Monday, 21 December 2015

It's that time of year again

oil on wood 20x20cms 
Christmas time is here again, this year has flown by. I have been concentrating on my oil paintings for most of the year, especially the small 20x20cms size.  They are fairly quick to paint and allow me to try out new subjects and techniques, I'm really enjoying them and getting a lot out of it so be ready for more in the next year.
I hope all of you have had  great year and I wish you a festive and peaceful Christmas!

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Into the Blue

Oil on mdf wood  20x20cms (approx 8x8")

I know that in a lot of places it's freezing cold and wintery, so here is a memory of a warm summer.

This is the edge of an island, at the top of a hill... a view from a castle.  In the middle of Lipari town on the island of Lipari, Sicily, there is a steep walk up to what was once a castle and is now a museum.  The views are spectacular from all sides, out to sea and over the town

I'm always curious to see what's over the wall, round the corner or on the otherside, so if you are wondering what could be seen from between these you are.

To paint this painting I made myself use only a large brush for everything, which was fun as I often fiddle about too much. I liked it so much I haven't touched my little fiddly brushes since!

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Purple Plants

Oil on wood 20x20cms 
I realised that I hadn't posted for a little while, but I have been painting... this is a terracotta vase filled with a purple plant called 'miseria'.  It's from the garden of a 17th century villa but I'm sure the vase isn't that old.  I was attracted to the shadows of the plant falling on the terracotta in the sun.

Here's the garden, my vase is near the house on the right of the pretty garden.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Lemons, lemons, lemons

Oil on mdf wood, 20x 20cms

These are lemons from my garden earlier this year.  They're not perfect, they're uneven shapes but they smell and taste wonderful.  Sicily is famous for its lemon cultivation, although  in recent years it seems to be in decline.  The price of  lemons on the market is so low that it is not worth while growing them.
When we first bought our house the fields around us were golden yellow in the spring with fruit.Wild fires and construction have sadly changed that forever.

This is my original sketch in watercolour, I decided to lose the reflection from the glass dish as it looked odd  and untidy.


Wednesday, 9 September 2015

People Watching

Do you like people watching?  I find it fascinating to observe my fellow humans and their habits, even inventing characters and lives for them..
There is an art  to the social science of watching without being noticed and  I like to sketch or even photograph people discreetly.
A nice place to sit with a coffee is ideal, as in this case on the seafront at Siracusa.
These local lads were chatting and watching a friend fishing. it was the beginning of the summer holidays so I could imagine them planning some exciting activities for the coming months and wonder if they'd caught anything.

Later in the day as the sun went down I sat in almost the same place with a pizza, people were very relaxed walking and chatting.  This man and his dog were out for an evening stroll...I couldn't resist!
I enjoy painting my 'unaware' subjects, but I'm never sure if one day they'll come cross their portrait by accident online. I d love to know their reaction and is it allowed anyway? mmmm..

Both are oil paintings are 20x20cms on mdf board.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Something Fishy

Oil on mdf board 20x20cms

I prefer to have my fish cooked for me in a restaurant( I don't like the lingering fishy smell in my house), but I do love to see the fish stalls at the open air markets.  The fish look so shiny and colourful it tempts you to buy even if you don't  know your sardines from your shellfish!
These fish are  called Luveri, no idea what that translates to in English. I didn't buy any but they looked good enough to paint.

I love food markets at anytime, this little one is in the old part of Siracusa.

If you're on holiday it's the ideal place to get a bag of fruit to take to the beach or some tomatoes for a quick lunch, just add some fresh crusty bread and a lump of cheese.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Old, Old House


Sitting in the shade of a tree on a very hot day, I sketched a corner of this beautiful 18th century villa. Several years ago I sketched and photographed the same villa from outside on the road..   I could just about see over the walls and I wished  could get inside to have a look around.
This summer I got my wish. 


Villa Sant Isidoro de Cordova was opened to the public for the first time this month.  The inside is like a museum as everything is intact and as the Cordova family left it. The walls, ceilings and doors are decorated and painted in gold leaf, one room leading onto another in the French 'enfilade' style.
The family hoarded and kept objects and personal items through the years and there are collections of toys, books and clothes, looking as if the owner has just popped out and will soon be back.
(Very slightly creepy)

The gardens have been returned to their former glory and out houses are full of agricultural items, including olive presses and hunting gear.
The young man who gave me a guided tour told me I could sketch from the gardens whenever I want... so I will thank you very much!


