Chris’s Italian Sketchbook

San Marco, preliminary sketch

‘Your own worst critic!’

The artist is constantly aware of the things which don’t work in a painting – the bits that went wrong or which didn’t realize what they were trying to express. This is how we learn but it can be very frustrating. Here is a first attempt at the facade of San Marco, Venice from a photograph as I haven’t been there yet. I do need to loosen up…

Sketch of Corinthian pillars

Here’s a watercolour sketch which I tried to do at speed, having first had a go at a more detailed (stilted?) rendering. You’ll find a photo of the scene on the Italian Journey page.

Church Door of the Venerable English College, Rome

The Venerable English College is Rome, which made me very welcome, is situated on an historic. In fact, they are due to celebrate next year the 650th anniversary of english presence in the site. The present building isn’t that old, but it has a beautiful church which in turn has an impressive door – which always seems to be closed, as people enter it through the main college entrance.

The college also boasts an impressive clock tower. The clock chimes every quarter of an hour and you can tell the time from the chimes without needing to see the clock. One ding to four dings takes you from a quarter past the hour to the full hour and then the hour is chimed in dongs – and this every fifteen minutes. Considerately, it stops between 10.00pm and 8.ooam – as well as between 2.00 and 4.00pm for a siesta – how civilized!

Clock tower, venerable English College, Rome

One of the things which has intrigued me in Florence has been the number of painters painting in the streets and selling their works. There is a range of abilities and styles. Apart from the quick pencil portrait artists, the subjects tend to be scenes of Florence or Tuscan landscapes with poppies. The styles range from very trad to semi-abstract. One artist’s work interested me enough for me to buy a small watercolour – which I promptly attempted to copy. It’s an interesting panorama, very stylised and quite cheerful:

Cheerful Florentine panorama

Here’s a different approach to the classic view of Florence. Again, it’s a pen and wash sketch – painted from a photograph from my last visit. I was, at this stage, looking forward to having a go on location.

And so the day came. In my Italian Journey page I mention that I spent much of 2nd June at the Piazzale Michelangelo sketching and painting the views over Florence. I’ve put my quick pen and wash of the Ponte Vecchio there, but here is the preliminary monochrome pen and wash of the Duomo.

Preliminary sketch of the Duomo,Florence

And next is the watercolour which followed it. I’m quite pleased with the treatment of the roof-tops going into the distance – but the Duomo itself is really difficult to paint as a united and subtly shaded structure – and getting Brunelleschi’s dome right is  a nightmare!

Duomo, Florence. Wtarecolour painted on location

One thought on “Chris’s Italian Sketchbook

  1. Thanks so much Chris for sharing your musings in word and picture…it has been a wonderful journey and I want to thank you for taking the time to share it..a very vulnerable thing to do, like opening your head and letting others take a peek inside! I have also been journeying with Merton in the Psalms (although only round Edwalton!) and have benefitted from your insights about him. Thanks so much. Ruth

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