Here, quickly, are a few small paintings from last week in Tuscany. I was there doing some organizational stuff, and didn’t have a lot of time to paint. I was also enjoying a bit of a break after all my work for the South Carolinian show in May.
Portrait of a Young Girl. 35 x 25 cm, oil on panel.
Ben Painting at the Torricella. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.
Outdoor Self Portrait. 35 x 25 cm, oil on panel.
I painted only portraits and still-lifes. As I’ve wrtten before, the Chianti region of Italy is one of the most beautiful places in the world to visit, but the ‘big views’ aren’t great for plein air painting. The small olive trees make for poor compositional elements, the hills are too close together, and the ubiquitous vineyards consist of parallel lines, which landscape painters do best to avoid.
Here, quickly, is a turban portrait I did last month during the overcast and rainy days we had on Korčula. It’s for a turban/hat-themed group show this fall at Ann Long Fine Art in Charleston, SC.
Below are a few of the sketches we tried with various styles of turban. The one we settled on was bought on Ebay, and shipped from Turkey. I had actually wanted a more Venetian-style turban, as it fit with our setting, but getting these things right is more complicated than one would think. These paintings were all done in one sitting with very unsuitable light. We were on a terrace with only reflected light off of the garden around us. It’s always interesting trying new lighting set-ups, though having one strong light source makes for a much simpler painting experience.
I was trying it out recently on this large plein air figurative piece, and in my sketches from Copenhagen. The Blue Ridge version dries faster than what I’m used to using. I know that’s a plus for a lot of artists and it certainly is for me when I travel. During longer projects though, like the one posted above, I sometimes like to scrape down a fresh painting at the start of the next session, and this medium dries too quickly for that -just a heads up.
The recipe is a variation of the medium developed by Charles Cecil and is originally based, in part, on the writings of Theodore de Mayerne. De Mayerne was a Swiss doctor who was friends with Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony Van Dyck. He wrote one of the rare documents discussing painting materials of the 17th-century, and he appears to have consulted with both Rubens and Van Dyck regularly on their opinions. His writings discuss straw-colored Strasbourg turpentine and thickening oil with lead in the sun, as well as many other art material related topics. You can buy an English translation online.
While I much prefer the smell of Strasbourg turpentine to Canada balsam, the Strasbourg turpentine sometimes beads a lot when beginning again on a dry painting. (Looking closely at Isaac Levitan’s paintings you can see the same beading, which makes me wonder what he was using).
At any rate, it’s a great medium for laying-in (add some turpentine), as well as glazing at the end of a project. I’ve been using it for over twenty years now and my early pieces are all in fine condition.
Tina Reading under an Olive Tree. 110 cm x 90 cm, oil on linen.
Here are a few paintings from the last week in Tuscany. I did this large portrait of my wife reading under an olive tree. Being able to get far back is really great for painting portraits, even outside (I’ve discussed this before).
Here was the set-up:
Plein air portraiture in the Tuscan countryside.
As idyllic as it looks, it was ridiculously hot. After the last four hour midday session I got sick from the heat and had cold sweats, nausea and a headache. An occupational hazard.
These were some of the smaller sketches:
Three Tuscan Cloud Studies. 20 x 14 cm ea.
Laundry and Lemon Trees. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.
Hay Bales along the Road, Noce. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.
Pistoletto’s “Headache” at Porta Romana, 20 x 20 cm, oil on panel.
The above painting went face-down into the dirt when the dog pulled the easel over, hence the debris. Another occupational hazard. The trick to getting much of the dirt or sand out is to let the painting dry completely, then clean it.
Piazza Santo Spirito on a Sunday in July. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.
Wedding Sketch #1 (The Ceremony). 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.
This is an idea I’ve wanted to try for a while. Everyone knows that 150 years ago, painters had all the image-making gigs. Today those have all gone to photographers, but one thought I’ve often had at outdoor weddings is that it would be a great occasion for a plein air painter. They can be very picturesque events. Also, since often a great deal of effort goes into making memories of the event for the couple, what better way than non-fugitive paints on oil-primed linen which will last a thousand years while decorating their decedents’ walls?
Wedding Sketch #2 (Afternoon Coffee). 25 x 35 cm, oil on linen.
I’m sure this has been done before, but at a couple of friends’ wedding this weekend I tried batting out some small sketches. It was interesting trying to set up and predict where everything would happen. Also, many of the situations are fleeting and the artist has to work fast (or tell people to pose).
I only got a couple of sketches done, but it was a fun experiment nonetheless. Plus it was the first time I’ve painted in a suit and tie.