Monday, 13 July 2015

Mr Sardine

20x20cms oil on mdf board
I've been down on the seafront again, sneakily observing the fishermen sorting out their nets.They check and and pile them up on the boat ready to be thrown swiftly overboard.

I was halfway through this painting when a tv show about Italian coastal life was dedicated to our nearby fishing villages.  One of the stars of the show was none other than my fisherman and his nets, now I know his name is 'Mr Sardine'....really it's kidding!

Here he is if you want to see him on film  Ignore the adverts and go to the 3rd part at 19:25 mins

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Fresh Flowers

Oil on mdf wood 20x20cms 
Here's one of my latest small paintings available on Etsy.
Once a week a group of friends meet up at Gabriella's to paint. In the summer we paint outside in her garden.  This little jar of yellow crocuses looked so pretty and fresh I had to paint them.  I took the jar outside and included the beautiful shadows in the painting too.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Peace and Quiet

A lot to catch up on as I've had a little blog/fb/art break, just enough to recharge my batteries!
Starting from the most recent, yesterday was a sketchcrawl day for the Palermo Urban sketchers.  We went to S.Giovanni degli Eremiti (St. John of the Hermits church), a ruined monastery and church in beautiful peaceful gardens.
My first sketch was from halfway up a bell tower, I quickly sketched while my companions climbed to the top....the rickety spiral staircase was just one step too far for me.  I should have smelt danger when we were given crash hats at the entrance!   Colour added later.

The view was great across the city looking towards the cathedral.

The cloisters inside the garden were my favorite, slim delicate columns and arches among the trees.


The church originally from 6th century became a mosque during the Arab domination of Sicily and is in an Islamic architectural style. It was returned to a Christian chuch by the Normans 1130-1148.

 It is built of simple geometric shapes, five cubes (earth) with  domes (the sky) on top.
The red domes are symbol of the city.

Even with tourists milling about it was still a quiet, special place in the middle of a bustling city, well worth a visit!

Sunday, 7 June 2015

The postman bought me some goodies!

Here is my new Koi pocket field sketch box by Sakura.  This is the middle size with 18 colours, it comes complete with a Koi waterbrush and dinky sponges to wipe the brush on.
What I like about this set is the detachable mixing palette that can be attached to either side of the box and the possibility to use the lid as a mini easel for a small sketchbook or postcard sized watercolour paper. It can all be held on one hand using the thumb ring underneath.
The colours are bright and mix well although I did read that the orangey colour is fugitive. 

It wasn't expensive and is well made apart from the plastic insert that contains the paint, which is flimsy.
You can see how I tested it out in my previous post, but it was fun and comfortable to use.

This week my book arrived from the sketchbook project.. I had to have a copy seeing as one of my sketches was included. Page 137 for the record!

It's an interesting book, very creative and inspiring full of so many different styles and ideas, so I'm glad I bought it!

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Hidden Away

Yesterday  was another day out with the Urban Sketchers group in Palermo and a chance to try out my new  pocket field sketch box.

The appointment was at the Castello di Maredolce, a place I had only heard about but never visited. Not so strange as even people who live in the area don't even know it exists.
Maredolce is what is left of a 9th century Arab palace, subsequently taken by the Normans.
It originally stood in its own parkland with a large lake and island, hence the name Maredolce (sweet sea), and is hidden away in one of the poorest and most difficult parts of  the city, behind ugly urbanisation, rather like an oasis in the desert.

It was quite hot so I chose my first view from under the shade of a tree, with my back to what is left of the lake.

The castle has only recently been renovated and they are constantly digging up relics, the man with the keys showed us the little room where they are stored.

Part of the building had been used as a church and I sketched looking up into the tower or what was once a minaret.

Then it was back outside for one last sketch.

I was trying to imagine what the original arab palace looked like and I found this illustration of King FedericoII in a later period.


...and my new field box? I'll save that for another post!

Sunday, 24 May 2015

This week catching up...

