I’ve been painting “en plein air” in Italy since 1991 when Susan took me to Venice. I fell in love with its architecture, the light, atmosphere and culture. However, it was not until our first visit to Umbria in March 2002 that I started to make sketchbook studies of olive trees.
We were staying in the Relais il Canalicchio hotel, perched on a hill commanding stunning views of the Umbrian countryside. During the first night of our stay, having enjoyed a fabulous meal at their restaurant, there was a heavy fall of snow. We awoke to complete silence and total white out. We were literally snowed in until the following day. Once the snow had cleared we began to explore Umbria in earnest, taking in hilltop towns like Orvieto, Todi, Perugia, Assisi and Norcia.
On one occasion we drove to the Fabriano paper factory and I purchased several leather bound sketchbooks containing their wonderful hand made watercolour paper that is so lovely to paint on. On our return to the Relais il Canalicchio I wasted no time in testing the first sketchbook by painting the view from our room as the sun was going down.
It was during this period that I began to develop a sketchbook painting style in watercolour where I would deliberately avoid drawing out beforehand the scene in pencil. This meant that the brush marks became more considered, fluid and direct.
I also began to make sketchbook studies of the olive trees that surrounded the tiny hill top town of Canalicchio. These became the inspiration for a number of studio paintings including the one above of the Relais il Canalicchio available as a limited edition print.
On our reedart painting holidays in Umbria we stay at Chiesa del Carmine. The gardens have plenty of olive trees for the guests to paint. They have fun painting and drawing their twisted branches and beautifully shaped leaves. I also join in the fun with my own sketchbook watercolours. These days I make my own sketchbooks using paper from Khadi Papers and leather from a local supplier.