montefalco. 90 x 110 cm, oil on linen.

trasimeno fields Montefalco Plein Air

Wheat Fields on the Trasimeno. 80 x 100 cm, oil on linen (work in progress).

Our scouting trips took us quite a ways from Montefalco. Here are some sketches from further north.

trasimeno boats Montefalco Plein Air

Sunset, Trasimeno. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

montalera Montefalco Plein Air

Hay Bales at Montalera. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel

poggio delle corti Montefalco Plein Air

Poggio delle Corti and Perugia. 60 x 80 cm, oil on linen (in progress still).

The holy grail of landscape painting is a foreground, middle ground and background which compose together beautifully. The combination of the flat central valley, rolling hills, and mountains in this part of Umbria, combined with wheat fields, poplar trees, and picturesque hilltop towns, makes this one of the best areas to paint in Italy.

Here are some action shots from the trip:

cigar box palette Montefalco Plein Air

Painting meter large canvases with a cigar box.

greg Montefalco Plein Air

Greg at Casevecchie.

ebba Montefalco Plein Air

Ebba on Lake Trasimeno.

alex Montefalco Plein Air

Alex below Montefalco.

rupert Montefalco Plein Air

Rupert scouting the wheat fields.

land rover Montefalco Plein Air

Me getting up over the olive trees near Trevi.

Zecchi’s Antichi Maestri Medium

antichi maestri Zecchis Antichi Maestri Medium

Zecchi is now selling the medium I recommend pre-mixed to save painters the trouble of making their own. The recipe is the usual: 1 part Canada balsam cut with 1 part turpentine, and then that mixture is added to 2 parts Zecchi sun-thickened linseed oil. The item number is 3882 ” Medium Antichi Maestri” and the price is €12 for a 125ml bottle and €22,50 euro for the 250ml bottle. (They ship abroad too, check out their website for more details).

I tried to get them to name it after Theodore de Mayerne or to call it the “Cecilian medium” as Charles Cecil developed a similar version (adding mastic varnish) based on his reading of de Mayerne’s manuscript on 17th century painting techniques Zecchis Antichi Maestri Medium, but no dice.

‘Old Master Medium’ is so trite.


Trevi Sketches

These are a few of the sketches from my ten day workshop near Trevi, Umbria. Daniela Astone and I would get up at dawn to get a painting in before classes started so most of the paintings are early morning sketches. The dawns go so fast in June though, and we were west of a mountain range so we often had to sit and wait for the sun to come up over the hill.

P1040556 Trevi Sketches

St. Vincenzo Ferreri, Trevi. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

P1040558 Trevi Sketches

Haybales Sketch. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

P1040570 Trevi Sketches

Trevi. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

P1040560 Trevi Sketches

Haybales sketch, Trevi. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Sketches of Shqipëria

This is a somewhat embarrassing post, after the buildup about my trip to Albania. The truth is I was exhausted after all the painting I’ve done so far this year and when I got there I just slept on the beach for a week. I did manage to rouse myself on a couple occasions to paint some beach scenes.

beachstore Sketches of Shqipëria

Beach Cart at Durazzo. Oil on board, 20 x 25 cm.

durazzo Sketches of Shqipëria

Umbrellas at Durazzo. Oil on panel, 20 x 30 cm.

manandthesea Sketches of Shqipëria

Durazzo. Oil on panel, 20 x 30 cm.

sanpietro Sketches of Shqipëria

San Pietro. Oil on panel, 20 x 30 cm.

This was my fourth trip to Albania, but the last three times I’ve traveled exclusively in the south. This trip I did manage to make it up north into the mountains for a scout and painted a couple of sketches.

boga Sketches of Shqipëria

Guesthouse at Boga. Oil on panel, 25 x 20 cm.

utz Sketches of Shqipëria

The Old Farmhouse, Boga. Oil on panel, 25 x 35 cm.

The mountains above Scutari (Shkodër) are very unspoiled, with picturesque little villages and very friendly people. The roads get really bad after a while (and the electricity ends) so we couldn’t make it very far with the small 2-wheeled car we had. This September I’ll go back for a longer trip with my Land Rover.

Here is a short video I took from the car while scouting around the north. So much of landscape painting is driving or walking looking for views…

Scouting in Albania from Marc Dalessio on Vimeo.

Journeys of a Landscape Painter in Albania, Part I

Years ago I heard about Edward Lear’s book on traveling through Greece and Albania painting landscapes and managed to track down a copy. At the time I was fascinated by the idea of  a writer discussing the technical aspects of traveling and painting en plein air in the nineteenth century.

