Pelješac is a peninsula in Southern Dalmatia and it’s probably my favorite area on the Croatian coast. While there are other islands and areas with more beautiful cities, they also tend to get a lot more of the cruise-ship crowds. Pelješac manages to have more of that slow-paced beach feel to it, and the people seem much friendlier. They also make the best red wines in Croatia, and the food in general is excellent (they have these great little oyster stands by the side of the roads with the local Adriatic oysters).
Ston, Midday. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.
Church in Broce. 32 x 23 cm, oil on panel.
There is a wide variety of subject matter on Pelješac, as there are relatively high mountains on the western side, whereas the eastern part has a much more gentle slope to the sea. Though the towns may not be as postcard-perfect as the other places along the coast, they are still exceedingly picturesque for painting. They are also very small, and the views are concentrated. When one is scouting with equipment in the August heat in Southern Europe, smaller is better.
Street Barbecue in Mali Ston. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.
Here is a quick, 30 second, timelapse film taken over the course of five days while working on my large plein air landscape painting of the village of Vrnik. I was standing on the island of Korčula, across the small channel seen in the painting. The footage is of five days, but I was actually there six, and I have no idea what happened to the photos from the sixth day, sorry.
Below is an image of the final painting.
Vrnik. 70 x 90 cm, oil on linen.
It was a great spot to paint as I could stand in the shade the whole time. Also, in the painting I’m looking east, so the shadow of the tree is pointing north. This allowed me to work for up to six hours a day without the effect changing too much. The only really dramatic change was the sun came around and put Vrnik in full sunlight, whereas I wanted the buildings to be half in shadow for the effect. In the afternoons I could work on the foreground and the water, provided the wind didn’t get too strong. Finally, the clouds did the same thing, with only a slight variation, almost every day.
Update: Below is the last larger plein air piece from the trip. It took three days, and I had to hold the canvas with one hand while painting to keep it still in the high winds.
Afternoon Light, Korčula. 50 x 70 cm, oil on linen.
Vrnik. 70 x 90 cm, oil on linen.
Here are a few more plein air landscapes from this summer on the island of Korčula, in Southern Dalmatia.
As I said in the last post, the weather has been really difficult (it’s supposed to hail today), so I haven’t gotten as much done as I would have liked. I’m hoping for one more day of sun to finish up the other larger plein air pieces I have going. I’ll try to post them before I leave for Italy next week.
In the meantime here are a few more of the smaller sketches:
The Terrace. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.
Market Stalls, Korčula. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.
Afternoon Light, Korčula. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.
Below are a few smaller paintings from this summer on the island of Korčula, in Croatia.
The Adriana, Lumbarda. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.
The weather has been pretty bad for July on the Adriatic (it’s raining again as I type this), and I have a couple of larger projects I’m working on for gallery commitments, so I don’t have much to show for the first week.
Vrnik Study. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.
This is my third summer painting on Korčula. The last two years I focused on the town and never touched the car (you can see the previous year’s paintings here and here). This year I have a parking spot included with the apartment, so I’m moving around the island much more for views.
The problem with driving and painting is I end up spending much more time scouting. I always think ‘I’m sure there will be a better spot just around the corner’, and so often there is, which then leads to more driving.
Badija. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.
That said, sometimes the scouting pays off. These first three paintings are done from exactly the same (shaded) spot, just looking in different directions. Below is a photograph of the location:
Plein air painting on the island of Korčula, Croatia.
The Croatians are very friendly towards plein air painters as well. The owners of the fishing boat above gave me a large shell as a gift for painting their boat, and in general everyone is very appreciative and complimentary.
The last couple paintings are sketches from just around the house.
Stairs, Korčula. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.
Late Afternoon at the Marko Polo Hotel. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.
I’ll be here for another two weeks, so more to follow.
Here are a few paintings from last week on the Croatian island of Vis. This trip I was actually there for another project, and the weather was bad a couple of days, so I didn’t get a lot of my own work done.
Street in Vis #2. 35 x 25 cm, oil on panel.
These first two are sketches for a larger painting I’ll do in the winter. I wanted to see the light effect at two slightly different times of day.
Morning Fishing, Vis. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.
Other artists have asked me which Croatian town I think is the best for painting. I’ve only seen a fraction of them all, but at the moment I would put the town of Vis, on the island of Vis, in first place.
When you get to Vis and the locals find out you’re a painter, they all say that the town of Komiža (on the western side of the island) is the best place for plein air painting. Apparently, artists have said it has a special light. Every time I hear about a ‘special light’ it turns out they’re just talking about the sunset. At any rate, I think the subject matter is better in the town of Vis. Komiža suffers from the same problem that many of the prettiest towns in Croatia all suffer from: It’s too compact. Korčula, Zadar and Rovinj are the same. Don’t get me wrong, these are some of the most beautiful towns anywhere in the world. But from a painter’s perspective, there are only a handful of views from outside the town and then one is left with narrow streets, often crowded with tourists. They’re great to visit, and stunningly photogenic, but for a long painting trip I think one would get bored quicker than in Vis.
Stari Grad, on Hvar would be my runner up at this point. While small, it also has a lot of open views. Dubrovnik and Hvar are both incredibly beautiful, but the crowds of tourists make painting in the centers difficult (because of the cruise ships they roll over the historic centers like a wave of people in the mornings).
On the other hand, these places are all close together, and moving around is relatively easy in Croatia, so ideally one would paint in a number of locations. If anyone wants my recommended itinerary, feel free to drop me an email.
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.
Afternoon Shadows, Ribnjak. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel
Here are some recent plein air landscape paintings from Zagreb and the surrounding countryside.
Tina Practicing a Speech. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.
Modern Sculpture, Ribnjak Park. 20 x 15 cm, oil on panel.
Garden, Zvijezda. 35 x 25 cm, oil on panel.
While the Croatian coast is rightfully famous for it’s beauty, the countryside inland has a lot of charm to it as well. It’s a very peaceful place to work since there is a real emptiness in some areas. Often I’ll paint on the side of a road and no more than one car or tractor will pass during the hours it takes me to finish a painting.
Šišinec. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.
Chapel near Brkiševina. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.
Below is an updated image of a large plein air painting of a path in Maksimir park. It’s for an even larger studio painting that was requested by a gallery I work with.
Path in Maksimir (updated) 60 x 80 cm, oil on linen.
Below are a few plein air pieces from the island of Korčula, on the Dalmatian Coast in Southern Croatia.
Pizzeria on Korčula. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.
Laundry in the Wind, Korčula. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.
Boat Crane, Korčula. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.
Late Afternoon on Korčula. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.
Doorway, Korčula. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.
I also worked on a larger piece en plein air, but it needs some polish still before I post a photo. Next year my plan is to park myself for a couple of months on these islands to get more larger plein air work done.