I've been trying out some different sketches of lemons in watercolour in readiness for a small oil painting.  It was refreshing to use a different medium for a change. I love watercolours but I have to be in the right mood otherwise I just make mud!

This is one of my small oil paintings (20x20cms), it's my ginger cat sleeping amongst the roses.  Great place to nap don't you think?

Monday, 11 May 2015

Gone Fishing!

20x20cms oil on mdf wood

Living on an island has it's advantages and you are never too far from the sea.  Luckily I love painting the sea and fishing boats and often the harbour and fishing villages are a great source of inspiration.
In this painting I wanted to capture a white boat bobbing in the sea and the bright reflected light.

20x20cms oil on mdf board

Here in the late afternoon a boat is pulled up onto the beach, but if you hang around long enough you can see the fishermen set off for a night's fishing, and if you get there early in the morning if you can buy some freshly caught fish!

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Sketchbook Sunday (catching up)

It's been over a week since my last post, and it was one of 'those' weeks! This is the last sketch I had chance to do... an enormous fig tree in the botanical gardens.
I was with the urban sketchers and the day coincided with a spring fair, so I spent lots of time looking at the stalls and not sketching. The slow food Sicilian style was excellent, lots of things to taste :-)

I've bought a new camera to hopefully take better shots of my work for my etsy shop.  It's a big improvement, but I need to practice and get used to it.

Here's some geraniums in my garden, so colourful.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Black Coffee

oil on mdf board 20x20cms

Following my look at black at the beginning of the year I decided to try painting with black, that is to say mixed blacks and darks.  I searched for a good 'black' subject and found these little coffee cups.  I think they are Italian looking at the size although I bought them at a car boot sale in the UK quite a few years ago.

I used a limited palette of ultramarine blue, van dyke brown,  yellow ochre and white and I've included a few of the steps as I went along (when I remembered to take a photo).

I enjoyed painting this and I didn't think I would....just goes to show!

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Move over!

Oil on mdf board, 20x20cms

If you take a wander down to the seafront late on a warm afternoon you will find people strolling or just sitting and chatting.  This is the Sicilian 'passeggiata' or the art of strolling and socialising.

This is one of my favourite times for observing and finding inspiration. This group of pensioners caught my eye because of the way they were squashed onto a bench. There is never enough seating for everybody and if you want to be comfortable while you eat your ice cream you have to wait for your turn.  The snazzy white shoes clinched it for me though!

Monday, 23 March 2015

Sketchbook Sunday (on Monday)

 I meant to post this yesterday, but due to waking very early with my Grandson I was just too sleepy!

This sketch in my Moleskine is a view across the bay from a popular local ice-cream/ crèperia .  It was late afternoon and the warm sun brought the colours to life.

Last week I received exciting news from the Sketchbook Project that some of my work would be in their new book.  I took part twice in the sketchbook project and the drawing they have used is from my secret places in Sicily project.

You can see my drawing of a balcony top right of the page. I have already pre-ordered my copy!

My original blog/sketchbook  post is here.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Blue Skies

20x20cms (approx 8x8") Oil on board

We're nearly into spring so it should be getting warmer soon, although here in Sicily we still have the occasional clear blue skies of summer even in winter.  This winter has been particularly wet and stormy and we have seen landslides and floods.  Our lane is looking very battered after the river flooded it's banks.

This is one of my recent small oil paintings, a serene sunny day on the beach just to remind my self that summer will soon be here!

If you are interested in having one of my small paintings this one and others are available in my Etsy Store.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Seriously Posh Sketchng

Yesterday I went sketching with the Urban Sketchers.  We had permission to sketch inside the beautiful 17th century Palazzo Mirto.  I only managed one sketch as I spent a lot of time just looking...and there is so much to see.  I sketched looking into the Pompadour sitting has decadently elegant silk walls embroidered with flowers. 

Walking through the Palazzo is like a journey through the past.  It was inhabited until 1982 and the furnishings and decorations have remained mostly intact. I loved the beautiful (and enormous) Murano chandeliers.

There wasn't time to sketch the stables, kitchens or bedrooms so we have asked to be allowed back in later this week. Although Palazzo Mirto is open to the public...painting and photographs are normally not allowed. I can't wait to go again!



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