Unfortunately, Lear’s book has very little discussion of the methods and materials of plein air painting abroad and is more a recount of his travels. His paintings from the area are interesting, but very typical of studio landscapes done from drawings from the period.

I’m off to Albania tomorrow as well, and I thought I’d post a picture of the bare minimum I need to paint for 10 days abroad:

kit Journeys of a Landscape Painter in Albania, Part I

My ultra-portable travel kit for plein air painting.

A cigar-box palette pre-filled with paints, tripod easel with a third hook for the cigar box, lots of  prepared lightweight panels, a sketchbook with eraser and pencil attached, camera, cellphone with gps, and finally, brushes. Not shown are my Cowon mp3 player for painting in traffic and learning Albanian in the car, as well as my (non-flammable) medium in a shampoo bottle. I’ll buy turpentine after the plane lands.

Wish me luck with the weather, it has rained in this part of the world since I can remember.

Art Videos on Youtube (and TED)

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while. Here are a couple of excellent art-related videos on Youtube.

Vilayanur Ramachandran on Neurobiology and Aesthetics (Skip to 21m:45s):

Roger Scruton on Beauty (6 parts):

Denis Dutton: A Darwinian theory of beauty:

There is a great wealth of information online these days, but so much of it is hard to find. If anyone else has recommendations, please post them in the comments.

Boom, Headshot

I don’t often post portraits on the blog as the commissions don’t get posted and I rarely paint models anymore. Here is a 6-shot head painted while teaching a short course in my studio.

tania Boom, Headshot

One thing I’ve often found interesting as a portraitist is how some people are more beautiful when they move, and others just glow when they are still.

Update: Here’s another. This one was just a couple of hours.

P1040564 Boom, Headshot

Plein Air London

Here are some sketches from my trip to London. The weather was great the first few days but then got brutally cold (at least it was if you were standing outside in the wind and rain for hours at a time).

st margarets Plein Air London

St Margaret’s Church. 12 x 8 in., oil on panel.

battersea Plein Air London

Battersea Power Station. 8 x 12 in., oil on dibond.

It was a very productive trip nonetheless, and I was helped greatly by painting with two fine plein air painters, David Bachmann and Roy Connelly, who knew the turf inside and out.

hungerford Plein Air London

The Thames from Hungerford Bridge. 14 x 11 in., oil on dibond.

trafalgar square Plein Air London

Trafalgar Square Lions. 6 x 8 in., oil on panel.

trafalgar lions Plein Air London

Trafalgar Square Lions. 11 x 14 in., oil on panel.

I really liked the lion statues in Trafalgar Square, though painting there after 10am was difficult with the crowds.

I didn’t have time to see any museums, and a great regret was missing the Edward Seago centenary in March as I’m a huge fan of his plein air work.

Landscape Drawings

Something that is not discussed often enough in plein air landscape painting is the importance of landscape drawing.  Looking through books on Corot or Levitan, you will see pencil, chalk, or ink sketches for nearly every painting they did, and a lot of landscape drawings that never became paintings. The Uffizi gallery in Florence has a large collection of landscape drawings. They used to allow people to copy directly from the original drawings for every artist except the major Italian Renaissance painters. I spent hours copying Corot’s landscape drawings as a student.

venice2 Landscape Drawings

San Gorgio Maggiore from the Società dei Canottieri, Venice.

Often when I travel I’ll spend the first few days just going around with a sketchbook and pencil to scout out places to paint later. It is obviously much easier to move around, but I also find drawing the landscapes first helps me work out the compositions and also makes it quicker when I paint the subject later, having already done the drawing once.

morocco1 Landscape Drawings

A page from my Moroccan Sketchbook. Palm trees in Marrakech and the Fort at Essaouira.

The sketchbooks are also fun to look back over years later as many of the paintings are long gone (or were never painted to begin with).

For larger work I will often do multiple sketches as well as small thumbnails to try to figure out the best balance for the final composition. Since I can’t trust the perspective from photographs, drawings are a much better source for large studio landscapes.

sosta del papa2 Landscape Drawings

Sketch for Sosta del Papa (over two pages in my sketchbook).

battersea Landscape Drawings

Battersea Power Station, London.

My favorite sketchbooks for landscape drawings are the 112 page, 8 x 11 inch Kusnt and Papier hardbound sketchbooks, I usually get them at New York Central Art Supply. I like the paper they use, they’re very durable, and the small amount of pages make the books very light and portable. The pocket-sized, blank-page Moleskines are good too. I use a kneaded eraser, any brand of HB pencil, and a small plastic retractable x-acto knife to sharpen it. Having a long, tapered, insanely sharp pencil lead is the trick to getting drawings to look decent (and lots of practice, of course).